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ON December 27, 2016, Dr. Dante A. Ang, Chairman Emeritus of The Manila Times, scooped the international media with a disclosure of an alleged blueprint for the ouster of Duterte, headlined in the Manila Times thus: “US ex-envoy plotting Duterte fall – source.”
Dr. Ang wrote:
“The Philippines may be in for another rough ride in 2017.
“Not only did former United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg leave the Philippines with a legacy of fractured relations between the two countries, he allegedly left behind a “blueprint to undermine Duterte,” a strategic recommendation ostensibly to the State Department for the ultimate removal of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte from office, according to a highly placed source. It is not clear, however, if the State Department in Washington D..C. had given its imprimatur to the recommendation by its former ambassador to the Philippines.
A document received over the weekend by The Manila Times from that source said Goldberg had outlined a list of ‘strategies’ to undermine President Duterte and called for his eventual ouster. The blueprint gave a timetable of one-and-a-half years.”
The year 2017 has just gone by, with President Duterte still clinging to power. But the timetable given in the story for the Duterte fall hasn’t quite expired. In fact, the first five months of 2018 must still belong in that time frame. For all we know, the countdown for that fall has only just begun.
Certainly, what is happening at the moment is nowhere close to the intensity of mass protests by anti-Marcos forces in February 1986, but EDSA 1 in itself did not come about as a climax of those protests but as an independent spontaneous rising. I personally witnessed that the ATOM rally that night of February 22, in the intersection of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard in Cubao, Quezon City, calling for a mass protest against Marcos, had fewer than 50 participants; Butch Aquino was in the lead of that action. And there was a smattering of people that congregated the following morning in the environs of Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. Maybe they were many by ordinary reckoning but they certainly fell quite short of what is necessary for a people’s action to be called a revolution. Only when Jaime Cardinal Sin spoke over Radio Veritas in the evening, calling on the Catholic faithful to go to EDSA, did folks from the middle, high and low of society truly come in droves.
EDSA 1 was a brilliant lesson on how with a token show of warm bodies (granting it is true that two million comprised the people power in EDSA ’86, that’s about 4 percent of the Filipino people at the time who numbered roughly 56 million) a perceived dictator may be deposed. All it takes really is to go on a binge of demonizing that dictator and presto, at the blessing of the prelate in a largely Catholic nation, those token warm bodies can do the miracle of ousting him.
The question now is, has the demonizing of Duterte been sufficient for such a miracle to happen? If the dropping of anchor on Manila Bay by the USS Carl Vinson an indication of any phenomenon similar to what the US Seventh Fleet’s anchoring on that same bay signaled in February 1986, then another such a miracle can be up and coming.
At the ROC (Restaurant of Choice) in the UP Bahay ng Alumni two days ago, Mentong Laurel posed the interjection: “But is the international media around now?” Mentong was going strictly by the analogy with the events in February 1986. In the present context, I could only offer to check it out.
But then in retrospect, even then and there at the ROC, I could have said yes to Mentong’s query. If charges that such media outlets as Rappler, CFMR, PCIJ and Vera Files are US-funded and therefore are expected to advance US interests, then, indeed, the international press has been here among us, ready to execute a damning of Duterte at a moment’s notice. In 1986, the cyber age hadn’t quite progressed, no cell phones yet, much less the Internet. But now, need the US bring in press equipment and personnel to disseminate information that can go worldwide through a vast array of social media capabilities and at a mere click of a button, too?
So, the two most important elements required to cover the ouster of Marcos in 1986 are effectively present in the current efforts to deal Duterte such a sorry fate. In this situation, China hasn’t got much of an option. If only by virtue of time-honored protocol in international relations, China has no business whatsoever to meddle in Philippine internal affairs. It certainly can argue that the ouster of Duterte is, as borne by Dr. Ang’s disclosure of the Goldberg plot blueprint, a US interference in the country’s internal affairs which therefore should justify China’s similar action in this regard, if ever.
But China has from the very beginning stuck to its policy of non-interference in another nation’s internal affairs. In the case of Zimbabwe, for instance, where there is a strong clamor for regime change, for the removal of the ruling Mugabe clan, China, though showing an inclination toward Mugabe’s rival, just had to fight off this tendency. Earlier, China did the same thing in South Sudan, favoring one side in the internal political conflict but successfully keeping a respectable distance – stretching its non-interference principle to the limits just to be able to act out the role of a peace-bringer.
There is no reason that in the event of a really determined move to oust Duterte, China will put its entire stakes on him. China has had a history of playing it quite well with whoever it is at a nation’s helm.
In the first place, China’s huge commitment of goodwill and material support to the Philippines is not a commitment to Duterte but to the Filipino people.