The unraveling of President Benigno Aquino III

President Aquino in the New York Times interview

President Aquino in the New York Times interview

In a meeting with Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh in August last year, President Aquino asked the visiting official how they are able to maintain good relations with China despite conflicting territorial claims.

(Despite a ferocious battle over the Paracels Islands in the South China Sea 40 years ago that killed more than 70 Vietnamese soldiers,China and Vietnam established a hotline to deal with fishery incidents in South China Sea waters following the meeting of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in Beijing last June.)

Thanh told Aquino that almost every day, personnel of Vietnamese Navy battle Chinese fishermen who venture into disputed areas in the South China. Arrests are made, diplomatic protests are filed. But, he said, “We don’t talk to media.”

For a while, Aquino seemed to have taken to heart the lesson from the Vietnamese defense minister. He was a voice of moderation when China’s sole aircraft carrier sailed to the South China Sea.

Even when the foreign office said the aircraft carrier’s presence in the West Philippine Sea raises tension, Aquino said, “Let’s not play it up. I think the Chinese themselves have admitted that this (Liaoning) is not yet fully operational. “

He kept his mouth shut when a Philippine newspaper reported that the Chinese ambassador said China will be establishing air defense identification zone or ADIZ over the West Philippine Sea. It was a wise decision because the report turned out to be erroneous.

But during the interview with New York Times last Tuesday, he changed demeanor and likened China’s leaders to Hitler.

In the article titled “Philippine Leader Sounds Alarm on China”, NY Times said Aquino “called on Tuesday for nations around the world to do more to support the Philippines in resisting China’s assertive claims to the seas near his country, drawing a comparison to the West’s failure to support Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s demands for Czech land in 1938.

“Like Czechoslovakia, the Philippines faces demands to surrender territory piecemeal to a much stronger foreign power and needs more robust foreign support for the rule of international law if it is to resist, President Aquino said in a 90-minute interview in the wood-paneled music room of the presidential palace.

“If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?” he said. He later added, “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”

Agence France Presse reported on the NY Times story with the title “Philippine leader likens China’s rulers to Hitler.”

China’s Foreign Ministry has not issued a reaction on the provocative statement which could be an indication of how serious Beijing is taking it.

Another indication is a commentary by Xinhua writer Ming Jinwei calling Aquino “amateurish politician.”
The strongly- worded Xinhua commentary said “ Aquino, who has taken an inflammatory approach while dealing with maritime disputes with China, has never been a great candidate for a wise statesman in the region.”
Considered semi-official, the Xinhua commentary also said by comparing China to Nazi Germany, Aquino “exposed his true color as an amateurish politician who was ignorant both of history and reality.”

Usually a New York Times report is something makes Malacañang proud and happy. This time, they are acting defensive. Last Thursday, immediately after AFP story came out, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said, “There will be no move on our part to explain (Aquino’s statement).”

Yesterday, Coloma had a lengthy and convoluted explanation when all that he wanted to say was it was not the intention of Aquino to offend Chinese leaders. “As a storyteller and as a conversationalist, the President often gives details of a particular situation so it could’ve happened that he was simply citing the fact that there was such incident,” he said.

Lawyer Harry L. Roque, Jr. who is director of the University of the Philippines Law Center Institute of International Legal Studies, said Aquino’s “Hitler” comments were “Totally uncalled for. “

He added: “While the Chinese maybe expansionists, they are certainly not genociders. The President, because we have initiated Arbitration, should no longer comment on the issues. Certainly calling our Chinese neighbors Nazi does not bode well for peaceful resolution of the dispute.”

Former diplomat Apolinario “Jun” Lozada, who headed the committee on foreign affairs when he was a congressman representing the 5th district of Negros Occidental, said, “It is a very unfortunate statement and I can only hope that it is not a basis of our international relation policy toward that country.

“I seriously believe that despite our serious political differences, we should endeavor to keep our bilateral relations and find the right approach to convince China to sit with us in the negotiating table to ease the problems and contribute to the stability and peace in the region.”

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja,Jr. said “The ‘Hitler statement’ of Pres. Aquino was unfortunate and should have been left unsaid. Now we are on the defensive again trying to explain what the President meant to say. “

Baja reminded Malacañang that the territorial disopute with China is now in the United Nationa Arbitral Tribunal and “statements like this may be taken into account by the judges one way or another.”

Baja said the Philippines should be more specific on what international support we want. “Otherwise we will be deluged with motherhood statements in their replies, even from so called allies.”

Lastly, he said, “ We should refrain from engaging China with tit for tat statements. After each tat we make on WPS, China will tat with actions showing that they exercise ‘effectivities’ in the area. Then we can only protest. We must be able to discern the difference between rhetoric and reality.”

February 6, 2014 9:56 pm  Tags: ,   Posted in: Foreign Affairs

23 Responses

  1. Mannie - February 6, 2014 10:24 pm

    I wonder what Sen. Miriam Santiago has to say about Pnoy’s statements and behavior toward Phil’s conflict with China. Miriam is also an expert in international laws.

    There’s one thing that has become obvious to us about Pnoy: He’s impulsive and talks without thinking. He doesn’t care what place and forum he is if he wants to verbally attack someone or a group. No leadership, no experience in governance and diplomacy. Most of all, his most bragged about “Straight Path” is all BS.

  2. Becky - February 6, 2014 10:53 pm

    Will somebody please tape the mouth of this president before he drags the country into a war which we cannot win?

  3. chi - February 7, 2014 4:04 am

    Pnoy can’t forever hold his tongue, likas na mataray e!

  4. Becky - February 7, 2014 6:15 am

    Kapatid nga ni Kris, Chi.

  5. Joe America - February 7, 2014 6:34 am

    The audience for the comment was other nations who seem agreeable to appeasing China. The issue was territorial integrity, not genocide. The question for critics is, okay, how do you stop China from stealing fish and turtles and eventually oil from the Philippine EEZ? Someone has to say “enough is enough”, and at least Japan and the Philippines have said so. Maybe the words could have been crafted differently, but he did make a strong statement. On behalf of the Philippines . . . and even the critics.

  6. olan - February 7, 2014 10:34 am

    When goyang almost gave away our rights to our EEZ in the spratly’s many are up in arms against it. Now we have a president, right or wrong, depending our turf and yet we still criticize him?! Compared to other philippine leaders, i like pnoy stand on this. We should let the world know! the Chinese is at our door step and its seems their action is pre planned. They are just waiting for the right time or the right reason to proceed! They want what we have including our neighboring state.
    But because we don’t know who our leaders truly serve, themselves and their oligarch friends, or us, is it worth it to stand by with them on this? Seeing that they are always helping themselves with our resources and act like kings and queens, almost exempted to the rules and laws of our land, what’s the difference?

  7. jcj2013 - February 7, 2014 10:43 am

    PNoy’s China-Nazi Germany analogy is spot on. Our country cannot afford to be meek and mute in the face of Chinese expansionism. Kelan pa tayo mag-iingay—kung huli na ang lahat? kung nakubkob na ng mga Intsik ang ating mga teritoryo?

  8. johnmarzan - February 7, 2014 12:45 pm

    “I wonder what Sen. Miriam Santiago has to say about Pnoy’s statements and behavior toward Phil’s conflict with China. Miriam is also an expert in international laws.”

    miriam? that’s the kind of rhetoric that comes out of her mouth all the time! did you see her speech against enrile? you think she’d take the china provocations quietly? why do you think miriam goes to the shrink for her “anger issues”?

  9. johnmarzan - February 7, 2014 12:46 pm

    sorry, but aquino never accused china’s leaders of genocide. but he did accuse china of bullying and territory seizing (sudetenland is an apt comparison).

  10. johnmarzan - February 7, 2014 12:48 pm

    oh great, somebody from xinhua doesnt like pnoy.

  11. sai - February 7, 2014 10:56 pm

    my guess is this people who made such comments didn’t bother to read the interview first.

    marami kasing miron dito sa atin. kala mo experts kahit di naman alam ang buong detalye.

    pnoy was just calling a spade a spade. ika nga ni aragorn, war is upon you whether you like it or not. other nations made allowances where germany was concerned to avoid war but it still happened.

    be glad he didn’t comment about the chinese delusion of han racial superiority. i bet that would have given the whole of china collective apoplexy…lol

  12. saxnviolins - February 8, 2014 12:04 am

    I would not use the name Hitler, because it has too much baggage. But Germany had greater basis for the claim on the Sudetenlands than China has over its claims on the sea.

    The population of the Sudetenlands was 90% ethnic German in 1921, at the time when the Treaty of St. Germain (1919) was concluded. Said ethnic Germans wanted to be part of Austria, after Bohemia, Moravia and the other Czech territories split from the empire of Austria-Hungary, and formed Cezchoslovakia.

    Here is wikipedia on the subject matter:

    After World War I, Austria-Hungary broke apart. Late in October 1918, an independent Czechoslovak state, consisting of the lands of the Bohemian kingdom and areas belonging to the Kingdom of Hungary, was proclaimed. The German deputies of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia in the Imperial Council (Reichsrat) referred to the Fourteen Points of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson and the right proposed therein to self-determination, and attempted to negotiate the union of the German-speaking territories with the new Republic of German Austria, which itself aimed at joining Weimar Germany.

    However, the German-speaking parts of the former Lands of the Bohemian Crown remained in a newly created Czechoslovakia, a multi-ethnic state of several nations: Czechs, Germans, Slovaks, Hungarians, Poles and Ruthenians. On 20 September 1918, the Prague government asked the United States’s opinion for the Sudetenland. President Woodrow Wilson sent Ambassador Archibald Coolidge into Czechoslovakia. After Coolidge became witness of German Bohemian demonstrations, Coolidge suggested the possibility of ceding certain German-speaking parts of Bohemia to Germany and Austria (South Moravia and South Bohemia). He also insisted that the German-inhabited regions of West and North Bohemia remain within Czechoslovakia. However, the American delegation at the Paris talks, with Allen Dulles as the American’s chief diplomat who emphasized preserving the unity of the Czech lands, decided not to follow Coolidge’s proposal. [That's Coolidge the diplomat, not Calvin Coolidge the president]

    Several German minorities according to their mother tongue in Moravia—including German-speaking populations in Brno, Jihlava, and Olomouc—also attempted to proclaim their union with German Austria, but failed. The Czechs thus rejected the aspirations of the German Bohemians and demanded the inclusion of the lands inhabited by ethnic Germans in their state, despite the presence of more than 90% (as of 1921) ethnic Germans (which led to the presence of 23.4% of Germans in all of Czechoslovakia), on the grounds they had always been part of lands of the Bohemian Crown. The Treaty of Saint-Germain in 1919 affirmed the inclusion of the German-speaking territories within Czechoslovakia. However, over the next two decades, some Germans in the Sudetenland continued to strive for a separation of the German-inhabited regions from Czechoslovakia.

  13. saxnviolins - February 8, 2014 12:05 am

    Many years later, the shoe was on the other foot.

    It is estimated that between 700,000 and 800,000 Germans were affected by “wild” expulsions between May and August 1945. The expulsions were encouraged by Czechoslovak politicians and were generally carried out by the order of local authorities, mostly by groups of armed volunteers. However, in some cases it was initiated or pursued by assistance of the regular army.
    The expulsion according the Potsdam Conference proceeded from 25 January 1946 till October of that year. An estimated 1.6 million ethnic Germans were deported to the American zone of what would become West Germany. An estimated 800,000 were deported to the Soviet zone (in what would become East Germany). Several thousand died violently during the expulsion and many more died from hunger and illness as a consequence. These casualties include violent deaths and suicides, deaths in “internment camps” and natural causes. The joint Czech-German commission of historians stated in 1996 following numbers: The deaths caused by violence and abnormal living conditions amount approximately to 10 000 persons killed. Another 5,000–6,000 people died of unspecified reasons related to expulsion making the total amount of victims of the expulsion 15,000-16 000 (this excludes suicides, which make another approximately 3,400 cases)

  14. saxnviolins - February 8, 2014 12:12 am

    Former diplomat Apolinario Lozada.

    “I seriously believe that despite our serious political differences, we should endeavor to keep our bilateral relations and find the right approach to convince China to sit with us in the negotiating table to ease the problems and contribute to the stability and peace in the region.”

    That is what China wants – one-on-one with other claimants. That emphasizes her strength against each nation. But if the other claimants banded together, then the many little ones gain more strength when facing the big one.

    Problem is, we antagonized the others.

  15. Ellen - February 8, 2014 1:41 am
    By Roberto R. Romulo

    Let’s hope that in making this point the President did not manage to offend not only the Czechs and the Germans but the British and French too since they were complicit in what happened there. ….Likewise, another important point lost in the historical muddle is that although the appeal is directed to the West, it’s a subtle dig at those countries in the frontline, namely ASEAN members which have been unable or unwilling to get their act together, because frankly speaking they have their own selfish interests to protect.

  16. Ellen - February 8, 2014 1:46 am

    SNV said he is having difficulty accessing this blog after his #14 post. He emailed this to me:

    Your blog is being hacked again. I could not log in after the last posts.

    Below is an article that may shed light on the issue.

    We want to find more evidence that can prove Chinese people went there and lived there, historical evidence that can help prove China is the sovereign owner of the South China Sea,” says Liu Shuguang, head of the Chinese government’s Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage, set up in 2009 to oversee underwater archaeology in the country.

    xxx xxx

    The Philippines sent some French archaeologists to do what? To drag away this shipwreck,” says Mr. Liu of China’s Center of Underwater Cultural Heritage. “Because this was material evidence that Chinese people first found the Scarborough Shoal, they wanted to destroy evidence that was beneficial to China.” The archaeologists deny that.

  17. vic - February 8, 2014 2:47 am

    Well, if Pnoy Comparison of Hitler to China will help China to realize that their bullying tactic may lead to the War that nobody wants, then give Pnoy the credit as the Man who stopped the War to end all Wars…or the last war to be fought by man…

  18. vonjovi2 - February 8, 2014 4:06 am

    Okay lang ang sinabi ni Pnoy at least nag sasaalita ang pinuno natin na di natin gusto ang ginagawang pang aankin ng chino.

  19. arvin - February 8, 2014 6:39 am

    Ako ay pabor sa ginawang pag aangkin ng China sa spratly island. Kasi kung China na may hawak ng isla na iyon ay may pakinabang ang mga tao. Sabihin na natin na mga chinese ang makikinabang pero tao pa rin iyon. Dapat hindi makasarili. Kung bansang Pilipinas ang mag aangkin ay ganun lang iyon, hanggang isla lang. Walang pera budget para sa development doon na isla kasi mahirap ang bansa pero maraming pera ang napupunta sa corruption. Kung panahon pa ni Marcos ay hindi magtatangka ang bansang China na angkinin iyon dahil si Marcos ay nirerespeto ng ibang mga tao nakatira sa ibang bansa.

  20. arvin - February 8, 2014 6:47 am

    Mula ng mapatalsik si Marcos maraming tao ang naging makasarili. Sarili na lang iniisip kasi naghirap ang kalagayan. Dahil lahat ng bilihin ay tumaas ang presyo. Kayod kalabaw para mabuhay. Kakayod kalabaw ka ba para ibang tao ang makinabang, hindi ba hindi. Huwag makasarili dahil ang pagiging makasarili ang dahilan kaya di umaasenso ang bansa. Panahon ni Marcos hindi makasarili ang mga tao dahil hindi nagugutom. Ibigay ang spratly island sa bansang China para sabihin na hindi makasarili ang bansang Pilipinas.

  21. arvin - February 8, 2014 7:07 am

    Kahit napakarami ng populasyon ng bansang China sila ay maunlad pa rin na bansa. Iyon ay dahil walang nagbago sa kanila. Mula pa sa unang namuno ng bansa at sa mga sumunod na pinuno ang layunin ay hindi nag iba. Ang mga tao ay hindi nagbago. Culture and tradition does not change. Sa bansang Pilipinas ay asenso sa panahon ni Marcos, pero ano ang ginawa. Siya ay pinatalsik pa rin dahilan para mag iba ang mga tao. Nagkanya kanya na ang tao ng mapatalsik si Marcos para sa pansariling interes.

  22. arvin - February 8, 2014 7:19 am

    Hindi uunlad ang bansa dahil ang mga Pinoy ay gusto lagi ng bakasyon sa trabaho. Ang bansang China kahit gabi marami ang nagtratrabaho. Kaya sila ay maunlad. Sa panahon ni Marcos kahit gusto pa lagi ng mga pinoy ang bakasyon ay maunlad pa rin ang bansa. Dahil magaling si Marcos na pinuno. He can handle everything that mostly benefited for the people.

  23. johnmarzan - February 8, 2014 8:55 pm

    ” In a meeting with Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh in August last year, President Aquino asked the visiting official how they are able to maintain good relations with China despite conflicting territorial claims.”

    good for vietnam, what about japan?

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