On PH independence day eve: Middle East OFWs recite ‘Panatang Makabayan’ vs. China WPS actions

On the eve of the country’s Independence Day, Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East recited the “Panatang Makabayan” to show their opposition to China’s actions in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the complicity of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte with those actions.

The webinar was organized by the Middle East chapter of 1Sambayan, the broad coalition of political forces aiming to install a competent and trustworthy government through the May 2022 polls.

It can be viewed through Migrante-Middle East’s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=593082385004266 

It featured as speaker Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) co-chairperson Neri Javier Colmenares and was attended by OFWs from Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — as well as other countries and the Philippines.

“The hearts of OFWs beat for the Philippines, even if we are outside of the country. More than 120 years since the country’s independence was declared, we continue to fight for independence from superpowers like China that take away our territory and control the Duterte government,” said Rev. Fred Carmelo, coordinator of 1Sambayan-Middle East and pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines or UCCP in the UAE.

“Our little patriotic gesture is genuine, unlike those of Duterte who kissed the Philippine flag and promised to ride a jet ski to the country’s islands being claimed by China and plant a Philippine flag there. We are very clear in opposing China’s occupation, militarization and use of Philippine territory, unlike Duterte,” Carmelo added.

The “Panatang Makabayan” or Patriotic Oath is the Philippines’ pledge of allegiance to the flag and talks about one’s love for the Philippines. It ends with the following words: “Iaalay ko ang aking buhay, / pangarap, pagsisikap / sa bansang Pilipinas” (“I offer my life, dreams, and striving / to the Philippine nation.”)

For his part, Colmenares stated the following:

>> China is claiming the territories for to uphold its geopolitical and economic interests. Duterte has almost presented these territories as gift to China.

>> The Philippines has a legitimate claim to the territories according to the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea or UNCLOS and the special arbitral tribunal ruling in 2016.

“Duterte is the only lawyer I know who would say that a ruling favoring his supposed client is just a scrap of paper. You say that when the court’s ruling is not in your favor, not when favors you,” Colmenares said.

>> Duterte’s statements on the issue — that the Philippines has a debt of gratitude to China and that the country does not want a war with the Asian superpower — are mere excuses for supporting China’s actions.
>> The Department of Foreign Affairs’ protests would amount to nothing and are mere for show because Duterte, the agency’s principal, sings a different tune on the issue.
>> The Philippines should follow Vietnam and Indonesia in asserting our territorial claims in the WPS. In fact, the strongest attack on China’s claim is the Philippines’ 2o16 victory in the special arbitral tribunal. 

>> The Philippines can do many things to peacefully assert its territorial claims: (1) rally the disputants in the West Philippine Sea: Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries. (2) Gather support from the international community, as international law goes against a single country’s sole ownership and control of the seas. (3) Demand the demilitarization of the WPS.

“What matters, ultimately, is that the Filipino people continue asserting our country’s claims — by speaking out, holding rallies and pickets, organizing forums, among others. Sometimes, the government can be forced to do what it does not want to do when people’s opposition is strong,” Colmenares said, citing OFWs’ opposition to the PhilHealth premium increase early in 2021 and the Duterte government’s Charter Change initiatives.
>> China will surely intervene in the 2022 elections. It now controls not only the country’s seas and lands, but also its economy and Malacañang.

>> Constitutionally and legally, Duterte cannot run for re-election. He therefore cannot run for vice-president because that would mean that he can become president again. At the same time Duterte has shown that he does not respect the 1987 Constitution and has intimidated all institutions in the country that can provide checks and balances to the presidency.

“If Duterte himself will run in 2022, that is a sign of his clique’s weakness. It is also unconsitutional. Not even Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, known for being power-hungry, did this shameful act. That is a clear sign of building a political dynasty which Filipinos will surely reject,” he said.

In the forum, an attendee, an OFW from Abu Dhabi, UAE confessed that he was a Die-hard Duterte Supporter or DDS. In response, Colmenares said “For me, Duterte’s biggest crime is that he divided the poor. Duterte really deceived many Filipinos with his promises in 2016. That is why we should not antagonize his supporters but seek to win them over, to explain to them. Many are now realizing that he is a trapo who promised a lot but reneged on his promises.”

“I am very optimistic that in 2022, Filipinos will drive out the Dutertes from power. I am glad that many are seeing the light. The 2022 elections is not about being pro- or anti-Duterte; it is about the country’s survival. Let us, the Filipino people, unite. The opposition will win and the Duterte dynasty will be defeated,” Colmenares said.###