MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte released a motherhood statement ahead of Independence Day, calling on Filipinos to cherish “the sovereignty that is borne out of the sweat and blood of our heroes,” but “sovereignty” is not exactly the word that he should be saying these days without his critics pointing out the remarkable irony in it.
Most protest actions and statements of organizations and goverment officials on the Philippines’ 120th Araw ng Kalayaan on Tuesday, June 12, condemned and took Duterte to task for taking a soft, almost subservient, approach toward China regarding our claim on the West Philippine Sea.
China’s expansionist moves and militarization of the area, as well as its encroachment onto the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone while bullying Filipino fishermen, were not lost on netizens either.
June 12, 2018, was the second Independence Day celebration during Duterte’s presidency, but it was only the first time he attended (he was sick last year). And what did observers remember? He came almost two hours late to the Aguinado Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, where Philippine independence was declared by General Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898.
And as he was about to deliver his speech, Duterte was heckled a small group of Leftist protesters – “Duterte, traydor! (Duterte, traitor!)” – until security enforcers were able to confiscate the posters and arrested one demonstrator.
The Chinese ambassador, Zhao Jianhua, was one of the diplomats who joined Duterte in Kawit on Tuesday.
While this was happening, photos and videos of Vice President Leni Robredo were already circulating online, mostly earning praises: they showed her drenched in the rain at the Rizal Park morning rites, saluting the flag.
Robredo urged Filipinos to fight modern-day threats to freedom: “These days, it seems our freedom is once again facing different kinds of threats: from the perennial problem of poverty and rising prices of commodities to the loss of justice, from the disregard of human rights to a foreign power claiming our country’s territories.”
A number of senators and district representatives said China’s presence in the West Philippines Sea, which the Duterte administration has not protested, made the Independence Day celebrations “devoid of spirit.”
Even Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle criticized the “fake freedom” brought about by killings and other injustices that had seen a spike on Duterte’s watch.
Militant groups took their protest to the Chinese consulate in Makati, while a women’s group offered flowers at the spot along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, where the Duterte government ordered removed a statue representing a “comfort women” during the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines. The statue was sponsored by private Filipino-Chinese groups.
Online, the hashtag #RP612fic – which means “Republic of the Philippines June 12 fiction” – that went viral in 2017 made a comeback on June 12 this year, as netizens imagined how Philippine heroes would do or say in today’s world and amid modern-day issues.
Finally, on the Philippines’ Independence Day, the Chinese embassy in Manila issued a statement that China had allowed Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) “out of goodwill.” The shoal is within the Philippines exclusive economic zone. – Rappler.com
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