In our Constitution, Section 2 of the Declaration of Principles says that the defense of the State is a prime duty of the government, and in the fulfillment of this duty, all citizens may be required to render personal military or civil service.
The controversy now raging in the Scarborough Shoal brings to mind this particular principle contained in our Constitution. The peaceful resolution of an issue is the wish of the Filipino people. We still have to get over the shock of China’s arbitrary claim of territorial control of Scarborough Shoal despite the almost 1,000-mile distance from its nearest shore compared to the 220-mile distance from our Zambales coast, but Filipinos do not want an armed conflict. China is a superpower with a military might second to none; the Philippines is a country struggling to rise above third world status. Why would we want war?
A fear or distaste of violence will not be enough, however, to prevent it if another party decides to bully us. Even a rat, when cornered, will fight back. The choice to put us in a corner is China’s, while the choice to fight or not is ours. I believe that enough Filipinos will risk sacrifice and death if China takes over Scarborough Shoal. It has little to do with the Constitution, however. The Constitution is not our reason for loving our country, for wanting to protect it against its enemies, or for our risking all for freedom and sovereignty – it simply acknowledges these. Love of country, of freedom and independence, is born of deeper and more natural causes.
Today, Filipinos are being influenced to confront their fears in the face of the surprising Chinese claim and resulting moves to apply that claim. We know we are no match against China militarily. But it is extremely galling to be victimized by size and superior force when we simply want to keep what is ours and wish no harm to anyone. All the more this resentment is made more bitter when we estimated suspect that we have something extremely valuable that a bully just wants to wrest away from us. Soon, we may reach that state of being a cornered rat.
It does not help any to run to the United States and ask for its protection. To do so carries with it a price that may be more bitter than we can pay without becoming the same cornered rat. There was a time when an American government decided to invade not just an uninhabited shoal but a whole country that had done no harm to it. It was a most kept secret for almost a century that American soldiers slaughtered Filipinos by the hundreds of thousands and caused the death of more hundreds of thousands of civilians, but that ugly truth of history is ironically housed in the annals of the Congress of the United States. America is for America and justifies any and all actions, mild or brutal, more in the name of American interest, less for justice, less for democracy.
It is, in fact, China with whom we have ties not just historical but physical as well. We are literally neighbors, and we have substantial blood ties. We should be the best of friends, not adversaries. But there is strategic circumstance, tremendous wealth and vital resources in the long area west of the Philippines, from Scarborough Shoal to Sulu, including the lands of Palawan and Western Mindanao. These represent sea lanes that are crucial to international trade and military sea and air movements. These represent $26 trillion worth of oil and gas deposits which could last beyond a hundred years. And these represent, not just $26 trillion, but oil and gas that are vital to production and consumption, more importantly, to the peace of mind of superpowers.
We are talking about the security of nations, not just their prosperity. If China, or America, believes that what we have beneath the sea or the land is in their interest to have or to control, there will be no right or wrong to guide their action, only success.
It is a timely moment to accept reality with more clarity and less wishful thinking. Our fate is truly, and ultimately, only in our hands. Our sovereignty, our independence, our freedom, these will not be gifts from superpowers, they will be fruits from our blood, sweat and tears. If we are not willing to give all, we will not be able to keep all.
Let us look at our families, our communities, our land and our seas, our race and our motherland. These are worth keeping, worth fighting for, worth dying for. Let us not distract ourselves by the non-essentials, by discussions or debates that will never provide answers unless we first have courage and resolve in our hearts.
Heroism is not always an act of a moment. More often, for people rather than for individuals, heroism grows from day to day, in small acts that do not ask much right away. It is our duty to respond to any call of the State to provide military or civil service in the face of threat or imminent danger. It is best to check ourselves if we have it in us to sacrifice and risk in little ways today when it may be all or nothing tomorrow. We must step up, we must volunteer our time and services, we must show China that we may be smaller but not less braver.
Defend Scarborough, defend the Philippines.