EDITORIAL: Elusive independence

ESSENTIALLY, there are similar things we are fighting today with what our forefathers did for centuries to achieve independence. Short-lived and not really resulting in the formation of a government ran and controlled by the Filipinos, our June 12 celebration 119 years ago might as well symbolize the romanticized version of a struggle that remains an unfinished revolution up to this time. The cry to free ourselves from foreign control and domination remains valid today as it was more than a century ago. The only difference is that foreign control and domination are more vicious today, unlike in the past when colonization was asserted as a benevolent act and will of God. While real occupation by foreign forces of other people’s soil is foreign invasion, imposition of economic power is the more potent force to bring weaker or poorer nations under a rich nation’s influence and control for a long term. When President Duterte took office, he did not mince a word to accuse the United States as the number one human rights violator, citing and showing the massacre of Moro people in Jolo at Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak in 1906 and 1913, respectively. Of course, it was Mr. Duterte’s rebuttal against the then Obama administration’s hostile reaction to Duterte’s so-called war on drugs which had become bloody and continuously threatens liberties and reinforces impunity. Mr. Duterte spewed invectives not only against the U.S. but against the European Union and the United Nations for dismissing his anti-illegal-drug campaign as curtailment of human rights because suspected drug pushers are being killed sans the benefit of being hailed to court first in the name of justice. Soon enough, Mr. Duterte declared he was severing long-time relations with the United States and welcoming China and Russia as true friends while proclaiming an “independent foreign policy.” Mr. Duterte’s espousing independent foreign policy could had been commendable if he did not exchange it with his obviously beholden attitude towards China. So far, he has visited China twice and once to Russia even while he was barely a year in office. He bragged of bringing home economic and financial pledges courtesy of the Chinese and Russian governments. Senator Win Gatchalian’s criticism on the loans and pledges China extended to the Philippines was very revealing. Gatchalian raised alarm that the loans from China were tied to the condition that it will be Chinese contractors or contractors favored by China who will build the projects. Gatchalian’s concern was more on the credibility of the Chinese contractors whom he said many have been blacklisted by foreign financial institutions. What is more disturbing with Mr. Duterte’s attitude towards China is his unquestioning obedience to the wishes of the Chinese government especially with regards to the United Nation’s decision that the West Philippine Sea is covered by the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and that we have all the rights to explore and exploit the resources within. The big words of Mr. Duterte that his administration is pursuing an independent foreign policy is wanting of real action. Ironically, he seems to be in the direction of further entrenching the nation to a new ally in China who can be as guile and sly as a fox and destructively powerful as a dragon. Instead of unshackling the nation of the chains that make our nation being dictated upon by other nations in terms of economic policies, Mr. Duterte seems to offer the Philippines in a silver platter to China and Russia with economic agreements still to be revealed. Now, even before the Duterte administration celebrates its first anniversary, real independence is still elusive as it was more than a century ago. And it does not help that our new president is seeking new friends and new loans with unproven sincerity and dumping out the old ones like they were rotten potatoes, when historically they were the ones who taught us how to plant the crop and bake them more efficiently and at lesser cost.