WHEN I walked into the Catanduanes Eye Center on the morning of April 24 and saw a couple of men at the packed waiting area wearing bandages over their eyes, I thought that was how I would look when I got out of the place after my own operation scheduled for that day. Dr. Joselito C. Urgel did explain to me that an incision would be made on my eye for replacing its lens heavily dimmed by cataract. An incision of a body’s component wherever it is certainly means a cut which draws out blood, and I feel I have this affliction with haematophobia which makes me cringe at the sight of blood oozing out of human flesh.
In many respects, the episode was an eye opener. My entire face was covered, with only a hole left open to allow whatever movements were needed on my right eye. But all the while a light strikes your eyes, and it is all that you see. But for very vague silhouettes of scalpels or instruments that crisscross over your eye, nothing transpires in your vision but the images of sights and sounds conjured up by television news accounts. The light striking my eye had a way of making me bear with what physical pain I should otherwise be contending against, thereby keeping my mind susceptible to visual harassment by whatever imagery evoked by accounts I heard on the continuously running television news program.
Too soon, I told myself of President Duterte’s designation as Asean chair. Was it because all other Asean members are non-Christian and Duterte’s animosity with the Catholic Church over his drugs war has made him deserving of camaraderie with the religions opposed to Christianity? Moreover, Duterte’s cozying up to China early on in his administration must endear him to most of the people of a region of Chinese ethnicity.
But the concerns raised in me by the government encounters with the Abu Sayyaf in Bohol were of immediate and far greater import. Earlier, the IS which was reportedly organized and funded by the US against Assad in Syria had begun to be pictured in the local press as having begun infiltrating the Philippines through the Abu Sayyaf. If, then, the IS is the US component of its proxy war with Russia in Syria, then the Abu Sayyaf’s infiltration by IS must signal the evolution in the Philippines of a proxy war the US must wage with an adversary in this Philippine corner of geopolitics. The reported shoot-up of Filipino fishermen by Chinese coast guards on the Spratlys speaks much of things to come in this regard.
That the Abu Sayyaf must now occupy a top priority spot in the agenda of the Duterte administration at the same time that US President Donald Trump engages in saber-rattling against Russia and North Korea, while sending signals of heightened belligerency against China over the South China Sea, indicate a timeline for a more aggressive US stance in the Asia Pacific region. An indicator in this regard may be the suit against President Duterte at the International Criminal Court. The case could be decided as speedily as the Philippine case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, that is, within a year. This means that come May 2018, President Duterte shall have been convicted by the ICC, and with that conviction will come about a US-maneuvered action for his arrest.
A Duterte arrest could definitely spark a nationwide conflagration. Though the latest Pulse Asia and SWS surveys indicated a slight drop, the President’s approval rating remains at a comfortable level at which he could command mass support against arrest.
“We’re now putting the lens on,” informed Dr. Urgel while I heard the television set switched to another news program. I braced myself for a painful experience. I thought I saw red in the light infraction before my eye, but if it was the color of blood, then it was a painless bloodletting.
“Done,” I heard Dr. Urgel announced.
“Done?” I asked.
“As simple as that. Bloodless. Painless,” Dr. Urgel said.
“Very good!” I exclaimed, expressing the feeling of relief of plane passengers applauding a smooth touchdown.
“You are a very good patient,” Dr. Urgel remarked.
Actually, I was a very good listener. I was carried away by the piped-in music in the operating room, the news accounts in the television program, and the casual conversation Dr. Urgel carried out with his OR staff. Even staff were helped me up from the operating table, my mind continued to be focused on a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang, who was commenting on the reported shoot-up of Filipino fishermen by Chinese coast guards.
Kang was saying, “Our position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. We would go on working with the Philippine side to properly deal with relevant maritime issues and create favorable conditions for the sound and steady development of bilateral relations.” He reiterated that relations between the Philippines and China had turned around and started to improve “with all-around cooperation moving forward steadily.”
This statement by a Chinese spokesman was itself an eye opener. If the avowed guarantor of world peace appears shirking this responsibility by pulling what could be the trigger for World War III, China’s calm and balance in this extremely difficult times serve to assure that sanity is not lost to mankind.