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FVR hits Chinese defense attache for lecturing Philippine reporters on media norms

MANILA, Philippines -– Former President Fidel V. Ramos decried on Sunday the "arrogance" of China’s defense attaché to Manila, Senior Col. Chen Fangming who “lectured” Filipino reporters on the proper practice of journalism after he was irked when asked about China’s “harassment” of Filipino fishermen inside the Panatag lagoon (Scarborough Shoal).

Ramos made the reaction in his regular weekly column in the Manila Bulletin in its Sunday, May 27, 2012, issue.

“The arrogance of some Chinese officials (whether speaking from Beijing or Manila) is exemplified by Senior Colonel Chen Fangming, Defense Attaché accredited to the Philippines,” Ramos, who did not like the action of the Chinese official, said.

“At the 114th Anniversary Celebration of the Philippine Navy last 22 May, Chen took offense at questions thrown at him by the Defense Press Corps regarding the continuing ‘harassment’ of Filipino fishermen inside our Panatag lagoon” when the Chinese official “reacted by delivering a lengthy ‘lecture’ to the journalists on the proper practice of their profession,” Ramos said in his column.

The Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines as it is within the country's 200-mile economic zone, is also claimed by China.

There is currently a standoff in the area with China reportedly deploying over 90 vessels, mostly fishing boats while the Philippines has only two.

Ramos said that Chen “could become more courteous, more accommodating to inquiries, and express himself as a professional Chinese officer who understands and adheres to the soothing commitments to ‘good neighborliness’ that permeate his Government’s ‘White Paper,’” adding that “after all, he (Chen) is supposed to represent China officially in defense circles and should not be seen as a “bully” to civilian reporters who are only doing their jobs. He (Chen) could, in fact, be a charming asset for his country.”

“Had this incident happened somewhere else, Colonel Chen could conceivably be declared ‘persona-non-grata’ by the host authorities, and by now would be winging back to where he came from,” the former President said.

Ramos was further dismayed when Chen “even questioned the concept of the freedom of speech in our country -- in relation to their ‘social responsibility’ in reporting the facts.”

“Colonel Chen and other Chinese functionaries who spout ‘double-talk’ about the SCS should bear in mind that in the Philippines the ‘freedom of speech’ includes the ‘freedom to ask questions’ by media practitioners (or by other Filipinos, for that matter) who expect civil answers (or at least an intelligent response) as their basis for writing a credible/coherent story.”

“A ‘lecture’ from Chen to avoid giving appropriate comments on the subject (as reported in several dailies) was clearly unwarranted and distasteful (hindi katanggap-tanggap,” Ramos said.

He further said: “If he (Chen) truly qualifies to be accredited as a diplomat enjoying a wide range of immunity privileges in our country like other attachés, Colonel Chen should learn ASAP (as soon as possible) and become accustomed pronto to the ways of Philippine media.”

Ramos, a former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the rank of a four-star general, concludes his column: "FVR knows whereof he speaks because he had been Chief of AFP Intelligence (J2/ISAFP) many years ago when he administered the Foreign Armed Forces Attaches (FAFAs)."

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