Vendors selling Chinese flags in historic Luneta Park sparks outrage among Filipinos

Photo: Martin Masado/FB.
Photo: Martin Masado/FB.

Many Filipino netizens were up in arms over the weekend when photos of vendors allegedly selling Chinese flags in Manila’s historic Rizal Park (aka Luneta) went viral online. However, the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) said yesterday the whole scene was allegedly a setup.

The photos which were shared on social media as early as Saturday show vendors, including a minor, holding up a bunch of Chinese flags and seemingly offering them to those in the area.

“Chinese flags being sold in Luneta! Are we really now a province of China? Digong (Duterte) is so great! Bravo!” Facebook user Martin Masado wrote on his caption sarcastically in English in Filipino.

Other netizens were similarly outraged by the scene. Anti-China sentiments have been increasing in the Philippines ever since the beginning of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term when he said that he would align himself ideologically to the Asian superpower. He has been criticized for not protecting the Philippines’ claim on the disputed West Philippine Sea, even once joking that the Philippines should be a province of China. Many Filipinos are also against the influx of Chinese workers in the Philippines, many of whom are reportedly here illegally.

The viral photos likely sparked outrage because the Chinese flags were shown being sold in Luneta, a historic park where the country’s national hero Jose Rizal was executed by the Spaniards. The photos were also taken just a few days before Philippine Independence Day on June 12.

Even Muntinlupa Representative Ruffy Biazon shared concern over the photos.

“R.A. 8491 prescribes National Flag Days from May 28-June 12 which enjoins everyone to display the Philippine Flag. Ironically, a foreign flag is being sold right in Luneta Park where a major Independence Day event will be held in a few days. Luneta Park administrators, wake up,” he said in a tweet yesterday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier responded to a tweet about the issue, telling people not to worry about it.

The diplomat known for his sarcastic tweets said yesterday: “Don’t fret. They will be selling the US flag on Philippine-US Friendship Day as well; plus tarpaulin with the text of our Mutual Defense Treaty which threatens World War III when either party has been attacked by any country not invited to da party.”

Some pointed out that the flags were probably being sold in celebration of yesterday’s Filipino-Chinese friendship day but the NPDC, which oversees Luneta, said that the photos were staged.

Facebook Live videos by NPDC Executive Director Penelope Diaz Belmonte reported that CCTV footage from the area shows that those seen in the photos were allegedly paid by unidentified men to pose as vendors selling the Chinese flags.

Four of the vendors have been arrested and confessed in the Facebook Live video that they were allegedly paid PHP100 (US$1.92) to pretend to sell the flags. After taking the photos, the men allegedly left with the flags.

But Congressman Biazon said whether or not it was staged was beside the point.

“I was already ok w/ Friendship Day until they showed the CCTV clip. Whether it was a real vendor or it was a setup, the fact is that park security was not alert enough to accost the persons right away. But if it were someone taking photos using a DSLR they’re quick to respond,” he said.

How did you react when you saw these viral photos? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @CoconutsManila.

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