In last Sunday’s Gospel taken from Luke 14:25 to 33 a portion says that, “…and when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his 10,000 can stand against the 20,000 of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off, he sends messengers for peace talks.”
Also in last Sunday’s column of retired Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban in the Philippine Daily Inquirer he answered several questions raised by his readers on the approach the Philippine government is using in trying to resolve the politically-charged issue on the South China Sea (SCS).
One of the many interesting questions raised to the former chief magistrate that we could immediately relate to the quoted portion of last Sunday’s Gospel is this: “As a lawyer and a jurist, don’t you think that the best way to settle disputes is by litigation or arbitration?”
Panganiban’s answer is: “I believe the best way to resolve a dispute is peaceful negotiation or mediation to find a win-win solution. This is especially true in international relations. But even in domestic cases, our Supreme Court encourages out-of-court settlements, especially in civil and commercial cases.”
The retired Chief Justice further added that, “You see, litigants are never completely satisfied with imposed judgments or awards; the losing party almost always complains of injustice or bias. Litigations, decisions and awards may decide legal issues, but they do not heal broken relationships which sometimes lead to bruised egos and to more complex litigations, armed vengeance, vicious hostilities and generational enmities among the successors and heirs. When problems are mediated or negotiated toward win-win solutions, the parties’ prior amiable relationships are restored. Peace and friendship reign again.”
Another earlier question raised and was answered by the retired chief jurist is, “Why not just insist on China’s unconditional obedience to the award? (Referring to the one granted in favor of the Philippines by the Hague-based International Arbitral Tribunal granting our country exclusive rights over a defined exclusive economic zone).
According to Panganiban, “The arbitral body has no power to enforce obedience to its awards. Neither do we have the military, political or economic clout to do so.”
Our understanding of the very learned views of the retired top justice of the Supreme Court is that it is clear he believes that the approach taken by the President in dealing with the SCS problem is the most proper given existing circumstances.
Panganiban perhaps is aware that the President is using this biblical approach in dealing with the emotionally-sensitive problem. Thus he (the President) could not be wrong in the process.
Yes, President Duterte has been consistent in his position that he will opt for a negotiated settlement of our dispute with China on the reportedly gas-rich South China Sea. And he has been emphatic in his desire to maintain harmonious relations with our giant neighbor China instead of showing some braggadocios language and stance as if we have the means.
The Chief Executive of the land sure knows that he only has less than half a million in combined number of armed might composed of military personnel and policemen armed with hardly a 1 is to 1 gun ratio.
What can that combined number do against China’s military might of about one million and a half with an almost limitless fire power of new and sophisticated light and heavy to heaviest war material in its arsenal?
Besides, being a lawyer like the former Chief Justice, the President knows exactly that the arbitral court cannot impose its decision; that it only leaves the implementation of its awards to the grantee country.
So, the big possibility is that the President, with the help of his battery of lawyers, might have adopted the biblical instructions to negotiate so that the long-desired win-win solution of the South China Sea issue would be attained with not a single ego being bruised among claimants and no fear of being subject of vengeance by the Chinese government.
Who would want to do battle with an enemy like China, the “king with 20 thousand” army that can easily annihilate the other “king with 10 thousand” military personnel? Would the Philippines be?