Choose leaders ‘who do not yield to bullies’, says opposition

Published July 12, 2021, 2:19 PM

by Raymund Antonio

The leading opposition groups and personalities on Monday, July 12, called on Filipinos to elect leaders “who will not betray our nation” and those who will instead fight for the country’s rights in the West Philippine Sea amid the growing aggression of China’s expansive activities in the region.

Liberal Party and 1Sambayan (Facebook)

In a statement, the Liberal Party said that the Philippines must again have leaders who have the commitment and values exhibited by the late former President Benigno Aquino III when he pushed for the country’s sovereignty before the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague in 2016.

Today, July 12, marks the fifth anniversary of the country’s arbitral win, which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim. Beijing uses the claim to justify its encroachment into the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).

“We join our countrymen in commemorating the 5th year of our victory in the Arbitral Tribunal. We also acknowledge the efforts of the whole legal team for making this happen. Finally, we salute PNoy for this enduring legacy he left for the Filipino people,” former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said in a Facebook post.

The opposition party quoted Aquino’s statement in February 2021 when he received the JW Diokno award for his efforts to assert the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippine Sea.

The late former Chief Executive said: “We stood up to them at the onset and now so many others are doing the same. We stood up to China because it was the right thing to do.”

READ: Locsin: PH owes its arbitration victory over China to PNoy

“We celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Hague ruling, and express our gratitude to PNoy and the rest of the patriots instrumental in this effort. We pledge continued adherence to PNoy’s values, and commit to working for a future where our leaders will exhibit the same moral strength as he did,” the LP said.

But in the wake of Aquino’s death on June 24, the party said that the ruling stands as “a reminder of what good, brave, strong governance can yield.”

“As we commemorate this landmark ruling, so too do we commemorate the kind of leadership that makes victories like this possible: A leadership founded on the belief that ‘The Filipino is worth fighting for,’ as opposed to one that cowers and yields to bullies,” it added.

Treating the ruling as a “piece of paper” similar to how President Duterte described it “is to lack the courage and resolve required of leadership.”

It should have been an instrument to assert the country’s rights in the region and the whole world and yet, the Liberal Party said the Philippines “was treated to lip service, photo ops, and the promise of jet skis.”

One of Duterte’s campaign promises was to ride a jet ski to the disputed islands and plant the Philippine flag there. However, he said whoever believed that promise was “stupid.”

READ: Duterte: Anyone who fell for the jet ski campaign joke is ‘stupid’

Opposition coalition 1Sambayan also criticized Duterte, noting that the past five years “led to a gradual erosion of our strong position in the WPS and a continued diminution of our maritime rights.”

“Yes, we won in 2016. But today, not only has the Duterte administration allowed a growing Chinese presence in WPS, but it also has – in the eyes of every patriotic Filipino – refused to assert and defend our sovereign territory and sovereign rights,” it said in a separate statement.

But both the Liberal Party and 1Sambayan said it is not yet too late.

The Liberal Party urged Filipinos to cast aside their differences and remember “the common horizon that binds us as a nation.”

1Sambayan, on the other hand, said that the disadvantageous position created by the Duterte administration can be changed “by finding leaders who will not betray our nation nor surrender our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the WPS, who will fight for what is ours, and who will continue the gains we won in 2016.”