No one at home or abroad could presume to do this authoritatively. What PDU30 says today he might revoke or withdraw tomorrow, only to pick it up again the next day and reverse his position again, the following day. This is shown by his series of somersaults on his government’s intended relationship with the United States, which is the nation’s oldest and strongest ally, and the United Nations, of which the Philippines is a founding member.
His statements are not formally announced as “policy.”
They are off-the-cuff remarks in response to reported comments on the summary killings in his war on drugs, but everything that comes out of his mouth, including the cuss words and fetid insults against the highest ranking foreign dignitaries, is interpreted as policy. His moods swing from one extreme to another with mercurial predictability.
First he insults UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Agnes Callamard for saying something about extrajudicial killings. In a sense, there are no extrajudicial killings in the Philippines because there is no death penalty and, therefore, no killings ordered by the judiciary, the exceptions to which would be called “extrajudicial killings.” But in another sense, all killings by the police without due process of law, would be called extrajudicial killings.
DU30 says “f***k you” to Ban Ki-moon, and calls the UN “useless” and “incompetent” for failing to fix the problems of the Middle East. He also calls US President Obama “son of a whore” and gives the European Union the “middle finger” for wanting to talk to him on the same subject. After a short calm after the storm, he is reported to have rolled out the welcome mat for an 18-man UN delegation coming to inquire into alleged human rights abuses, adding that even Obama could also come and see things for himself.
A knockout punch
This was a knockout punch for those who had been worrying about his livid putdown of Ban Ki-moon, and his erstwhile threat to quit the UN, which he subsequently withdrew. But, contrary to the Philippine Star banner story on the alleged UN inquiry, it turns out that the world body had not intended to send any such group to the Philippines.
Instead, the 18-man Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would be meeting in Geneva today (Central European Time) to review “a range of issues relating to the Philippine implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.” This is a regular annual activity, which would have happened anyway, even if DU30’s war on drugs had not killed 3,000.
In apparent anticipation of the UN mission, thousands of DU30’s supporters gathered at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City the other day to manifest support for DU30. Pro-DU30 speeches were delivered by government functionaries and a motley group of supporters. It turned out that the highly sensationalized news headline had no basis in fact. Despite DU30’s strong words against the UN, it has not treated the Philippines the way it has treated North Korea.
Not quite like North Korea
In the case of Pyongyang, the UN Human Rights Council established a Commission on Inquiry on March 21, 2013 to investigate “the systematic widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may amount to crimes against humanity.” These include “the right to food, those associated with prison camps, torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, freedom of expression, the right to life, freedom of movement, enforced disappearances, including in the form of abductions of foreign nationals.”
The menu for the Philippines cannot possibly be as extensive as that, so there has been no attempt to create a commission on inquiry for DU30. Callamard was last reported as saying she would like to conduct her own inquiry, if the DU30 government could guarantee her personal safety, but the UNHRC as such seems willing to limit its “review” of the Philippine situation within the framework of its regular annual activity. There was, therefore, no reason for the sensational news story.
Now, if DU30 did not know this when he “welcomed” the proposed visit of the UN delegation, then there’s something awfully wrong with his administration. If, on the other hand, DU30 had announced his “welcome,” knowing that the delegation would not be coming anyway, he could be faulted for having stooped a little too low to play a cheap propaganda play. This was not helped by Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. regurgitating all those DU30 cliches that established nothing, in his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly.
The speech was what, in my presidential speechwriting days, I would call a “gas station” speech. Pure and simple demagoguery. A recommended cure for some diplomats’ insomnia. No wonder Yasay’s full color photo on the front pages of Tuesday’s newspapers did not show Ban Ki-moon in his chair during his delivery.
With respect to the US, DU30’s position seems to have gone full circle. After cursing Obama and causing the US President to cancel a proposed meeting on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Vientiane, he said he would like to see the pullout of US troops in Mindanao. He also decided to end the joint patrols with the US, Australia and Japan in the South China Sea. He was publicly rebuked by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said the US troops would stay in Mindanao. Then the Defense Department announced that 1,400 US troops from Okinawa, Japan and 500 Filipino troops would stage war games in Luzon from Oct. 4 to 12.
DU30 talks of crossing the Rubicon
But in a new political twist on Monday, DU30 said he was about to cross the “Rubicon” between him and the United States, and that he had discussed the matter with Russian Prime Minister Dmtry Medvedev during a meeting on the sidelines of the Vientiane summit. “Crossing the Rubicon” refers to Julius Caesar’s army crossing the shallow Rubicon river in 49 BC on the march to Rome; Caesar said, “alea acta est”—the die is cast! The phrase has since come to mean passing a point of no return.
The amazing thing is that DU30 announces his moves before he actually makes them, apparently unconcerned about their possible consequences. He has now announced his plan to buy weapons from China and Russia, and visit China, Japan and Russia, while maintaining his Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US. He is scheduled to make a two-day visit to Vietnam starting today.
One thing he has not talked about, though, is the reported meeting between some Leftist members of his Cabinet and members of the Communist Parties of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and China in Vientiane during the Asean summit. This story has not been confirmed, neither has it been denied. But our original sources insist on its veracity, saying the Cabinet officials concerned had no role to play in the summit to justify their being there on taxpayers’ expense. They are not sure, though, that DU30 personally knew about it.
Our sources believe that DU30’s coalition partners may have actually proposed reviving the old arrangement with China’s communist party, which was put to an end when Marcos asked Beijing in 1975 to cut off its support for the CPP/NPA/NDF in exchange for Philippine recognition of the One-China Policy. If this theory is correct, DU30 would be in a pickle if this was a secret his communist partners had kept away from him, but he would have a lot of explaining to do to the Filipino people if he’s in fact a part of it.