Mention the phrase “water cannon” to a toddler and instantly, images of water blasters or water guns come into the picture with innocent play involving an aquatic arena. Such sense of naiveté, however, cannot be said of the water cannons used by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel on August 5 against a chartered supply boat of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Our Philippine Coast Guard likewise reported how a Chinese Coast Guard ship maneuvered so close to the PCG boat’s bow and pointed a water cannon at it. With the gravity of a maritime territorial dispute between China and the Philippines, these incidents were far from being games among toddlers. No matter the differences in our personal opinions, these acts of intimidation are clear manifestations of bullying by one country against another. The PCG video footage eloquently demonstrated that the water cannons from the Chinese ship were high-pressure streams, more likely with flow rates of up to 20 liters of water per second, an operating pressure of 15 bar (220 pound per square inch) and can send water 219 feet away!
Metrics aside, there can be no reason for a vessel to move so close to another and send out jets of water except to push the other back. Same thing with water hoses on land; they are used to push back rioters or demonstrators!
Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros has referred to these bullying as “repeated provocations” that “are in complete violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2016 Arbitral Award.” Our legislators must be on the verge of xenophobia as they collectively passed Senate Resolution 718 “strongly condemning” China’s moves in the West Philippine Sea, as it exhorted the Marcos administration to take actions as high up the United Nations, should the provocation persist.
Globally, bullying incidents are abound, the most recent of which is the lingering “military action” by Russia in Ukraine. Post 9/11, USA can easily be perceived as one of the most powerful bullies as it has waged military actions against the Muslim populace in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya. Branding such exercises as its “war on terror,” US military forces have displaced 37 million people, per Brown University’s Costs of War project. Suffice to say that advocates of torment are not limited to countries.
In the Philippines, many students have been found to be bullied, despite the passage of Republic Act 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, putting the country to the top spot among 70, as recently reported by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.
This bullying sphere almost always involves the stronger against the weaker or the bigger versus the smaller. The stronger intimidates; the weaker gets intimidated. The bigger becomes the victor; the smaller becomes the victim.
But this wasn’t the case in the biblical drama of David and Goliath, as narrated in 1 Samuel 17. Giving a unique glimpse of this story, one Ohio preacher relates that Goliath was simply huge and could have been a spokesperson for Under Armor as Goliath wore a bronze armor that weighed 125 pounds and armed with a spear whose tip alone was the size of a 15-pound bowling bowl. Twice a day for 40 days, the bully in Goliath challenged the Israelites to a fight, yet no one dared, believing he was invincible. Those 40 days of a challenge were Goliath’s version of modern day stronger China’s water cannons firing out high-pressure jets of water against the weaker Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea. As the chronicle goes, David, the smaller and weaker lad never considered the much bigger and stronger Goliath as unbeatable. In the process, David, without armor or shield, but only with five smooth stones and a sling, defeated Goliath, handily. With a five-word battlecry—“The battle is the Lord’s!” (1 Samuel 17:47). With the smooth stone, the smaller struck the bigger on the forehead and killed him, much to the astonishment of both the Philistines and Israelites.
Undeniably, we often fail to decipher what David knew and relied on during that monumental bullying incident. Any battle is never our sole responsibility. While how we respond to battle is our responsibility, the outcome is under the control of our Almighty God. The weaker vs. stronger battle (or the Lord’s battle), which stood before David is similar to China’s repeated acts of intimidation in the West Philippine! But David’s edge, which should be ours as well as a people, was that he had a heart for God and devotion to Him and to His values. Ergo, whenever we face any intimidating giant that can be gathered from the life of David, let us learn from the wise preaching of author Chuck Swindoll who said that, “God is saying to you right now. All I ask of you is five smooth stones and a sling of faith. I’ll take it from there. You just trust Me.”
Easier said than done, but this is precisely the beauty of the seeming impossibility and of the supposed uncertainty. When God strips us down to nothing but faith, the “smaller” in us in fact becomes the “bigger” in the battle since the battle is His. After all, believers anchor their faith in the Bible which says, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)
As the weaker Philippines is up against the stronger China, in the physical sense, it would be unwise to use the same physical weapons —water cannon or otherwise. Being known as prayerful people, every Filipino’s faith (even as small as a mustard seed) in Almighty God could be our “smooth stone,” borrowing the term of Swindoll! Together, we can bring down the ultimate bully, which is not China, but the wrong ideals that have held China’s leadership in bondage.
A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.
For questions and comments, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.