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Standing up to China…Is President Aquino Up to the Task?

hen a smaller, weaker country is threatened by a larger, more powerful one, the odds of the former prevailing are improved if—and only if—it is lead by an able leader.President Aquino, on whose shoulders rest the country's future The question is: does President Benigno Aquino III have what it takes to face-down China and fight for what rightfully belongs to the Philippines?

So far, we have seen little of that. In fact, as if to telegraph his punches to the Chinese, Aquino declared in his recent State of the Nation address that he would rather use the 1.58 billion peso cost of a new fighter jet to instead build 6,580 houses for soldiers and policemen. While such intention is laudable, history teaches us that a nation without a credible defense does not remain free for long.

If the Philippines is to protect its territory from outside aggression, it has to militarize in a big way. Israel can serve as a role model in this regard. Even though that country has strong military ties with the United States, Israelis take their own military capability seriously. Rather than lean on its powerful ally, Israel built up its own world-class defense industry.

Young Israelis are required to serve at least 2 years with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and then join the ready reserve after their tour of duty ends. As we have stated in a past editorial, we believe Filipino youth would greatly benefit from a similar conscription in the Philippines.

Like Israel, the Philippines must make it crystal clear to the Chinese that we Filipinos are ready to fight and defend what is ours. The Chinese have boldly claimed islands within our country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) because they see us as militarily weak, disunited, and corrupt. Grabbing our islands therefore will pose little or no consequences to them.

To get the Chinese to change their minds will take more than a president whose claim-to-fame so far has been ridding the country of “wang-wangs” (unauthorized police vehicle sirens). It will take a president who can rally his countrymen to fight for what is theirs, as well as bring the country’s plight to the world stage.

When the Italian fascists lead by Benito Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1936, Haile Selassie addressing the League of Nations in 1936 with his impassioned plea for unity against fascist aggressionits Emperor Haile Selassie went before the League of Nations to denounce Italy’s aggression. In what has become one of the 20th century’s notable speeches, Selassie pointed out to the world body that without its collective action, small defenseless countries like his would be reduced to vassal states of powerful countries that could easily project their military might over their weaker neighbors. Although Selassie’s speech achieved little success with the moribund League of Nations, the fact that the League’s inaction in Ethiopia contributed in no small way to the global conflagration that would become World War II a few years later, is not lost on the current United Nations (UN)—a world body created in part to address the shortcomings of its predecessor.

The question for Filipinos is whether Aquino is a leader who can go in front of the UN and rally other nations to its cause. Some say maybe his father, Benigno Aquino, Jr. would have been the ideal choice, and seriously doubt whether the son has the same passion, or personality to convince other leaders of the justness of his cause.

One thing is certain: if Filipinos are to stand up to China and all other aggressors who think they can claim bits and pieces of the Philippines, we as a people will have to change. The happy-go-lucky, smiling, carefree Filipino of today will have to metamorphose into a more serious, focused, valiant defender who bows to no one and will willingly give his life for his country. Whether Aquino can lead Filipinos towards that new paradigm remains to be seen. Published 8/15/2013

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