Sunday, October 23, 2016

Philippines/United States: No Divorce Just Separation

"I announce my separation from the U.S."
"In this venue, your honors, I announce my separation from the United States, both in military, not maybe social, but economics also."
"America has lost now. I have realigned myself in your ideological flow, and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world, China, Philippines and Russia. It is the only way."
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) shakes hands with Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (R), as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at airport in Beijing, Oct. 18, 2016.
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte (L) shakes hands with Chinese ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua (R), as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) looks on, at airport in Beijing, Oct. 18, 2016.
If the new president of the Philippines resembles any other public or political figure there are echoes of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in the ensemble that inhabit the psyche of this volatile, outrageous bumpkin who advertises himself as the saviour of his country, prepared to rescue, by whatever means present themselves, the Philippines from its descent into drug-addicted hell. To that end he has encouraged his police as well as anyone else who has a grudge to settle to feel free to destroy the lives of those they accuse of dealing in drugs, or addicted to drugs.

Among the thousands who have thus far lost their lives have been total innocents, people targeted because they had no protection, others because they had made enemies, and still others because they had succumbed to the lure of drugs and struggled to divest themselves of that irresistible urge, but failed. Because a strange type of temporary amnesty was declared tens of thousands of people who feared for their lives at the hands of Philippines security agents or those who have self-deputized, have turned themselves in to authorities as users and dealers.

They will be dealt with at some time in the future, having registered themselves as offenders appealing for mercy. And the Islamist threats that exist in the Philippines will also be dealt with by this pitiless crusader for whom no lives that appear complicit in his version of what constitutes crime are to be spared in the larger purpose of installing peace and security in a country their president has placed on alert; do crime, pay the ultimate price. Capital punishment meted out casually and with, he claims, due cause.

This rather unusual way to order a country and suspend due process in law and crime-solving inevitably produced international criticism, including that from the American administration. Because of the traditionally close social, political and cultural ties between the United States and the Philippines, ties that the U.S. has relied upon in its re-positioning itself as a Pacific nation of influence in the region in opposition to China's more recent badgering of its neighbours in extending Chinese sovereignty in areas other nations considered their own, the position Duterte has expressed has taken the U.S. by surprise.

But this is a volatile, undisciplined, undiplomatic temperament that has a tendency to say strange and disappointingly offensive things that do no credit to the man's supposed intelligence, nor to the future of the country he leads. Without doubt, Chinese President Xi Jinping will be pleased, as well as Vladimir Putin, with the embarrassment that the Philippine president's announcement will have brought to the prestige in the region of the United States. But such blowhards as Duterte are not abashed at what they bring to the fore.

And backtracking on his statement that elicited enthusiastic response from the politicians and business people he had addressed while on a visit to China, certainly failed to cause any embarrassment to him personally, for he has no shame. Duterte invited Barack Obama to "go to hell", while Venezuela's Chavez spoke of the odour of sulphur in the Satanic presence of former U.S. President George W. Bush; it comes with the territory, obviously.

"Symbolically none of this is good for the U.S., but in concrete terms the U.S. has thick skin. If the Duterte government starts to restrict U.S. access to Philippine bases or something like that, then the U.S. will have a problem", advised Malcolm Cook at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
Oops, just kidding, says Duterte back in Davao, mentioning offhandedly the huge demographic of Filipino expatriates residing in the United States.

"When you say severance of ties, you cut the diplomatic relations. I cannot do that. Why? It's to the best interest of my country that we maintain that relationship". Besides which, Filipinos themselves would most certainly not approve.

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