After he said he would throw away the historic 2016 Hague ruling victory of the Philippines against China, President Rodrigo Duterte Duterte was given a dare by opposition lawmakers at the House of Representatives: "Magpaka-Pilipino ka (Truly be a Filipino)."
"Sa puntong ito, hinahamon natin siya: Magpaka-Pilipino ka naman, President Duterte (At this point, we are challenging him: Truly be a Filipino, President Duterte)," ACT Teachers Representative France Castro said during the press briefing of the Makabayan bloc on Thursday, May 6.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, meanwhile, saw Duterte's statement as the waving of the white flag to China when it comes to the West Philippine Sea.
The 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Netherlands, gave the Philippines a victory against superpower China by nullifying Beijing's claim to waters within its exclusive economic zone, also known as the West Philippine Sea.
"We see here where President Duterte sides with. It's not the interest of the Philippines, not the interest of the Filipinos, but the interest of China," Zarate said.
In a message to Senate reporters on on Thursday, Senator Kiko Pangilinan said Duterte "sounds like the official representative of the Chinese government."
In a statement on Thursday, Senator Risa Hontiveros reminded the President that the Hague ruling was a valuable document for the Philippines.
"The arbitral award is never a piece of garbage. It is gold, given the natural resources in the West Philippine Sea. It should be valued and not for nothing," Hontiveros said in Filipino.
Asked for a reaction to Duterte's statement, Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon emphasized the importance of the ruling.
"The Hague Ruling was a victory for the Filipinos, something that embodies national patrimony and pride, guarantees security and sustenance, and ensures resources for future generations of Filipinos," Biazon said in a text message to Rappler on Thursday.
He added: "It would be good if the PN (Philippine Navy) and PCG (Philippine Coast Guard) will hear words that show their enforcement of the ruling, a duty they are now doing, is not in vain."
Ferdinand Gaite, also a representative of the Bayan Muna party-list, hailed the PCG and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) for shooing away Chinese in Sabina Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.
He said the President should be like the sailors from the agencies.
"The PCG and the BFAR did the right thing by fulfilling their duty to protect our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), unlike the position of Malacañang, which has already surrendered," Gaite said.
This comes after the BFAR and the PCG pushed away maritime militia vessels in the Sabina Shoal by challenging their presence.
Gaite said the incident refutes the President's belief that the Philippines would only end up in warfare with China if it asserts its rights over its own waters.
"It's like the concept of bullying. If you let the bully be, they will remain a bully. But if you assert your rights just like what happened in Sabina Shoal, they will leave," Gaite said. – Rappler.com
Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.