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HOWIE SEE IT: My Country, My Queen

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

Considering all that our countrymen have gone through over the past few months-the jobs lost, the businesses declaring bankruptcy, and the number of people struggling to feed their families- there has been an obvious need to call a ceasefire of politicking, rather focusing on our recovery. Our country and its people must come first and, as always, we must show the global community that the Filipino people remain resilient as ever.

But, as our country struggles to regain its footing, despite wave after wave of cases, coupled with months of uncertainty, it is clear there are people taking advantage of a pre-occupied and fragile nation. One such group is the Elegant Fumes Corporation, operating out of Binondo and partly-owned by Chinese nationals. Recently, Manila Mayor Isko Morena shut down its outlets after netizens posted products-distributed by the said company- that claimed Manila as a province of China.

Is this a pressing issue, given that we are in the midst of a public health emergency? All signs point to YES; this clear attempt to undermine our sovereignty during a pandemic cannot go unpunished and we must act swiftly. The foreign nationals who claim Manila to be a part of the People’s Republic of China allude to the idea that their government has control over the independent and free Filipino. Our national sovereignty, and its external aspect, ensure that we, as a country, remain free from foreign influence. In a time where each and every life hangs in the balance, we hope that those suffering now do not leave this earth to see our country in its current state, but that they live to see it be better. We fight for every Filipino life threatened by this virus so that they may see a future where the Philippines flourishes, even on a global stage.

This is not solely a matter of Filipino pride, but how our leadership handles the gravity of the situation is a testament to how important sovereignty is to the administration. The deliberate deflection by the mouthpiece of Malacañang, and refusal to take the issue seriously, is paralleled with their infamous failure to uphold the Hague ruling. The President’s love affair with China continues, and we are reminded of the multiple attempts to justify an inability to uphold a ruling handed to us on a silver platter by an International Court. Even now, in the country’s capital, there is still a refusal to take a strong stand. As the Elegant Fumes product was manufactured in 2018, could it really be a coincidence that, in that same year, our President Duterte made one of his infamous “jokes” about making the Philippines a province of China?

Everything is deemed as a joke, and it is -apparently- our fault when it lands flat. But I cannot apologize when it is my country that is made out to be the joke. When our leadership jokes about making our country a province of China, how can it really be just a joke when the Presidential spokesperson won’t even entertain the seriousness of this issue. The NBI-International Operations Division is currently leading the investigation, but we must remind our leaders that the power to deport foreign nationals is a police measure that lies in the state, under the authority of our sovereign power. The blatant disrespect of our laws cannot go unnoticed, and if the statement about making the country a province of PRC is really a “joke”, now is the time to be serious. The label of Elegant Fumes is clearly not an oversight, rather an intentional effort to belittle our country, and we have been bullied for far too long. This mindset has obviously seeped into the minds of the owners of Elegant Fumes who decided to claim parts of Binondo as Chinese-owned as well. We must remind the world that those who reside here must respect our laws, our people, and our sovereignty. Any evidence to the contrary should not be dismissed, but rather met with a swift and distinctive response. We are not Chinese-owned, we are Filipino and we will proudly proclaim it.

During last month’s State of the Nation Address, our President proclaimed that he has worked without fail to protect our rights in the South China sea against the PRC – that we are not pawns to anyone – and celebrated our diplomatic efforts.

Mr. President, as you have used a chess analogy let me use the same – you are correct in saying the Filipino people are not pawns, as we are not to be traded off and exchanged for the benefit of the long game. We are not to be placed strategically and used in situations to allow the other, more “valuable” pieces, to thrive. Sadly, after four years, your so-called gambit to China only brought upon the Wuhan virus and more jobs to Chinese, rather than to Filipinos. Luckily the country is resilient and the people steadfast, but this resilience should never be mistaken for complacency. It’s still not too late to develop the country into what she truly is – a queen.

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