November 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Sen. Grace Poe holds press conference after SET ruling.

Sen. Grace Poe holds press conference after SET ruling.

As expected, Sen. Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares was spared a debilitating loss in the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s (SET) ruling on the disqualification case against her. On a 5-4 vote, the political body granted Sen. Poe a graceful respite from her troubled past that has been hounding her since she took a quick sprint from the safe haven of obscurity to the high-stakes winner-takes-all game of presidential rugby. With no political organization and no campaign war chest, Grace’s only weapon was her gritty determination to pursue the presidency that her father – the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) – lost in a bitter election that was replete with allegations of electoral fraud. This makes one wonder: Did FPJ’s defeat compel her to seek the presidency regardless of the seemingly insurmountable roadblocks she would encounter along the way?

With no experience in holding an elective position, Grace – on the strength of FPJ’s popularity – ran for a Senate seat in 2013… and won! Not only did she win but won with the most votes among the senatorial candidates. Nobody could explain her meteoric rise. Some even suggested that her “miraculous” ascent to the threshold of political power was an act of providence. And no sooner had she taken her oath of office than people started talking about her running for president.

Although she never admitted any presidential ambitions – perhaps she was thinking it was too early to disclose her future plans – she didn’t discourage people, particularly the media, from talking about it. But there was one major problem confronting her from the get-go: her citizenship.

However, her citizenship was never a problem when she was living in the U.S. In fact she had the best of two worlds; she was a dual Filipino-American citizen. It was a convenience she carried with her, whether she was looking for a state or federal job in the U.S. or visiting her parents or relatives in the Philippines. Yes, it served her well… very well, indeed.

But — oops! – it could be a very big problem if she ran for national office in the Philippines where the Constitution requires those running for President, Vice President or Senator to be a “natural born” Filipino citizen. Because of her status as a “foundling” – a child with no known parents at birth — she might not qualify to run for any of these offices. She had to find a way to go around it; otherwise, she’d be stuck in a desk job pushing pencil for the rest of her life. No way, Jose!

Rule of law vs. status quo

Defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.

Defeated senatorial candidate Rizalito David.

In 2013, undeterred by constitutional nuances, Grace ran for Senator. She made a little “white lie” in her Certificate of Candidacy (COC). She declared that she was a “natural-born” Filipino citizen and claimed Fernando Poe Jr. and Susan Roces to be her natural-born parents. With these two iconic movie stars as her parents, she must have believed that nobody would question it. And she was right; nobody from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) questioned it. But one of the defeated senatorial candidates – Rizalito David – questioned it and filed a petition with the SET to disqualify Grace from keeping her Senate seat.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Sen. Grace Poe.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Sen. Grace Poe.

Although Grace won the disqualification case against her, the dissenting opinion of the SET Chairman, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, says it all: “There is no dispute that respondent Mary Grace Poe Llamanzares is a Filipino citizen, as she publicly claims to be. However, she has failed to prove that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen and is thus not qualified to sit as Member of the Senate of the Republic of the Philippines pursuant to Section 3, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.”

It is interesting to note that the two other Supreme Court Justices in the SET, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, together with Sen. Nancy Binay, voted to disqualify Grace. The other five senators in the SET, Vicente Sotto III, Pia Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV voted to uphold her. The outcome of the SET vote seems to imply that the SET is divided between proponents (justices) of the rule of law vs. the defenders (politicians) of the status quo.

Criminal charges

Grace Poe's Certificate of Candidacy in 2013.

Grace Poe’s Certificate of Candidacy in 2013.

But no sooner had the SET announced its decision than Rizalito David filed criminal charges against Grace in the Comelec over Grace’s citizenship and residency. David accused Grace of “material misrepresentation” in filing her COC in 2013. He claims “Grace is not a natural-born citizen, had failed to comply with the two-year residency requirement for senatorial candidates, and was ineligible ‘for the office she sought’ in 2013.”

In regard to Grace’s status as a “foundling,” David said that she could not claim or acquire the status of a “natural-born” citizen because the reported circumstances of her birth did not yield any proof with which to conclude “her father or mother is a Filipino citizen, so as to make her a Filipino citizen at birth.”

And here is the stinger: David said Grace became an American citizen in 2001 and reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006. “This is in fact null and void because she is not qualified to apply for reacquisition of Filipino citizenship she being not a natural-born Filipino … hence she remained an American, and her domicile remained in the United States of America,” he said.

With Grace making two false statements, David said that she erred in declaring that she was eligible to run for the Senate in 2013. If found guilty, she could face imprisonment of up to six years. Interestingly, there are four other charges filed against Grace in the Comelec. It is also likely that any of these cases could end up in a higher court and/or the Supreme Court. With only six months left to the May 9, 2016 elections, the question is begged: Can Grace extricate herself from this legal maze while avoiding a constitutional crisis?

Game changer

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Meanwhile, as a result of the SET’s failure to disqualify Grace, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who has been staying away – at arm’s length – from the presidential race had confirmed through his presumptive vice presidential running mate Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano that is a Duterte-Cayetano tandem for the 2016 elections. Duterte also said, “My candidacy for the presidency is now open to a presidential run.”

What changed Duterte’s mind was the recent SET decision in favor of Grace. “(Poe) will be a presumptive President whose citizenship is based on presumption. The highest position is reserved for a true-blue Filipino,” Duterte said. “I cannot accept an American President.”

However, he said he would change his mind if the SET reverses its ruling or Poe shows the public her real mother. “Show me your real mother and I will even campaign for you,” Duterte said.

Cayetano also quoted Duterte as saying: “I can’t allow them to f–k the people and to destroy the Constitution. I respect the SET but the ruling is totally wrong.” “If you disregard the Constitution, that’s just wrong. Because of that he’s [Duterte] running. He’ll no longer allow what’s happening,” he said.

While Sen. Grace Poe might look and sound confident after overcoming the first roadblock on her way to the apex of her political life, the legal roadblocks facing her soon could be insurmountable to a point where “surrender with honor” might be her best option. Indeed, after savoring her first victory – a piece of cake — over the SET disqualification case, it might come to pass that it was nothing more than a hollow political win. What counts is the last hurdle to the finish line. The question is: Would she have the gumption to go all the way to the finish line or would she even reach it?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo raises the new Philippine flag on June 12, 1898 in the balcony of his mansion in Kawit, Cavite.

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo raises the new Philippine flag on June 12, 1898 in the balcony of his mansion in Kawit, Cavite.

Ever since twelve nationalistic – and left-leaning — members of the Philippine Senate voted to evict the U.S. bases in 1991, our national pride had immeasurably gone up the scale never seen before since the new national flag was raised and independence was declared from Spain on the balcony of Gen. Emilio Aquinaldo’s mansion in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898.

But “independence” was short-lived. Little did Aguinaldo know that Spain had ceded the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million at the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. And when the Americans came to claim the Philippine Islands, Aguinaldo resisted the occupation. On February 4, 1899, war broke out. But Aguinaldo’s fledgling army was no match to the well-armed and experienced American forces. In November 1899, Aguinaldo went into hiding in Palanan, Isabela where he waged guerilla warfare against the Americans. Thus began the “Philippine Insurrection,” as the Americans called it. More than half a century later, Filipino historians changed it to the “Philippine-American War,” which is what it was.

Americans capture Gen. Aguinaldo at his secret camp in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901.

Americans capture Gen. Aguinaldo at his secret camp in Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901.

On March 23, 1901, a contingent of American soldiers with the help of Macabebe Scouts gained access to Aguinaldo’s camp by pretending to surrender. Aguinaldo was captured and brought to Manila where he took the oath of allegiance to the American government. On April 19, 1901, he issued a proclamation recommending abandonment of resistance against the Americans.

Aguinaldo boards the USS Vicksburg following his capture in 1901.

Aguinaldo boards the USS Vicksburg following his capture in 1901.

Thus ended the Philippine-American War and the American colonial era began. In 1934, the Philippines was granted commonwealth status and given limited autonomy of self-government. On July 4, 1946, Uncle Sam granted independence to the Philippines.

 

Philippine independence

Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.

Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon.

But a lot of historians believe that the Philippines wasn’t ready to exercise her freedom after suffering from the ravages of World War II and the brutality the Filipinos endured at the hands of the Japanese oppressors. Many believed that the Philippines’ status as a “commonwealth” of the U.S. should have been retained. And many more believed that Philippine statehood would serve the best interests of Americans and the Filipinos alike. They said that Filipinos would prosper peacefully and equally with the Americans. And ultimately, they were convinced that a union between the U.S. and the Philippines would make the U.S. the strongest Pacific power and the Filipinos the most affluent among Asians. The union would have formed an amalgam of western and eastern cultures in an expanse of land and sea where “the sun will never set.” And lest we forget, Philippine statehood would also protect Americans of Filipino descent and their newly created state under the nuclear umbrella of Uncle Sam. That’s peace, prosperity, and security all rolled into one. The question is: Why did this geopolitical alchemy not happen? Could it be because of the late Philippine commonwealth president Manuel L. Quezon wishes? His prophetic wish, “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans,” took hold long after his death on August 1, 1944 in Saranac Lake, New York. He must have believed that given enough time, the Filipinos would eventually become adept at self-government. That’s how much confidence he had on the ability of Filipinos to chart their own future. But he was wrong.

Foreign aggression

The 12 senators -- called "The Magnificent 12" -- who voted to evict the U.S. bases in 1991.

The 12 senators — called “The Magnificent 12” — who voted to evict the U.S. bases in 1991.

Seventy years after gaining her independence, the Philippines is still being ran like hell, and the Filipinos are still struggling in learning how to govern. Sad to say, the elected politicians today are more interested in enriching themselves than serving the people. Corruption has become the norm, and honesty the exception.

Six of the "Magnificent 12" 20 years after their vote to evict the U.S. bases.

Six of the “Magnificent 12” 20 years after their vote to evict the U.S. bases.

And what is indeed very disheartening is that the Philippines doesn’t have the capability to defend her territory from foreign aggression. And the U.S. has not been willing to get involved, claiming neutrality, in the territorial disputes between the Philippines and China. It was only recently that the U.S. challenged China’s 12-mile territorial boundary around those Chinese man-made islands by sending a guided-missile destroyer to within 12 miles of the reclaimed reefs in what was called a “Freedom of Navigation Operation” (FONOP). However, it is not anticipated that the “innocent passage” conducted by the USS Lassen would result in China dismantling her man-made islands. On the contrary, China threatened to build more artificial islands around reefs within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Liaoning carrier battle group.

Liaoning carrier battle group.

And this brings to fore the question: What does it take for China to intrude into the Philippines’ peripheral territories like the Batanes group of islands, Kalayaan Group of islands, and Tawi-Tawi archipelago? With a navy with no warships and an air force with no warplanes, there is no way the Philippines could defend her territories from Chinese invasion whose military forces are second only to the U.S.

And should the Philippines invoke the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), it is doubtful if the U.S. would automatically and immediately send an expeditionary force to defend the Philippines. The question is: Would the U.S. honor the MDT? When the Philippines rejected the renewal of the U.S. Bases Agreement, many constitutionalists were of the opinion that the eviction would result in the de facto rescission of the MDT. Besides, how can the U.S. defend Philippine territory when she has no basing rights in the Philippines, which is fundamental to any defense treaty?

EDCA challenged

Former U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base.

Former U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base.

On April 28, 2014, the U.S. and the Philippines executed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which would allow the “U.S. forces access to and use of designated areas and facilities owned and controlled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the invitation of the Philippine Government. It contains clear provision that the U.S. will not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines and a prohibition of entry to the Philippines of nuclear weapons. The EDCA has an initial term of ten years, and thereafter will continue in force until terminated by either party after having given a one-year notice of intention to terminate.”

However, the EDCA would provide what the MDT would have provided. But no sooner had the EDCA been executed than nationalist and leftist groups filed petitions with the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of EDCA.

After lingering in the High Court for over a year, it was reported in the news that the court will soon rule to uphold the constitutionality of EDCA before President Barack Obama arrives in Manila for the APEC summit on November 18, 2015. That’s the good news.

But the bad news is the Philippine Senate last November 10 passed Resolution 1414 or a “Resolution expressing the strong sense of the Senate that any treaty ratified by the President of the Philippines should be concurred in by the Senate, otherwise the treaty becomes invalid and ineffective.” The resolution was sponsored by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and co-sponsored by 12 other senators. She said that the EDCA is a prohibited treaty of “foreign military bases, troops or facilities,” which the Philippine Constitution allows only with the concurrence of the Senate under Article 18, Section 25.

Déjà vu

If Senate Resolution 1414 prevails with the failure of the Supreme Court to declare EDCA as constitutionally legal, then it’s déjà vu all over again. With EDCA gone and the MDT unenforceable, the only treaty that binds the U.S. and the Philippines would be the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which is under siege by nationalist and leftist lawmakers. Interestingly, the Supreme Court had ruled that it is constitutional… not once, but twice. But it is expected in due time that the VFA will go away, too; thus, ending the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the Philippines that lasted more than a century. With the Philippines feeling the heat of the Chinese dragon breathing down her neck, can she defend her sovereignty?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Sen. Chiz Escudero meets with Vice President Jejomar Binay and the United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidates aligned with Binay. (Photo credit: Office of Vice President)

Sen. Chiz Escudero meets with Vice President Jejomar Binay and the United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidates aligned with Binay. (Photo credit: Office of Vice President)

It was supposed to be a political “marriage” made in Heaven. But the tandem of Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero – for president and vice-president, respectively — seems like its heading for the rocks.

Is the Grace-Chiz "marriage" of convenience heading for the rocks?

Is the Grace-Chiz “marriage” of convenience heading for the rocks?

It all began when rumors started going around in the “tsismis” or rumor-mongering crowd — or should we say the Chizmosos and Chizmosas? — after Chiz was seen having lunch with Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay in a restaurant in Davao City. No sooner had the “Chizmis” reached the media than another rumor started going around that Grace Poe was withdrawing her candidacy. And while Chiz and Grace denied the rumors, there were speculations that the Grace-Chiz “marriage” of convenience is indeed in big trouble.

The Binay-Escudero meeting was reported by CNN Philippines on October 26, 2015. According to the news report, the two met at a restaurant in Davao City on a Sunday afternoon last October 25. Binay was supposed to be in Davao City to attend the Boy Scout of the Philippines national jamboree in Tagum City while Chiz arrived in Davao Sunday morning. The report didn’t say whether Chiz was in Davao to attend an event.

However, the report said that their meeting was brokered by businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr., who owns the restaurant. Floirendo told the media that he initiated the meeting “so that Binay and Escudero could talk again after months of being estranged.” Escudero was instrumental to Binay’s victory in the 2010 vice presidential race against Manuel “Mar” Roxas II. Binay and Chiz parted ways when Chiz decided to support Grace’s presidential bid. Their private meeting lasted about an hour. Binay then left for the airport while Escudero followed minutes later, which makes one to believe that Escudero flew to Davao City just to meet with Binay and, as Floirendo had in mind, to “patch” things up between Binay and Escudero. What for? They’re political rivals, aren’t they? At least until the May 2016 elections. Then they can be friends again after the elections.

Chiz and Binay: Plotting the Noy-Bi victory from behind?

Chiz and Binay: Plotting the Noy-Bi victory from behind?

But could it be possible that their meeting was to forge a political alliance to snatch the 2016 elections for themselves? Which reminds me of the 2010 elections when Escudero surreptitiously formed an underground campaign alliance between then presidential candidate Benigno “Noy” Aquino III and the opposition party’s vice presidential candidate, Jejomar Binay, who was officially in tandem with former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada. Known as the “Noy-Bi” tandem, Aquino and Binay won the presidency and vice presidency, respectively, to the consternation of the supporters of the Liberal Party’s official standard-bearers, Aquino and Roxas, known as the “Noy-Mar” tandem.

Binay-Escudero unholy alliance?

Is Chiz ready to abandon Grace for Binay?

Is Chiz ready to abandon Grace for Binay?

Which begs the question: Is Floirendo trying to replicate what Chiz did in 2010 by forming an unholy – and secret — alliance between Binay and Escudero to dump Chiz’s presidential running mate, Grace Poe, and Binay’s vice presidential running mate, Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan? Or could it be that Honasan – who had reluctantly accepted to run in tandem with Binay – would withdraw his candidacy and give way to Escudero? If this happens, it would leave Grace without a running mate unless she picks Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is running as an independent vice presidential candidate with no presidential running mate.

But a more logical reason why Chiz would abandon Grace is because Grace might withdraw from the race because she is having difficulty proving that she is a “natural-born” Filipino citizen that is required by the Philippine Constitution. In her search for her parents, Grace took DNA tests with two potential relatives; however, the tests failed to find a match. But she hasn’t given up hope. Poe’s spokesperson, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, said that more DNA samples were being processed.

Bongbong to the rescue

Grace and Bongbong: Are they bound together by DNA?

Grace and Bongbong: Are they bound together by DNA?

Recently, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. volunteered to undergo a DNA test to help Grace find biological relatives. It’s interesting to note that Grace was rumored to have been fathered by Bongbong’s father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Grace’s biological mother is rumored to be Rosemarie Sonora, the sister of Grace’s adoptive mother, actress Susan Roces. However, Grace declined Bongbong’s offer and expressed her belief that their DNAs wouldn’t match. But what if their DNAs matched? Would it hurt to find out that she was the offspring of the late dictator and thus lose an opportunity to prove once and for all that she is “natural-born” Filipino citizen and someone with presidential pedigree to boot?

But I guess there are certain family secrets that people would rather not disclose. And perhaps this would be one secret – if it’s true — that Grace would rather lose the opportunity to be president than take a “bitter pill” that she wouldn’t be able to live with for the rest of her life.

Bi-Chiz

From Noy-Bi to Bi-Chiz (Photo Credit: Equalizer Post)

From Noy-Bi to Bi-Chiz (Photo Credit: Equalizer Post)

Could it be that Grace may have indicated her dire situation to Chiz who would end up without a presidential running mate? If so, then he must be preparing for that eventuality and instead of waiting for that to happen, he jumped on the chance to strike an alliance with his old ally, Binay, who owes Chiz a debt of gratitude for masterminding the Noy-Bi election coup. Yes, it would certainly be a Binay-Chiz (Bi-Chiz) tandem if Grace called it quits.

On November 9, 2015, Amado Valdez, a former law dean of the College of Law of the University of the East, filed a fourth disqualification case against Grace Poe with the Commission of Elections (Comelec). He said that Grace failed to comply with the citizenship and residency requirements under Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution. Valdez cited that Poe has “lost forever” her natural-born status in 2001 and never regained it. “Once you lose natural born status, you lose it forever, you can’t reacquire it,” Valdez said.

Quo-vadis-GraceWith four disqualification cases filed against Poe, and with the presidential election only six months away, one wonders what would happen if these cases were not resolved by Election Day? Would Congress declare her President if she won the election? Can the Supreme Court issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) or is it even legal to do so? Could President Aquino declare a state of emergency or martial law to avoid a constitutional crisis?

Perhaps it’s time for Grace Poe to call it quits and withdraw with grace and honor. It would be a great service to her country.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

The venue of the arbitration hearing is the Peace Palace in The Hague. (Photo credit: PCA)

The venue of the arbitration hearing is the Peace Palace in The Hague. (Photo credit: PCA)

Little did China realize that her attempt to take over the South China Sea (SCS) would be met with resistance from the United States as well as the Permanent Court of Arbitration. And with the speed it took to accomplish the one-two punch against the rising superpower in Asia-Pacific in a matter of two days, it left China with few options, none of which – except total withdrawal — she’d win without drawing massive indignation or backlash from the world community.

Guided missile destroyer USS Lassen

Guided missile destroyer USS Lassen

It all began on October 27, 2015, when the United States sent the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, to within 12 miles of the Subi Reef and Mischief Reef in the Spratly archipelago. The passage of the U.S. warship through waters that China claims as her territory drew protests from the Chinese government who threatened retaliatory actions against the U.S. for violating China’s sovereignty.

Arbitral Tribunal judges.

Arbitral Tribunal judges.

Two days later, on October 29, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued its first ruling on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China over the disputed areas in the South China Sea. The five-member arbitration tribunal, which is based at The Hague, Netherlands, unanimously ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the Philippines’ territorial claims filed against China.

The tribunal rejected China’s claim that the disputes were about its territorial sovereignty. China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over a region that comprises about 85% of the entire South China Sea. She has boycotted the proceedings insisting that the arbitral tribunal doesn’t have jurisdiction or authority to hear the case. But the tribunal ruled that it has the authority to hear seven of the Philippines’ submissions under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The tribunal also made it clear that China’s decision not to participate in the arbitration “did not deprive the tribunal of jurisdiction.”

The U.S. welcomed the decision of the arbitral tribunal. A U.S. defense official said, “This demonstrates the relevance of international law to the territorial conflicts in the South China Sea,” then added, “It demonstrates that sovereign claims are not necessarily indisputable and it shows that judging issues like this on the basis of international law and international practice are a viable way of, at a minimum, managing territorial conflicts if not resolving them.”

Core interest

First and Second Island Chains.

First and Second Island Chains.

But as China had repeatedly expressed – and threatened – in the past, she is not going to abide by a decision that would contradict with China’s claim that the South China Sea is “an area of ‘core interest’ that is non-negotiable.” But would China go to war to protect her sovereignty over the SCS? Based on her pronounced stand on the issue, she will. But the $64,000 question is: Would she? And that brings to fore the ultimate question: What is the value of “ownership” of the South China Sea to China and why is it important that she has exclusive right over it? To answer this question, one has to recall China’s dream of becoming the dominant power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

In an article, “China to take Second Island Chain by 2020,” published in the Want China Times on June 27, 2013, Admiral Liu Huaqing, the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, was quoted as saying in 1982 that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020, respectively. “The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. If China is able to dominate the Second Island Chain seven years from now, the East China Sea will become the backyard of the PLA Navy,” he said.

Artificial islands

"Unsinkable aircraft carrier"

“Unsinkable aircraft carrier”

The following year, 2014, China started building artificial islands around seven reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago. In three of these man-made islands, China built defense fortifications, troop garrisons, runways that could accommodate China’s biggest bombers, and deep-water harbors where her warships could dock. Although she denied militarizing these artificial islands, satellite photos clearly show that the structures built on them are for military use.

President Barack Obama’s go-signal to the U.S. Navy to patrol the waters within 12 miles of the artificial islands was hailed by three of America’s staunchest allies, Japan, Australia, and particularly the Philippines, which is within 200 miles from these “unsinkable aircraft carriers,” as a U.S. senior naval officer described them. But many are of the opinion that Obama’s order was “too little, too late” because it would be hard to convince China to dismantle or abandon the artificial islands. China would never abandon them… unless the U.S. would go to war against her. But that will not happen. Not now. There is just so much to lose by both countries to go to war over these islands.

Chinese nationalism

Anti-American rally in China.

Anti-American rally in China.

But China has to react to the U.S.’s “infringement” of her sovereign rights. However, one needs to know that China is going through an economic downturn, falling stock values, rising unemployment, declining exports, shrinking consumer spending, and an increasingly corrupt military and bureaucracy. The Chinese people are edgy and Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to blame the U.S. and Japan for all the country’s ills.

It did not then come as a surprise that anti-American and anti-Japanese sentiments are running high among the Chinese people. And these are all Xi needs to rally the people to his side. In other words, Xi could increase his anti-American rhetoric without really going to war. He knows that war with the U.S. at this time would be devastating to China. Simply put, China doesn’t have the capability to defeat the U.S. in a naval battle or crush her with nuclear power.

So, what is China going to do to save face? An easy one would be to send a flotilla to patrol the waters around those artificial islands and confront U.S. warships that enter her territory. And what would the U.S. warships do? While the two navies would be in a standoff situation, I don’t think that either side would start a battle. However, unintended incidents could happen that could lead to skirmish, which could bring the two countries closer to war.

Meanwhile, China could start deploying military aircraft and warships to the militarized artificial islands as well as building more artificial islands, which she threatened to do as a consequence of the American “intrusion.” What would Obama do then? Is he going to attack or withdraw his naval forces?

Or is he going to negotiate a compromise, one of which is to demilitarize the artificial islands and put them under the United Nations’ control, but will remain as the exclusive economic zones of the rightful countries as mandated by UNCLOS. It would be a fair and equitable solution but it would be a painful pill for China to swallow. But what else could China do when a double whammy hits her?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)