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FIRING LINE: All the goodwill in the world

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By Robert B, Roque, Jr.

All the goodwill from the Philippines’ 7,100 islands cannot seemingly move China to play fair in the South China Sea. One-hundred and thirty diplomatic protests. Those represent the many times China has violated the maritime borders within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and misbehaved since Bongbong Marcos became president in mid-2022.

And for Filipinos – recognized as one of the friendliest people on Earth – patience is wearing thin. Just two days ago, Congressman Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte of Bicol was driven to say that any diplomatic negotiation with China has a “zero chance of reaching a peaceful settlement.” 

The sad part is most Filipinos will agree with him that talking diplomacy is close to futile in the face of China’s gaslighting and baseless claims. And if Xi Jinping has not noticed, the same sentiment resonates with the international community.

Beijing’s refusal to adhere to diplomatic norms and its continuous harassment of Filipino fishermen are nothing short of diplomatic hooliganism. The need for the Philippines to fortify its patrols and seek alliances with the United States and other regional allies like Japan is an unfortunate but necessary response to China’s unabashed aggression.

It is time the world acknowledges China’s actions for what they are: a blatant display of diplomatic bruteness that warrants stern global condemnation or, perhaps, all the goodwill in the world.

 Lies and denials

I had to Google gaslighting and subsequently connected it to the recent statements from the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin — a perfect illustration of China’s penchant for lies and deceit. Blaming the Philippines for heightened tensions in disputed maritime territories while disregarding China’s own aggressive actions is a classic example of diplomatic gaslighting.

President Marcos’s announcement in Japan last weekend that he is pursuing a “paradigm shift” in dealing with China is akin to a cry for help. His seeking international coordination on these regional security matters is an admission of the failure of traditional diplomatic channels.

China’s refusal to acknowledge the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s ruling invalidating its territorial claims is a blatant disregard for international law. The Philippines, backed by its allies, must continue to expose China’s lies and hold it accountable for its destabilizing actions in the region.

 Starting on the wrong foot

Recent statements issued by Juliet de Lima, National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating panel interim chair and widow of the late communist party founder Jose Ma. Sison, is biting at fresh attempts to jumpstart the peace talks like a mad dog.

It highlights the complexities of dealing with the NDF and its elusive stance on peace negotiations. The denial of willingness to surrender, coupled with accusations that Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro had peddled misinformation, exemplifies the challenging nature of dialogue with the communist group.

The apparent discord within the government’s negotiation panel adds another layer of difficulty, with De Lima pointing out discrepancies between Teodoro’s position and the joint statement agreed upon by the parties just last month. 

The NDF’s insistence on discussing substantive agenda items before the cessation of hostilities hints at their attempt to set the tone even before formal talks resume. This preemptive positioning, emphasizing principles over capitulation, signals the challenges of achieving genuine and lasting peace.

 It makes us wonder again: Do the Reds really want peace? 

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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