President Duterte knows his Ecclesiastes. The shifting of the seasons, the impermanence of governance and policy, the evolution of a leader’s domestic and global views. On foreign policy, he now feels that it is time for a pivot. He has telegraphed his personal desire for a pivot in many a public pronouncement. Because the President takes the lead in everything related to foreign policy, his word will be the lay of the country on this critical issue.
What does he want exactly? To move closer to the China-Russia orbit. And end the special relationship of the country with the US and neighboring Canada . And the region closest to the country after the US–the European Union . He is even thinking of getting defense materiel from China and Russia. The flow of arms from China , not via the MV Karagatan way, but via legal, government-to-government agreement.
There is nothing permanent about foreign policy and a pivot away from the usual allies into the orbit of Russia and China can be initiated by Mr. Duterte . But then again there is an attached question . Will that be good for the country? Will that be in pursuit of our national interests? Are the Russian ruling elite led by ex-KGB Mr. Putin and the Politburo of China led by Mr. Xi better partners than Mr. Obama and Mr. Trudeau? And the likes of Mr. Hollande?
Before he does that, he should watch the remake of the Western movie “ Magnificent Seven.” Before heaping me with ridicule, let me elaborate on this.
The remake of the iconic Western essentially shows a US, and a world , that has evolved. It is no longer the America of John Pershing , Balangiga and Manifest Destiny. So many things have radically changed. And the remake shows that gloriously. For one, Denzel Washington has inherited Yul Brynner’s role as leader of the Seven .
There is more to Washington’s leadership of the Seven and the directorial job of Antoine Fuqua , a black American director. The Seven now include an Asian assassin ( Byung hun-Lee, a Mexican outlaw ( Manuel Garcia-Rufo) and a Comanche warrior (Martin Sensmeier). Gone is the all-white McQueen /Bronson cast.
The amazing diversity is not an accident. It is reflective of an evolving society, whose inexorable march is into openness, multi-cultural values and acceptance of the “others.” There is a Trump-led effort to recapture the archaic glory of nativism, the rule of white men and the shunning of “the others.” But the demographics say nativism is a failed movement and that American society will inevitably be a rainbow of ethnicities, cultures and values.
Last week, somebody passed on to me a speech delivered by PM Trudeau. You know what? The dominant theme was diversity, the evolution of Canadian society into an open, accepting society, even of migrants fleeing wars and famines, persecution and harassment. While this man is a legacy leader, the route he took to become prime minister of Canada was an amazing one: bouncer at one time, school teacher at another.
Societies that are open and diverse and more accepting are our best allies for the present and the future. More so because the economic lifeblood of the country is a diaspora of remittances. Even for pragmatic reasons, let us just pinpoint the map where the Western Unions are busiest and anchor our friendship on the hard currency flows into the country.
What kind of country is Russia right now? And what about its leader, Mr. Putin?
Russia is a petrostate and its leader, Mr. Putin, failed to do the simple thing of diversifying the economy during the peak prices for oil – when he had the chance to do so. Why? He was – and still – too busy killing journalists and dissenters and crushing the domestic opposition. He revived the “ gulag” for oligarchs who defied his regime.
Doing business in Russia has nothing to do with entrepreneurial skills and drive and ambition. You have to be a crony of Putin.
China is a country that can invoke farcical phrasings such as “ nine-dash-line” to justify territorial aggression . The Philippines could have ignored it except for the fact that we are the main victim. What are being annexed are territories that have been with us since time immemorial, since the birth of cartography .
Just looking at the economic deals of China with the resource-rich but poor countries of Africa would want our leaders to reconsider future economic deals with the country.
Why would we pivot away from the openness of the diverse societies into the arms of Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi?
Most Filipinos don’t know and there is puzzlement all over. Pragmatic reasons ? None. Economic uplift reasons? None.
Lessons in civics and democratic values that they can impart to us? Zero.
There is, indeed, a time for a foreign policy pivot? But not now and not into the direction Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin.
Personal note : In a big family, there is always a cousin with the biggest heart and with the most open mind . The Big Cousin. In ours, that was Koyang Vet. He passed away Monday, September 26, at 65, after a long bout with the “ Vitug Curse” — the double whammy of diabetes and cardiac woes. I share the grief of Marites and Alab.