Columnist Richard Heydarian publishes blank editorial as commentary on Duterte’s independent foreign policy

Academic Richard Heydarian and his column that appeared today in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Photo: Heydarian’s FB page
Academic Richard Heydarian and his column that appeared today in The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Photo: Heydarian’s FB page

It’s uncommon to find a blank page in a newspaper, which is why many were shocked to see that political analyst Richard Heydarian’s column in The Philippine Daily Inquirer today was empty.

Heydarian posted a copy of his Inquirer column on his Facebook account today, which was titled Duterte’s independent foreign policy. Below the title is his byline but nothing else followed.

His post has gone viral and has been shared almost 1,600 times as of this writing.

The Inquirer also created a graphic to showcase Heydarian’s column.

In a phone interview with Coconuts Manila, Heydarian said that this was his way of paying tribute to former Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros, who wrote for the newspaper until 2014. De Quiros had to go on medical leave due to a stroke.

De Quiros did the same twice in 2004: first to criticize then-presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. and later former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was running for re-election against Poe.

But Heydarian said his column today was mostly in reaction to Duterte’s refusal to call out the Chinese government in connection with the West Philippine Sea boat sinking incident.

“The Reed bank incident exposed the degree in which his foreign policy is extremely hollow. At the time when he was needed the most by the fishermen, by the Filipinos, he chose silence,” Heydarian said. “When he spoke up in an event in front of the navy, he essentially parroted the same line that China uses, that it was a maritime incident.”

“It was what nailed it for me. He let us down and broke our hearts. That was the last straw for me,” he said.

On June 9, a Chinese-owned vessel hit a Filipino boat and abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen at sea near Recto Bank (aka Reed Bank). According to the Filipino boat’s captain Junel Insigne, the Chinese crew members turned their lights on after hitting their boat, saw the Filipinos in the water screaming for help, then sped away without doing anything. The Filipinos were later rescued by Vietnamese fishermen.

Duterte was silent for several days after the incident went public. When he first spoke about it during an event in front of the Philippine Navy, he downplayed what occurred and said it was just “a maritime incident.” Last week, he downplayed it again by saying that the Filipinos’ boat was just “sideswiped” and that he believed the collision was just accidental.

Duterte’s take on the incident echoed the same explanation given by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, who said that the boat sinking incident was “an ordinary maritime traffic accident.” 

Heydarian said he submitted his blank editorial last night, believing that “omission is a more powerful expression of truth.”

His Inquirer editors did not reject his idea of running an empty column.

“My Inquirer editors have always been supportive of me. They know that this is not a cheap publicity stunt and that I’m a very serious writer,” he said.

Reactions on Heydarian’s Facebook page were mostly positive. Jason Gutierrez wrote that he was “very eloquent.”

“[S]ays so much without saying anything,” Gutierrez added.

Photo: Richard Heydarian's Facebook page
Photo: Richard Heydarian’s Facebook page

Over on Twitter, @ItsmeDaines said in Filipino: “Prof Richard Heydarian’s article was very interesting today!”

But the column had its share of critics. Writer Timothy Dimacali (@tjdimacali) said running blank editorials have been “done to death.”

@MiaMagdalena called it “lame.”

What do you think of Heydarian’s column today? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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