The Philippine Studies Group
The price of independence

Sentimentalism and emotionalism should not play a part in international relations.It is folly to expect any nation to ever sacrifice its welfare and security to pure idealism or to sentimental attachments. As Filipinos, we must look out for ourselves, because no one else will. That is the essence of our independence.

- Claro M. Recto, Our Mendicant Foreign Policy, April 17, 1951

Over the past few weeks, the Philippines was involved in some saber-rattling sessions with China and Vietnam over a chain of islands in the country’s western coastline called the Spratlys. And while the People’s Republic and the Socialist Republic seem to handle their own sabers well, the Philippines constantly looked across the Pacific every time it tries to rattle its rusty sword.

The country’s leaders, faced with the reality of the limited capability of the armed forces, voiced out several options which the can be taken if it has to stake its claim upon the regime of islands just a few miles off the Palawan coastline.

Some legislators thought that the country should call upon the United Nations and other international organizations to take jurisdiction over the issue and adjudicate on the right of ownership. Others suggested calling upon Uncle Sam for assistance by invoking the Mutual Defense Treaty, despite the fact that the treaty can only be invoked if the country as actually invaded. Still others called for the purchase of military hardware like the Russian MiG-29 or the US F-18, so as to beef up the armed forces’ capability, without even thinking of where the money for such purchases be sourced.

Such is the sorry state of the country which prides itself as being among the earliest of Asian nations to fight against its colonizers. Yes, we always love to tell ourselves that. We Filipinos always take pride in saying that while India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma, Vietnam, and even China back then was dominated by foreigners, particularly Europeans, we raised our flag and fought off the Spanish and the Americans albeit in vain.

Failing to win the war against the Americans due to several factors (which will have to be discussed in another post), we were subjugated and taught “democracy” (like we didn’t know about it before they came). And then unlike our Asian brethren who had to fight for their independence against the colonizers, our independence was given to us by the Americans as a “gift” in the midst of the post-Second World War rubble.

But being that the “training in democracy” given by Uncle Sam was disrupted by the last war, the intricacies of governance, public service, and national defense introduced to us in the pre-war years were quickly sacrificed for quick-fix solutions in the rapidly changing post-war world. And the values acquired by the Filipinos during the years of Japanese occupation and the black market in the post-war years such as deceit, theft, and nepotism, would eventually corrupt the municipal halls, the markets, and even the corridors of power in the Capital.

The whole time our people and government were being corrupted by the politics of convenience and accommodation, the minions of Uncle Sam’s military-industrial complex took it as an opportunity to preserve their hold upon the country by ensuring the election of “friendly” Filipinos. The hospitality of these Filipinos ensured the perpetuation of the US military bases and US business firms.

Anyone back then who spoke for the withdrawal of US troops and the regulation of US business was labelled a communist. Among the country’s finest statesmen then who were considered communists (despite not being members of the Party) because of their pro-Filipino and anti-American views were Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, and Lorenzo Tanada. The views of these men, and those who came after them such as Jovito Salonga, Aquilino Pimentel, and Rene Saguisag, would always get them entangled with agents of Uncle Sam and his “friendly” Filipinos.

But what Uncle Sam and these “friendly” Filipinos fail to see then until now was that the prolonged engagement and dependency upon American arms would serve only to corrupt Filipino independence and sovereignty. The long-held dependency on the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States is once again called into question, both by those who are for it and those who are against it.

I must say though and I hate to disappoint those who pin their hopes on American intercession, I do not think Uncle Sam would be willing to risk a conflict with China. Not even one using proxies.

As we are faced with constant harassment by the People’s Republic of China in the Spratlys and the regular poaching of our fishing grounds in Palawan by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, perhaps it is timely to recall some of the words written by Recto in the same speech above:

What we sought and what we expected to gain with national independence was the right to give our own national interest, security andwelfare the primacy in our loyalties, services and sacrifices. Now that the clock turns back to strike alarms of another war, we may well ask ourselves what we have done with our independence.

Yes, we should be asking ourselves that question: What have we done with our independence? And we should also be asking ourselves on what we are willing to do to keep it? And most importantly, are we willing to pay the price for independence?

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