The premise laid down in this discussion attempts to illustrate that the principal thrust of the Duterte administration of combating illegal drugs trade to the extent of embarking on summary killings in violation of due process has not achieved any objectives of good governance. The widespread adverse reaction to the continuing carnage, both locally and globally, has wrought havoc on the economy, aggravated still by rampant crime and violence, such as the recent Resorts World Manila attack and the Maute siege in Marawi City. The peso has shrunk to the critical level of way past P50 to $1, with tourist arrivals dropping to half that of the past year; there has been a significant volume of capital flight as well.
Things have not been as rosy as electorates in the May 2016 presidential elections might have believed they would turn out to be, for which reason the people in their landslide mass voted for Duterte. And the President has conveniently backed out of his election promise of solving crime and corruption in six months; he has asked for more time – the remainder of his term.
Early on in this series, we advanced the observation that no president of the Philippines has been so pilloried both nationally and internationally in such a short duration in his six-year term as Duterte. For this reason it becomes big wonder that he has managed to cling on to power.
Thus we attempt now to explain the phenomenon.
First insight on the issue: No Philippine President ever got elected without US acquiescence and no Philippine President has ever stayed in power without the US allowing it.
Has Duterte ever been an exception to the rule, the US role, that is?
We have endeavored to delineate the role played by former President Fidel V. Ramos in convincing Duterte to make good his run for the presidency as a way of establishing a link between Washington and Duterte as far back as the presidential electoral campaign. Again, I hasten to clarify, such a deduction is not borne by any factual evidence but is arrived at through my method of deducing a conclusion from evident laws governing social phenomena. Why would FVR turn to Duterte instead of to Grace Poe or Jojo Binay or Mar Roxas is the same as asking why he would turn to Cory instead of Marcos in 1986. Therefore, as Cory would serve US interest – she led a 100,000-strong rally in 1991, under a heavy rain at that, to combat the impending abrogation by the Senate Magnificent 12 of the US Military Bases Agreement – doesn’t the syllogism lead to the conclusion that Duterte would do as well?
This is where I say Duterte is a problem to me. He definitely could not have won had the United States not allowed it. A veteran political analyst is unequivocal in saying that the kind of exquisite grooming Duterte underwent for the presidency was something only the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is capable of doing. That he won means the United States had wanted him to win, simple as that. Now, this is a problem because as soon as he stepped into Malacañang, he commenced his vitriol against President Barack Obama and his indignant asides to the United States of America. If Duterte was the American boy in the 2016 presidential elections, why would he be bashing America now that he is President?
The question truly torments. One cannot disengage Duterte from notions of American patronage in his ascension to the presidency, and yet those notions of American patronage must shatter at his unabashed declaration of outrage against America the minute he got to that post. Either of two things is therefore false: That he was the American Boy in the 2016 presidential elections and his avowed “separation” from America is a feigned one; or that, indeed, he was the American Boy in those elections but that his parting of ways with the US – if a genuine act – is one grand feat of international political double-cross.
As a final attempt to place Duterte in just the scheme of things in which he should belong, we recall the much touted Asia Pacific Pivot the US began embarking on at the start of the Obama administration in 2008. During the East Asia Summit in 2012, President Barack Obama declared before a gathering that included Chinese Premier Wen Yabao the American resolve to maintain its presence in the Asia Pacific region “as a guarantor of peace.” This determination by the United States appeared effectively neutralized by the Chinese own intransigence in pursuing its assertiveness in the South China Sea, culminating in the Scarborough Shoal standoff in 2012. Upon prompting by the US, Aquino backed off from the impasse and instead brought the matter for arbitration by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. It just was unfortunate that although the Philippines was declared winner in the arbitration proceedings, Aquino would no longer be around much to pursue the PCA ruling – a new Philippine president being up for grooming come presidential elections of 2016.
From the American standpoint, the next President must be as accommodating of those US concerns as Aquino had been. It would not be farfetched, therefore, to conclude that the United States would make sure the guy to win president in the 2016 elections would be an American Boy. That Duterte turned out, at least by his declarations, to be vociferously anti-America, makes for the greatest marvel so far witnessed in the Philippine presidency.
Still in all, that Duterte stays President only shows America continues to need him there.