Philippine Presidential Front-Runner Shuns US Help in S China Sea Negotiations

Luis Liwanag and Basilio Sepe
Philippine Presidential Front-Runner Shuns US Help in S China Sea Negotiations Former Philippine Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. waves to supporters in Manila after filing paperwork to run for president in May 9 General Election, Oct. 6, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

The son of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos says he would dismiss any potential offer of help from longtime ally the United States in negotiations with China over the South China Sea, if elected president in May.

To seek to enforce a 2016 international arbitration court ruling that dismissed Beijing’s historical claims to the disputed waterway is no longer be feasible because China has rejected the verdict, presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said during a taped television interview broadcast by the ABS-CBN network on Tuesday.

“The problem is between China and us. If Americans come in, it is bound to fail,” he said, when asked if the Philippines was strong enough to engage in a defensive war with China and how he planned to deal with Beijing. 

Going to war with China over the South China Sea would not be an option and should be considered “a ludicrous idea,” he said.

Rodrigo Duterte, the outgoing Filipino president, has credited the U.S. with brokering a deal between the Philippines and China after Beijing effectively seized control of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea in 2012. The Philippines left the area while China did not budge.

The United States has neither confirmed nor denied Duterte’s statement.

During the interview, Marcos Jr. erroneously pointed out that China had not signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a binding international treaty ratified by Beijing. 

“[A]rbitration is no longer available to us,” he said, adding that the Philippines should “continue to engage China.” 

“I would go back to the premise that we must not allow diplomacy to fail,” Marcos said. “It is the only option that we have.” 

Marcos Jr., the current front-runner in local opinion polls, did not participate in weekend TV interviews with other leading presidential candidates – namely Vice President Leni Robredo, senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao and Manila city Mayor Francisco Domagoso.  

On Wednesday, Robredo said the relationship with China should be based on mutual respect and adherence to international law. The 2016 court’s ruling for the Philippines was a major victory, she said.

“First, we have an arbitral ruling that found in our favor. The main summary of that ruling is that the West Philippine Sea is ours,” she said, using Manila’s name for its territories in the South China Sea.

“That is ours and we will fight for that. Having said that, the focus of all the efforts is what will be in the best interest of the Filipinos,” Robredo said in an interview that also aired on ABS-CBN. “This is not just about sovereignty, but about the livelihoods of our fishermen.”

Robredo said the Philippines should use the 2016 ruling as leverage to “create a coalition of nations who are with us in protecting the West Philippine Sea.”

“If we don’t act, why should we expect others to act on our behalf?”

Earlier this week, Lacson said he would seek to keep Manila’s South China Sea territories safe while maintaining a relationship with the U.S.

“I would ask the Philippine Coast Guard to escort our fishermen. I will also call for joint military exercises with either Australia or the U.S. since they are willing,” Lacson said during his own interview with ABS-CBN, the largest broadcaster in the Philippines.


A Filipina holds a sign protesting against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio running for president and vice president in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Manila, Nov. 14, 2021. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

No to ICC probe

Marcos Jr., who lost to Robredo in the vice presidential race in 2016, has teamed up with Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, as his running mate.

Analysts have said that the two might try to protect President Duterte, whose six-year term is about to end, from the prospect of being investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over thousands of extrajudicial killings tied to his administration’s war on illegal drugs. 

On May 9, Filipinos will vote to elect a new president and vice president, fill 12 of the 24 Senate and all 316 House seats along with about 18,000 official positions ranging from governors to mayors and town councilors.

Asked on Tuesday if he would allow ICC investigators here if he won the election, Marcos Jr. insisted that the country’s courts were a “functioning judiciary.”

“That’s why I don’t see the need for a foreigner to come and do the job for us, do the job for our judicial system. Our judicial system is perfectly capable of doing that,” he said, adding that the investigators’ presence would raise questions about “jurisdiction and sovereignty.” 

“What is their jurisdiction to come here to the Philippines and conduct an investigation? Is that not a violation of our rights as a sovereign nation in the community of nations?” Marcos Jr. said. 

Rights violations 

Asked to comment on the documented human rights violations under his father’s dictatorship, including torture and forced disappearance, Marcos Jr. said he was unaware of them.

“I do not know how they generated those numbers and I haven’t seen them,” he said in the interview, a comment that enraged rights activists on Wednesday. 

Butch Olano, the Philippine director of Amnesty International (AI), stressed that “tens of thousands” of torture victims have been documented, while martial law implemented under the rule of the candidate’s father had caused intense suffering across the nation.

The elder Marcos, a close Southeast Asian ally of the United States, ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 when he fled the country amid a democratic uprising.

“Anyone running for president who says they do not know how public information on human rights violations during martial law were generated is blatantly denying history,” Olano said in a statement. “This makes us question the kind of leadership they offer to bring to Malacañang Palace.” 

Urging Marcos to acknowledge atrocities committed under his father’s regime, Olano said the local Amnesty office would furnish him with copies of the reports in the 1970s and 1980s. 

“Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has no regard whatsoever for the victims of martial law,” Olano said.


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Mar 01, 2022 04:50 AM

Do not fall into China’s trap! This is what China wants: WPS issue should be resolved between Philippines & China only and no foreign intervention! With this stance, no doubt, China will meddle and back-up BBM in the election! Si DU30 nga na matapang at nakilaro sa China, yet, inaabuso pa rin ang territory natin, how much more kung si BBM ang nakaupo? On the other hand, this is BBM’s only option as he is wanted in the US!

As we are not par with China in terms of military power, we need the collaborate backing of our allies who support the Arbitral Ruling in our favor!!!