Detained Sen. Leila M. de Lima on Tuesday prodded the Armed Forces to complete the construction of soldiers’ sheds in remote South China Sea (West Philippine Sea [WPS]) outposts, in defiance of President Duterte’s directive to cease building activities in the contested territories also being claimed by China.
“Do not betray your people and your country in this watershed moment of our sovereignty and independence,” de Lima said in a public appeal addressed to the AFP. “Do not follow Duterte down his traitor’s path.”
In a news statement e-mailed to Senate reporters, the detained lawmaker lamented the presidential directive to stop ongoing South China Sea projects was issued to Filipino troops, even as Chinese construction continues.
“China keeps building, while our President behaves like a good lapdog to his Chinese masters and orders his own military to stop building sheds for troops defending the country’s sovereignty,” de Lima said.
The senator suggested that “the AFP should take note that their Commander in Chief is fast becoming, if he is not yet, the proverbial Manchurian Candidate.”
“To the officers and men of the AFP, you have a long history of heroes and patriots,” de Lima said. “You should know treason when it rears its ugly head in your motherland.”
She asserted that “there is no more treasonous conduct and act of betrayal than relinquishing our Spratlys territories in the midst of an international decision,” saying “we have every right to hold on to and defend those islands and atolls as part of our exclusive economic zone, to the exclusion of China.”
De Lima added: “Since when has the AFP taken orders conveyed from the generals of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA]? Since when has our military become a mere sub-unit of the PLA, our generals forced to swallow and follow treasonous orders that practically ask them to abandon their posts and betray the national interest?
At the same time, the senator voiced concern that the upcoming Asean-China talks on a so-called Code of Conduct in the Spratlys “will only reinforce the Philippines’s” disadvantaged status quo position, vis-à-vis China’s unmitigated island-building and deployment of blue-water assets and coast guard in the area.”
“We have already won our claims at the International Arbitral Tribunal of the Unclos [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]. That victory should serve as our framework in sofar as bilateral and multilateral talks on the Spratlys is concerned,” de Lima declared.
“We are backed up by international law, the Unclos, an unprecedented victory in an international case, and the support of the world’s largest democracies.”
De Lima lamented that “only our Chinese lackey of a President continues to betray us and our victory, dragging with him the whole Armed Forces who still think they are following orders from a Filipino Commander in Chief, instead of a Chinese lapdog.”
The senator said the AFP should be aware that there might be “no turning back from this policy of subservience or defeatism.”
“It could be that the status quo of Chinese dominance and Philippines’s defaulting in the Spratlys is firmly irreversible,” de Lima added, warning that “in the future, despite Duterte, it will only have itself to blame for this most unfortunate state of affairs, where the Filipinos’ own defenders, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has allowed itself to become a mere annex of the People’s Liberation Army, as led by China’s Manchurian Candidate in the Philippines.”