Wanting to cash in on the raging issue that is China’s incursion into a territory awarded to the country by the arbitral court in The Hague, the political opposition is moving heaven and earth to hold the sitting administration accountable for what it perceives as its inaction on the matter.

Taking exception to detractors’ peroration for the people to rally behind them in their effort at forcing the Duterte administration to take harder and stronger stance against China, the president himself clarified we can’t go to war with our giant neighbor thus his approach of not forcing the issue, at least at the moment.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano then issued a follow-up statement to the effect that the Duterte administration is prepared for the worst but prudent enough not to be hasty in its decisions.

Perhaps it’s good for the political opposition to realize that their desired goal of achieving meaningful shift in political fortunes out of the China issue is possible only if a critical mass among the silent majority is reached, a seemingly farfetched proposition at this point.

Going to war with China over its incursion at the West Philippine Sea is an issue not so critical to the silent majority. It is not critical because we can’t be foolhardy in going to war where we have no chance whatsoever of winning.

Battles are better won by not firing a shot. This is not debatable. The country’s victory in the arbitral court in The Hague is classic example to this. But it is equally true that enforcing the arbitral court’s ruling is a Yeoman’s job.

It is in this regard that I don’t envy the President. This issue puts him in a damn if you do and damn if you don’t situation. However, as president he is still sworn to protect the interest of the country no matter how daunting the task may be.

To be criticized for founded or unfounded perceptions is part of the territory. President Duterte knows this being a veteran in politics. The political opposition, however, should present their case more convincingly if they want to rally the people behind them.

What course of action will they take if they were in Duterte’s shoes? It is not enough to just accuse him if they can’t present their own blueprint of what they’ll do if they were in Malacanang.

Yes, it’s true the case brought before the arbitral court was initiated during the previous administration. That is to their credit, no doubt. But how to have that favorable ruling accepted and respected by China is the issue at hand.

I also have no doubt Duterte is out to enforce it but in his own pragmatic way. There is no room here for foolish aggression because the welfare of the entire country is paramount than the enforcement of the arbitral court’s ruling if it will only bring us to harm’s way.

Truly we are in a very pitiable situation. We have won the battle in the arbitral court without firing a shot but despite that victory, we are shackled by the reality we can’t fire any shot to have it enforced. Whether we like it or not the pragmatic approach is the only option we have.

Pragmatism however should not be taken to mean cowardice or even surrender by us of what is rightly ours. (jelbacon@yahoo.com; jelbaconii@gmail.com)