According to Saint Paul the Apostle, the wages of sin is death. And the wages of Rodrigo Duterte’s treasonous pro-China policy is the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic stalking the Philippines.

Last April 18, the Philippines has confirmed 5,878 Covid-19 cases which made it the worst hit country in Southeast Asia, together with Indonesia, which has 5,923 cases but out of a population more than double the Philippines’. Moreover the Philippines’ death toll stood at 397 while Indonesia’s 520, and experts believed the total number of local cases would exceed 6,000 by the time ink dries up on this editorial, and it has.

Could the Philippines have stemmed the Covid-19 incidence and mortality rate had the Duterte government acted early on the emergency? Yes. Could the Philippines have been shielded from the outbreak had Duterte not kowtowed to China, the source of the virus and whose Communist bosses he seems to have recognized as his sponsors and anointers in 2016 and not the Philippine electorate?  Yes.

But alas, the Duterte government shilly-shallied and didn’t act firmly and decisively on the emergency. Its initial attitude was much like Red China’s: dismiss the threat and arrest those raising the red flag (pun intended) for rumor-mongering; this was in fact the fate of Dr. Li Wenliang, who was accused of “spreading rumors” after he posted an alert about the new virus in late December in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the virus originated. Doctor Li himself contracted the virus and died in February, so that about that time, the entire world had been fully alerted about the medical threat. The Philippines in contrast had had a head-start since much earlier on Jan. 30, the first Covid-19 case was recorded in the country. But Duterte dismissed the threat throughout February. A month later, he was  still poking fun at the threat: “Saan ba nakatira ‘yan?” (Where does that virus reside?).  Even as late as March 11, he was dismissive of the emergency. He said in a televised address from Malacañang, “You folks are too scared of this coronavirus epidemic … Naniwala pala kayo. ‘Sus! … Fools, don’t believe it.” Now Duterte must have numbered himself among the “fools” because on April 17, he was giving “shoot them dead” orders against violators of the nearly countrywide quarantine he had imposed quite late in the day.

Why did it take some dangerous time before Duterte acted? One word: China. It is notable the government was slow to impose travel restrictions on China despite the contagion spreading across the world via Chinese travellers because Duterte feared alienating Beijing.  When public opinion and even his own allied lawmakers were urging him to impose a travel ban, he refused:  “Everything is well and Filipinos should stop fostering any Sinophobia or anti-Chinese sentiments.” Perhaps betraying China’s vindictiveness, Duterte warned that many Filipinos were working in China and Beijing might kick them out. He added that China had been “kind” to the Philippines even if it had practically invaded the country and set up military facilities on our territorial waters under his watch:  “Firstly, many Filipinos are working and even residing in China and secondly, even if there is no Filipino there, we are a community of nations.  We cooperate.  China has been kind to us.  We can only also show the same favor to them.”

The first Covid-19 death outside of China was reported in the Philippines.  The decision of the government to allow direct flights from China despite the lockdown in Hubei province, the epicenter of the epidemic, drew intense criticism from the public. Duterte’s intransigence against imposing a travel ban on China and his generally blase attitude toward the emergency were perceived as a mishandling of the outbreak. A jittery public erupted in anger after it was revealed that a 44-year old Wuhan resident, who later died, and a female companion, visited three cities in the country before they were both tested positive in a hospital in Manila.

When he finally imposed a travel ban on China, Duterte betrayed his vassalage to Beijing by including Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province but is de facto a separate state. His spokesman and court jester Salvador Panelo added insult to injury by defending the ban and saying that the World Health Organization (WHO) usually clubbed Covid-19 cases of Taiwan with China’s, even if Taiwan had dealt with the outbreak early on and even without a lockdown had achieved the best results on battling Covid-19 in the world on record. (WHO has come under fire for not holding up Taiwan as a model in how to stem the epidemic and for singing high praises of China despite strong indications Beijing had silenced Doctor Li and others who raised the red alert and refused to share China’s research on novel corona viruses with affected countries trying to develop antibodies for and treatment of Covid-19.)  In banning Taiwan, Duterte seemd to have missed out on the fact that tens of thousands of Filipinos were working in Taiwan; obviously he didn’t give a hoot for them or for the thousands more working in China as long as he was pleasing Beijing. When Taiwan politely protested, Malacanang beat a hastry retreat and lifted the ban.

Peking’s Duck

If the xPhilippines has become a sitting duck and a very clear target by the worsening global pandemic, it is simply because the foremost resident of Malacañang by the dirty waters of the Pasig is Peking’s Duck.

Duterte’s slavish attitude toward China has been evident since Day One of his Malacanang residency. He has not pursued the Hague court’s 2016 decision favoring the Philippines in the South China Sea Arbitration case. When Manila hosted the Asean summit in 2017, Duterte in his summit chair statement didn’t mention the Hague ruling and even Asean members’ concerns over China’s bullying in the South China Sea, instead choosing language that was conciliatory and even favorable to China. When true to bully form, a Chinese vessel rammed last year a Philippine fishing boat on Reed Bank, which is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone according to the Hague ruling, he implied the fishermen were at fault while his chief diplomat outrightly and quite undiplomatically  blamed the fishermen. Under pressure from public opinion, Duterte later relented to a “joint” investigation with China, which made matters worse since it basically recognized China’s right to the same waters. Often guilty of chauvinism and even hate speech against Vice President Leni Robredo and his critics, Duterte turns sycophant and sissy when the subject is China. Evincing Beijing’s subtle or not so subtle bullying, he said he raised the country’s territorial dispute with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but that he was told pressing the issue would “mean trouble.” The wimp concluded,  “What can I do?”

Indeed what could a coward do but turn to treason and betray the national interest by looking the other way around as the Chinese consolidate their military buildup on Philippine territory and install in them guided missiles and guess where they’re pointed at? What else could a prissy do but to sleep with the enemy and accept the latter’s offer of financial assistance to the former’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program despite his own economic planning secretary lamenting as late as February 2020 that the promised assistance had not been exactly coming? What else could a pushover do when confronted with a pandemic that originated from the bully territory except to hem and haw on imposing a travel ban on the mainland and even to accuse his own people of pressuring him to do so out of their racist Sinophobia? What else could a Beijing lackey do but to accept the resignation of his own economic planning secretary after the latter said publicly that because of the pandemic, China might temporarily set aside its promised financial assistance to the Philippines?

Meanwhile more and more evidence, direct or circumstantial, have come up tracing Covid-19 to a micro lab in Wuhan studying bats and novel coronaviruses. Chinese nationals themselves have criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for hiding the outbreak and penalizing those who blew the whistle on it (a typical reflex of totalitarian regimes). The CCP has likewise refused to share Chinese research on viruses with other countries seeking to devise treatments agains the epidemic. Moreover the party now appears to be spinning a narrative absolving itself of any responsibility and waging a propaganda campaign to shift the blame to North America, Europe, or even Africa.

With the CCP’s reckless disregard of the safety of its own people and of the rest of the world,  the wages of Duterte’s treasonous pro-Peking policy have become apparent. The wages are nothing short of doom and death in all their dimensions—physical, moral, social, financial, and economic. And all because someone from Davao when confronted with the Beijing bully can’t keep his legs shut.


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