SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- This Friday, May 11th, Filipinos in the Philippines will rally in front of the China Consulate in Makati to protest China’s “creeping invasion” of the Philippines in the Scarborough Shoal. There will be similar simultaneous protest actions in front of all the consular offices of China in the United States and in Canada as well as in other cities around the world.
Will the combined total attendance of Filipinos in all these global protest rallies exceed the 80,000 Hong Kong residents who attended their rally on August 28, 2010 to protest the Philippine government for its handling of the August 21, 2010 bus siege in Manila that ended in the shooting deaths of eight Hong Kong residents?
According to The New York Times (“Anger in Hong Kong over Manila Siege”), it was the largest protest march against events overseas in China’s history. The anti-Philippines rally even united both the pro-Beijing and the pro-democracy political parties - “a rare occasion for them to unite,” wrote BBC’s Annemarie Evans in Hong Kong.
“Wearing black and white, with yellow ribbons tied around their upper arms in remembrance of the dead,” the New York Times reported, “the crowd gathered in sweltering heat in Victoria Park and then marched peacefully more than a mile to the downtown business district before dispersing quietly.”
Times reporter Keith Bradsher noted that “many marchers seemed to be fairly apolitical, soft-spoken members of the middle class who said they had never attended a demonstration before but were offended that the Philippine government had failed to protect the Hong Kong residents aboard the bus.”
Hong Kong newspapers reflected the sentiment of its Chinese residents who pinned responsibility for the massacre on the Philippine government more than on the deranged killer, Rolando Mendoza.
As a survivor of the massacre told the Hong Kong press: “The gunman did not want to kill us. He only shot us after the negotiations failed,” she said, sobbing.
To punish the Philippines for the killing of their residents, the Hong Kong government raised a “black” travel alert for the Philippines, advising HK residents not to travel to Manila. All HK tour groups in the Philippines were also urged to return home immediately.
These punitive measures were undertaken despite the fact that President Benigno S. Aquino III conveyed his apologies to the families of the victims and the Filipino people’s sorrow to the people of Hong Kong. The Philippine Congress launched a full scale public investigation of the Luneta incident and Philippine National Police (PNP) officials even acknowledged their mistakes in botching the rescue of the HK tourists.
Five years ago - almost to the day of Mendoza’s murderous rampage - on August 19, 2005, a Filipino family of five - Emmanuel and Vivian Madrigal, and their three daughters - rode a tourist bus to Tiananmen Square in the capital of Beijing. When they stepped down from their bus to do some sightseeing, they were attacked by Wang Gongzuo, a Chinese farmer from Jiangsu province who, newspaper reports later noted, “wanted to affect society using extreme actions.” Wang attacked Madrigal with a farmer’s scythe, hacking him across the torso killing him instantly. Wang then slashed Madrigal’s wife, Vivian, and daughter, Regina. Both later died from their wounds.
Unlike what happened in Hongkong, there were no demonstrations against China in the Philippines in 2005 to protest the Madrigal murders. There were no calls to boycott travel to China or China-made goods.
Admittedly, the liability of the Philippine police authorities for the Luneta Massacre was greater - especially because of its botched rescue attempt - than that of the police authorities in Beijing for the Tiananmen Massacre of the Madrigal family. But there were also no protests because the government and the Filipino people understood that the homicidal acts of Wang Gongzuo were his own personal actions and were not reflective of China’s policy towards the Philippines or the Filipino people.
It would be an entirely different matter if the Chinese government had committed criminal acts against the Philippines or against Filipinos. If that ever happened, then there would surely be massive demonstrations and rallies against China and calls by Filipinos to boycott China-made goods.
Or would it?
China committed a criminal act against the Philippines when it invaded Philippine territory on April 8, 2012 when eight Chinese fishing vessels set anchor in Scarborough Shoal - which is just 124 nautical miles from Masinloc, Zambales - and engaged in illegal fishing in Philippine waters. After their presence was discovcered, a Philippine Navy frigate boarded the trespassing vessels and discovered large amounts of illegally collected corals, giant clams, and live sharks. China immediately dispatched government vessels to rescue the Chinese fishermen. When the Philippine Navy frigate fired a warning shot to halt the escape of the Chinese fisherman, the cannon malfunctioned and fired a dud allowing the Chinese vessels to escape with their illegal cargo. When the frigate attempted to pursue, they were blocked by China’s navy ships.
Since that time, China’s naval vessels have remained in the Scarborough Shoal asserting ownership of what they refer to as “Huangyan Island” based on a map drafted in the 12th century. Since the standoff with the Philippines began, the number of China’s naval vessels in the Shoal has increased from 4 to 8 to 14 and now 30, as of the latest count, compared to just 2 naval vessels on the Philippine side.
On May 7, 2012, China’s Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying summoned the Philippine consular officer in Beijing to demand that the Philippines “withdraw its vessels in the sea area around Huangyan Island, and to never again impede the operations of Chinese fishing vessels or Chinese government vessels performing their duties in accordance with Chinese law,” Fu said.
Once before, in 1994, China occupied the Philippines’ Panganiban Reef which is a shoal only 87 nautical miles from Palawan asserting that it was part of China. After some sabre-rattling by China, the Philippines backed down and China thereafter erected a four-story military garrison on what is called the Mischief Reef.
There were no demonstrations against China in 1994 for its invasion and annexation of Philippine territory. This time around, there will be global protests against China on May 11. Will Filipinos attend in large numbers on May 11 to defend Philippine sovereignty as they promise very time they sing the national anthem and pledge “sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil” (“Ne’er shall invaders trample thy sacred shore”)?
Or will China’s extremely low assessment of the Philippines and the Filipino people be proven accurate once again? We really only have two choices: stand up to China or knee and beg for mercy. Which will it be?
Photo Courtesy: Rodel Rodis
(For information on the protest actions against China on May 11, please log on to USPGG.org. Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415334.7800).
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