Dela Rosa dares critics to just arm selves, attack China

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 27) — Senatorial candidate Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, former top cop, on Saturday challenged administration critics to just join him in “attacking” China instead of finding fault in government policies on the South China Sea dispute.

“Baka akala niyo kayo lang ang patriotic, si Duterte hindi, kami hindi. Well I must tell you frankly, kung sino gustong sumama sa akin, bibigyan ko kayo ng baril at bala, atakihin natin ‘yan (China). Oh, matapang kayo? Atakihin natin 'yan,” Dela Rosa said amid heated discussions in the CNN Philippines Senatorial Debate.

[Translation: “You might think you’re the only ones patriotic, not Duterte, not us. Well I must tell you frankly, whoever wants to join me, I will give you guns and bullets, let us attack it. Are you brave? Let’s attack China.”]

He made the statement as he took a swipe at opposition candidates, saying Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea have been going on even during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who is now an opposition leader.

“Ang mahirap sa atin, sisi kayo nang sisi kay Duterte administration na hindi pinapaalis (ang China). Kaninong panahon ba nagsimulang pumasok ang mga Intsik diyan?... ‘Di ba sa panahon ng mga kapartido niyo, mga Otso Diretso?” dela Rosa said.

[Translation: “The problem with us is you keep on blaming the Duterte administration for not making China go away. Under whose time did the Chinese enter there? Isn’t it under the term of a fellow member of your party, Otso Diretso?”]

The Philippines lost control of Scarborough Shoal after a standoff with China in 2012, under Aquino’s watch. This prompted the country to file a case for international arbitration. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague recognized Scarborough, which lies about 120 nautical miles off Zambales, as a common traditional fishing ground, and said China interfered with Filipinos' right to fish there by restricting access.

In response to Dela Rosa, lawyer Romulo Macalintal, member of the opposition slate, said they do not need firearms.

“Hindi natin kailangan ng baril, hindi natin kailangan ng bala para tayo ay makipaglaban. Dapat lang tayong marinig ng buong pamahalaan,” he said.

[Translation: “We do not need guns, we do not need bullets to fight. We just need to be heard by the government.”]

Indepedent candidate Neri Colmenares said what the Philippines needs is a strong independent foreign policy similar to that of Vietnam and Taiwan which also have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea.

"Ang problema sa atin dito lumuluhod tayo sa Tsina. Ang dapat na solusyon natin ay independent foreign policy. Igiit natin ang teritoryo natin sa West Philippine Sea habang tayo ay naghahanap ng peaceful resolution sa dispute."

[Translation: "The problem with us is we bow down to China. The solution should be an independent foreign policy. Let us assert our territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea while looking for a peaceful resolution of the dispute."]

The Duterte administration has been criticized for its soft stance against China as the President repeatedly said he could not go war against the East Asian giant despite its actions in the West Philippine Sea and rejection of the arbitral ruling.

But even Vice President Leni Robredo recently recognized the government's strong statements against China as it protested the swarming of over 200 Chines vessels near Pag-asa Island, one of the biggest islands in the contested Spratlys and seat of the Kalayaan municipal government under the province of Palawan. Duterte told China to "lay off Pag-asa Island," though he also said he preferred to seek a compromise.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said China's presence was "illegal" and top diplomat Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. said the country has "fired off a salvo of" diplomatic protests. Malacañang said all Chinese ships should go away as they "have no business" being in the West Philippine Sea, the term the government uses for areas in the South China Sea which the Philippines claims.

Reports on Friday quoted Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sto. Romana as saying that the President finally brought up the arbitral ruling in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, but Xi reportedly stressed China does not recognize the ruling.

"Sinabi hindi ipapatupad ang international tribunal (ruling), President Duterte did not make any move. President Duterte did not only blink, he closed his eyes, and fell asleep," Colmenares alleged.