‘Tapos na ang boksing!’

Pinoy expressions have long spiced up our language. One of my favorites is “Tapos na ang boksing,”which means “it’s finished.” For my millennial son Jason, he says “GG” as in “Good Game” to practically say the same thing (“it is over”) especially during basketball where he sees victory way ahead of the official end of the competition. For those who take election surveys hook, line and sinker, they probably are shouting the same tune: “Tapos na ang boksing.”After all, a double-digit lead in practically all reputable surveys indicate a landslide victory for the consistent frontrunner. Most of the UniTeam flag-bearers I know have confidently declared “it is finished” based on such surveys. My father is not a fan of such surveys, fully knowing how numbers can be manipulated by “tweaking” the procedure.

Out of curiosity, I did my own interviews, even way before the campaign period officially began. I have been talking to people from all walks of life in Bataan, Zamboanga, Bohol, Baguio, Laguna, Batangas, Cavite, and of course in the National Capital Region. Far from being a statistician, my informal and crude process, however, reveals the same trend—Marcos Jr. appears to be winning. Yet, the crowds in the recent Leni-Kiko political rallies have likewise generated a “Tapos na ang boksing” expression in favor of the pink squad, predicting a landslide win. I have attended at least three of such rallies and witnessed the spirit of volunteerism in a massive show of solidarity. Every event has that element of heartfelt pride and support towards a very charismatic yet simple and humble presidential candidate. Whichever way one may put it, the opposing groups each maintain a sanguine stance so poignant that the rivalry may turn into a “Maghahalo ang balat sa tinalupan,” (melee) as one of my former law students (WES) predicts.

Sadly, for the Philippine government, “Tapos na ang boksing”cannot be applied in connection with the arbitral award on the West Philippine Sea. Some of my friends both in the uniformed service and in the legal profession are grossly dissatisfied with the spate of lethargic efforts that the current administration has so engrossed itself with the Philippines’ unequivocal victory over China. The Duterte administration has acted in many ways other than being a winner. Last week alone, we have witnessed a weak, if not vague attitude exhibited by the President during a telecom with China’s President Xi Jinping. Nowhere in said dialogue did our President categorically question China for its intrusions in our territorial seas. That “meeting” could have been the perfect occasion, the much-awaited break to bang the gavel of victory for China to recognize our sovereignty, yet President Duterte chose to deflect from the award and offered his two cheeks in diaphanous diplomacy. True, he may know a lot more than any ordinary Juan, hence his actuation. But the point remains that the Philippines, through its leaders, can and should shout in unison that  “tapos na ang boksing!” when it comes to these disputed islands.

Ironically, since the government has so far been acting as the loser, lawyer and soldier friends of mine are saying the more apt expression—“Natutulog sa pansitan,” (one’s failure to grab an opportunity because of laziness). While our government during Duterte and even Aquino’s regime seems to be sleeping in Malacañang, China has gotten busy building artificial islands in our maritime territory in pursuit of its “might makes right” approach. “Walastik!” (effusive expression of praise), I say to China for its unstoppable improvement in style and in justification. We may be in awe of the herculean nature of these artificial islands and military stations, as much as we are reduced to silence whenever we see the giant-sized vessels of China frolicking in our reefs or shoals. Last week’s stature alone demonstrated by our President in his telecom with China’s head of state could already spell the fate of our people anent the maritime dispute. Sadly, “Hanggang pier na lang” (to be left behind with an un-kept promise) can be said as to our hopes anent reigning over our territory combined with “walastik!,” though sarcastically, as regards government response to such arbitral award.

As victors, government should enforce the arbitral award beyond mere paper protests. Again, since “tapos na ang boksing,” efforts should be aimed at implementation—the hallmark of the vanquisher and not the vanquished. There are so many other ways of implementing an award short of military aggression. On top of filing seemingly futile protests through our Department of Foreign Affairs, our legislature could pass criminal laws penalizing intrusions by foreign vessels into our exclusive economic zones, a move suggested by a senior associate dean in one of the schools of law in the USA. After all, China already adopted such a law banning any incursion into their territorial waters. Also, pursuant to a legal luminary’s recommendation, we can file a new dispute or one under UNCLOS for China’s non-compliance with the 2016 arbitral award. Furthermore, our government can send more ships to man our shoals and reefs. Even though these vessels can be as rusty as the old BRP Sierra Madre, “Nineteen kopong-kopong” (“of so long time ago”), which was intentionally ran aground at the Ayungin Shoal, they still serve as our continuing claim and possession in these islands, with Filipinos standing guard and holding the shoal as Beijing crochets a string of man-made islands nearby. If government does not pursue any or all of these remedies now, and the “enemy” steps another foot forward, “pupulutin tayo sa kangkungan” (summary execution under the circumstances).

But by being victors, we should remain humble yet assertive. Our behavior should reflect that of the champion and not of the defeated. For believers, Jesus Christ already won the battle for us when He died for our sins, past present and future. The Cross is a symbol of His victory over death and all the machinations of the devil. Thus he uttered, “It is finished!” as can be read in John 19:30 of the Bible. “TAPOS NA ANG BOKSING!,” in the Biblical sense, signals to all of us that there is no more need for sacrifices, for struggles to be perfect, for rituals of getting nailed on the cross during Holy Week, for guilt feelings and all other human exertion to be righteous, because Christ already brought the ultimate fulfillment to what any of our sacrificial system can foreshadow. The more we adopt this truth, the more we align ourselves to this route, then the more we will act as victors in every area of our lives. Believing in this victory will propel us to do good. Other teachings preach the other way around—that we have to do good first before we can be righteous in God’s eyes. Yet because of His finished work at the Cross, Christ gave us His righteousness. In the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:21 attests to this: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” And God sees us whole, righteous and sinless as Jesus is because we are in Christ: “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Our country’s victory in the maritime dispute with China is not “lutong macaw” (rigged or pre-arranged) inasmuch as our victory with Christ at the Cross is not mocked up. Once we perceive ourselves as being victors, our responses will automatically align with the fruits of victory—that of doing what is right and just. Hence, when government implements the arbitral award, it should remain confident for it is simply doing what is good and fair, as determined by an independent body. In the same manner, when believers profess to have faith, they must believe in the righteousness that our Savior already gave us as he told us, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). “Tapos na ang boksing!”

Perhaps much to the dismay of various election camps, I can also say “tapos na ang boksing!” in these 2022 elections, but not because of numbers in surveys or in rallies but because our Almighty God has reminded us that “there is no authority except that which God has established. God has established the authorities that exist. (Romans 13:1). Indeed, “it is over,” but such fact should not prevent believers like me to help voters find the righteous leaders we need at this point in our history!

A former infantry and intelligence officer in the Army, Siegfred Mison showcased his servant leadership philosophy in organizations such as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Malcolm Law Offices, Infogix Inc., University of the East, Bureau of Immigration, and Philippine Airlines. He is a graduate of West Point in New York, Ateneo Law School, and University of Southern California. A corporate lawyer by profession, he is an inspirational teacher and a Spirit-filled writer with a mission.

For questions and comments, please e-mail me at sbmison@gmail.com.