By Rodel Rodis
On May 1, 2016, with 9 days left to go before the Philippine presidential elections, The Filipino Channel (TFC) in Redwood City, California held a special town hall presentation on The Fil-Am Vote: Halalan 2016 with representatives and supporters from all the Philippine presidential candidates in attendance all dressed festively in the political colors of their candidates and passionately expounding on the positions of their candidates.
On the subject of the West Philippine Sea, TFC host Gel Santos Relos provided a brief historical background to the suit filed by the Philippines in the United Nations (UN) Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague in January of 2013 challenging China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea. In various polls taken after the UN suit was filed, more than 90% of the Filipino people indicated their support for the government’s legal action so it was not surprising that all the presidential candidates voiced their support as well. Among the videos of the candidates shown to the TV audience was the one from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who said at the last presidential debate in Pangasinan just the day before:
“I will ask the Navy to bring me to the nearest boundary in the Spratly – Scarborough. I will go down and ride a jet ski carrying the Philippine flag which I would plant there in their airport, then I would say, “This is ours and do what you want with me.” Bahala na kayo,” he said.
This defiant promise to stand up to China drew the loudest, most enthusiastic cheers from the supporters of all the candidates.