By Ben Rosario
SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte – Broadcast journalist and Hugpong ng Pagbabago senatorial bet Jiggy Manicad Tuesday chided the opposition for allegedly “grandstanding” while putting at risk diplomatic relations with China over the disputed Scarborough shoal.
In a press statement, Manicad, a multi-awarded journalist, warned candidates against dipping their fingers in sensitive diplomatic issues that might trigger larger problems for the government to address.
“We must avoid turning these sensitive issues towards our advantage as political candidates. Hindi ito simpleng sortie o project na pwede po nating gamitin for publicity. The dispute is an extremely sensitive issue that should not be taken lightly,” Manicad stated.
The former GMA-7 star reporter was apparently referring to the attempt of opposition “Otso Diretso” senatorial candidates to take a boat trip to Scarborough shoal from Masinloc, Zambales for a symbolic planting of the Philippine flag.
The move was an apparent criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte’s election promise to plant the Philippine flag in the disputed territory at the West Philippine Sea.
Manicad, clarified that, although the candidates’ stance on China taking control of certain areas within the Philippines’ jurisdiction should be discussed, candidates should still distance themselves from activities that could risk any provocation on the issue especially when the timing is “suspicious”.
“By all means, we should talk and debate about the issue because we are Filipinos and this concerns all of us. In fact, tama po ‘yung ginawa ng ating mga colleague sa media na sinubukan nilang kunin ang pahayag ng mga mangingisda roon,” Manicad said, referring to an attempt by a Filipino TV crew to conduct interviews in Scarborough shoal documenting the plight of fishermen there last year.
The crew was then barred by the Chinese Coast Guard.
Manicad added that he backed government assertion of its presence in the disputed area.
“But if you are a candidate, and if it is the election period, then the motive and timing is suspicious.”
“Even, we, in the media have ethics and guidelines when it comes to conflict and territorial disputes. We will never risk any move, for example, that will provoke action from either side of the dispute,” Manicad pointed out.
“We must not use this powder keg of a situation for election purposes,” he stated.