Jose Ma. Montelibano
“If one day China should change her color and turn into a superpower, if she too should play the tyrant in the world, and everywhere subject others to her bullying, aggression and exploitation, the people of the world should identify her as social-imperialism, expose it, oppose it and work together with the Chinese people to overthrow it.” ~ Deng Xiaoping speech at the United Nations, April 10, 1974
In less than a week, it will be April 10, 2014, or forty years to the day when China’s great leader and architect of its unstoppable march to superpower status said this speech. And the man who knew enough about human weakness, about the lust for power, himself a victim but persevered, would now be on the verge of a revolution to overthrow the Chinese government. For today, China is bullying, not just the Philippines, but almost every neighbor it has.
I am aboard an airplane bringing me home to Manila after two great days in Iloilo province. It seems that being busy and able to help Yolanda victims somehow mitigates the growing frustration that even I, an active member in the humanitarian work of Gawad Kalinga (GK), have been feeling these last two months. I wonder about those who were devastated, emotionally and materially. I wonder about the needy among them, how being born in the wrong side of the fence can still deserve salt being rubbed into the open wound of poverty.
The first stop was the municipality of Concepcion where a convergence of generosity will establish a new GK village. A landed woman of substance from the town and the Religious of the Assumpta combined their donation of land and funds. Then, Gawad Kalinga provides a vision, a community development template, and a heart ready to embrace the challenge of holding hands with the marginalized towards their freedom from a historical curse. The fruit of this collective endeavor will be families finding security of tenure and decent homes for the first time in their lives, and the first time in their lineage of several centuries.
It may be that news is important, but seldom so. It is voluminous, for sure, what with tri-media becoming a business more than a service. It used to be that media outlets would seek profits from entertainment and subsidized news programs. Not anymore, though, as news sell nowadays, and sensationalized news the most saleable.
With news becoming products for profit, volume and form become more important than content. Early morning news, midday news, evening news, late night news, and some even have mid-morning and afternoon news. Each news show has a deadline, and news departments have several deadlines a day.
It may simply be a game for China. After all, who is the Philippines to fight back? Pushing us away from the sea, water-hosing our fishermen in Scarborough Shoal, blocking our supply ships at Second Thomas Shoal (Ayuningin Reef), China ups the ante in its bullying of the Philippines. And it seems that most Filipinos are not aware how close we are to war.
It is not unusual for war to begin with a single shot. The American Civil War started with a single shot from a mortar. History also says that a Serbian assassin shot an Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and triggered World War I. It is not so much that shots were fired, but that they were fired when there was already tension between countries.
The presidential elections are two years away, yet it is beginning to seem like we already are in an early campaign mode. It must be that the great powers given to the Office of the President and the Executive Branch can actually make the head spin, or the mouth salivate – even from onlookers.
I remember how it was in 2008, two years before the 2010 presidential elections. It was not much different. Already at that time were lots of speculation and chismis. The more interesting and sane deductions came from those whose lives were almost totally dedicated to politics, not as candidates themselves, but as secondary players in campaigns and elections. Depending on the level of politics they were used to being part of, so would be the strength of their prognosis.
All this talk about Charter Change, especially to amend economic provisions of the Constitution, fills me with dread. Strangely enough, though I had actively joined all sorts of protests to change the political provisions of the Constitution, it is the change of economic provisions that I am more afraid of. Or, to be more accurate, of one provision in particular.
Land. Mother. Motherland. Please, let us never sell the Motherland, let us never sell our land. There is no Motherland without the land. There is no Philippines without the land. There is no Filipino if there is no land on earth that is meant for Filipinos.
Land defines us. Maybe, it is because we are human beings, not fish living in the seas, not birds flying in the sky. We are human beings, people of the land.
I have Chinese blood. More than 200 years ago, a Chinaman married a native from Iloilo City. From that union, a whole clan was born – that that clan keeps growing and growing. I am not against the Chinese. How can I be when we have shared blood?
But I cannot say the same thing of the Chinese government. I have no blood ties with China the government, only with one Chinese native who came here to become Filipino by choice and be an ancestor to new Filipinos by blood. My clan, though, from that first union, has become predominantly Filipino by intermarriage with more Filipino natives than Chinese over the last two centuries.
My claim to fame in writing is grounded on the fact that I remember a lot of things, this despite increasing senior moments. One of my favorite topics, corruption, has long threads throughout post WWII Philippine history. These threads provide context, something that unfortunately many columnists would rather not refer to as context makes hot issues old issues. Context puts substance, too, and substance often makes sensationalism look trashy.
I remember Ramon Magsaysay. He was our hero, he arrested some untouchables, including our governor then, for the murder of Moises Padilla, a journalist. I had only started going to Grade School but remember my family campaigned for him in 1953 against a president accused of corruption. !953 was 61 years ago.
I remember the Garcia presidency, the Filipino First policy, and lost his reelection bid, presumably with the Americas helping his opponent, Diosdado Macapagal. I remember the reelection bid of Macapagal, his administration accused of corruption, and the victory of Ferdinand Marcos.
Without much attention from those not directly affected, tropical depression Agaton kills over 40 in Mindanao. And because the storm that has been bringing heavy rains hardly moves and has not yet exited, it can cause more deaths. I wrote last week that 2014 will not be a walk in the park, and Agaton is a precursor of things to come.
Climate change kills. A country with so many coastal areas will bear the brunt of rising water levels. Areas by the seashores will be inundated even without typhoons. These calamities will force Philippine society to confront a touchy issue. It is less about climate change killing people but that it unavoidably kills the poor first. Whether climate change will express itself through typhoons, floods, or landslides, the poor are most vulnerable and the first victims.
I start the year with a greater resolve to build in tune with people of like-spirit who see 2014 as the year of reconstruction. There will be serious distractions, I am sure, as Filipinos have finally found the impetus for change long evaded. My distractions will be somebody else’s advocacy, and change demands both dismantling and rebuilding. I will fasten my seat belts, tightly.
To those who care to listen, strengthen your resolve, too. 2014 will not be a walk in the park. The political upheaval that began in social media will be fed by more of the same. Corruption of decades that had never been effectively uprooted will expose more of its ugly transactions in every branch of government, in almost all departments. Many forget that there are two former Filipino presidents among the list of world’s most corrupt, and one more may soon be added as the most greedy. Their thievery was possible because they infected the whole system, making corruption the standard of government rather than its curse.