• Does President Duterte want to unfriend the United States?



    First read
    I use “unfriend” in the title of this column for two reasons:

    First, because it helps to make my point more easily comprehensible by readers, who are mostly Facebook members and internet users, and;

    Second, because it could jolt people into the realization that turning US-Philippines relations on its head is a big deal, and not the sole prerogative of President Duterte.

    Oxford Dictionary picked “unfriend” as the word of the year in 2009. The alternative term, “defriend,” has not enjoyed as much prestige and popularity; but it is widely accepted as a substitute.

    Oxford defines the verb as: “To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.”

    I realized how serious is the act of “unfriending” when a member of my extended family unfriended her brother some months back, and it became some kind of family issue.

    Unfriending or defriending creates an awkward situation. Social networks offer one click to remove a friend, but it doesn’t make the decision any easier or reasonable. Who is better off – the unfriended one, or the unfriending party?

    Significantly, “re-friending” has become an in-word in social network terminology. You can restore or be restored to friendly status in this society.

    A smoke-and-mirrors exercise
    Applying the concept of unfriending then to the real world of Filipino-American relations, I was startled to discover that what we are dealing with here is all just a smoke-and-mirrors exercise, and not a serious effort to recast the relationship.

    The sentiment of going independent is delivered with much emotion, sometimes with expletives; but when the talk turns serious toward seeing the US cease to be our friend, members of the Duterte administration, including the President himself, recoil from the prospect.

    President Duterte’s gestures of unfriending have consisted chiefly of the following overt acts:

    1. Savaging President Barack Obama on the eve of the Asean Summit and East Asia Summit in Laos by calling him “a son of a-whore” for announcing in advance that he planned to take up the human rights issue with President Duterte in Vientiane.

    2. Exposing the massacre of some 900 Moros (men, women and children) in Bud Dajo, Sulu in March 2006, at the start of the American colonization of the Philippine islands.

    3. Declaring on the eve of his inauguration as the Philippines’ 16th President that he would chart an independent foreign policy and not rely on the US.

    4. Declaring that he wanted US special forces, who were advising the Philippine military, to get out of Mindanao.

    5. Announcing that the Philippines would depend less on US military assistance, and would consider buying its military equipment from China and Russia.

    Focus is on posture, not reality
    Within a day of delivering these major policy flaps and initiatives, top Filipino officials, and sometimes President Duterte himself, were walking back his words or waving them away.

    As my colleague Kit Tatad has pointed out in a perspicacious column on the “independent policy” theme, DU30 is hard-put to define what he means by an independent foreign policy. Does he mean renouncing our security alliance with the US? Will he serve notice on the US we will not allow nuclear-powered US vessels to enter Philippine waters?

    Would it mean waiving the equivalent of the $1.3 billion in economic and military assistance that the US extended the Philippines from 2010-2016?

    After declaring that US forces should get out of Mindanao, President Duterte said that the Philippines “will not cut our umbilical cord to countries we are allied with.”

    He was careful about the military aspect of alliances; but he insisted on the need to follow “an independent posture and independent foreign policy.”

    “Independent posture” is an unfortunate way of describing what is supposed to be a new era of Filipino statecraft.

    After the CPP/NDF called for the expulsion of all US forces throughout the Philippines, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana contradicted Duterte openly and declared that US forces would not be asked to leave Mindanao.

    For his part, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay contributed to the smoke and mirrors, by delivering a largely meaningless speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

    The most he could say was this circumlocution: “We cannot forever be the little brown brothers of America…. We have to grow and become the big brother of our own people.”

    Shaping the history of nations
    My substitution of the terms of social media for the big concerns of foreign and security policy is facetious. But the point is that “unfriend” gets to the heart of the matter quickly. We realize what should be the proper object of our foreign policy.

    It was the historian Leopold von Ranke who laid down the dictum that foreign relations were supreme among the influences that shape the history of nations.

    During the cold war, foreign relations were mainly shaped by the rivalry between two opposing ideologies and two antagonistic superpowers locked in quarrel.

    In the postwar era, the Filipino-American relationship was largely shaped by cold-war politics. But after 1989, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and international communism, history took a new turn and direction.

    Today, statecraft or statesmanship is governed by different challenges and opportunities.

    According to Margaret Thatcher, these can be summed up in the term “globalism.”

    For her, it comes down to this: “A world of mobile capital, of international integration of markets, of instant communication, of information available at the click of a mouse, and of fairly pen borders, is certainly a long way from the world favored by statists in the past.

    “It is nowadays, as a result, more difficult for governments to misrule their peoples and mismanage their resources without quickly running into problems. Unfortunately, though, it is still not impossible.”

    When President Duterte and his supporters in Congress and the media lament the interference of the US, the UN and the foreign media in the Philippine war on drugs, they pine for a time that is past.

    It was rough growing up and governing during the Cold War. It is just as rough growing up and governing in the age of globalism today.



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    1. Mariano Patalinjug on

      Yonkers, New York
      21 September 2016

      No matter how columnist Yen Makabenta tries to soft-pedal Der Fuhrer Rodrigo Duterte’s “independent foreign policy” as not to “unfriend” the Unite States of America, Duterte’s several public pronouncements, taken literally and seriously, prove, indeed, that he is not only charting an unfriendly course viz-a-viz the US, he accentuates the point by declaring that he is now a “friend” of both China and Russia.

      Recall that upon his election as President May 9, Chinese President Xi Jinping was quick to praise him–even without any basis in fact–as “a great president.” Reciprocally, Duterte responded in kind: He returned Xi’s unexpected favor by also praising him to high heaven as “a great president!” Tit for tat, that’s what it was.

      In contrast, he savaged Phillip Goldberg, the American ambassador to the Philippines, as a “bakla” [gay] and also as a “son of a whore!” Subsequently, he also had no problem unleashing his pique against President Barack Obama by also savaging him as “a son of a whore!”

      Not content with declaring that he would no longer allow US military forces in Mindanao, he also said that he did not favor joint US-Philippines patrols in the South China Sea. To add insult to injury, he made it clear to the whole world that he would henceforth buy weapons from China and Russia, his newly-found “friends.”

      This Little Tyrant is allergic to criticisms heaped on him by President Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the European Union and others for his megalomanic warrantless extrajudicial killing of those SUSPECTED of being involved one way or the other in the drug problem, a lawless and ruthless drive which so far has prematurely sent to hell or heaven some 3,000 hapless victims.

      The question that comes up to mind now is WHO CAN OR WILL STOP THIS LITTLE TYRANT from his lawless proclivities and his mindless savaging of the Constitution with its Bill of Rights, the Rule of Law, the Rules of Court, and even the UN Declaration of Human Rights–all of these long-established SAFEGUARDS against abuse by Authority or Government and against Human Right?


    2. Contrary to what Du30 thinks, news of that atrocity a century ago was actually condemned by many American themselves.

      Read “Comments on the Moro Massacre” of March 12, 1906, Dud Dajo

      Among the accounts written:

      “Slaughter” is a good word. Certainly there is not a better one in the Unabridged Dictionary for this occasion. The next display line says:

      “With Children They Mixed in Mob in Crater, and All Died Together.”

      The American writer who condemned the Dud Dajo massacre was one of the greatest literary writers of all time, and founder of the American Anti-imperialist League. His name? Samuel Clemens, popularly known as Mark Twain.

      The atrocity is permanently recorded by American historians however shameful that chapter of injustice in US history.

      It is more appropriate for Du30 to order a national memorial dedicated to the memory of those massacred at Bud Dajo and dedicate it in front of the US Embassy in Roxas blvd. But its over reacting to unfriend a longtime ally. Its sufficient to just unfriend Obama and Goldburg who are plotting with the narco-yellows.

    3. Armando francisco on

      Leftist does not like the USA since time of our forefathers Problem is they are all sound no fury How can we be independent in foreign relations at this time na global na

    4. These Americans have always bullied us to respond weakly to our enemies. They support the secessionist aspirations of armed rebels in Mindanao, and are so protective of the human rights of the NPA and other “leftist groups.” Now they are on the side of dope dealers because of the rule of law, human rights and all these rules they invented WHICH THEY THEMSELVES DO NOT OBSERVE, as in the Middle East, Guantanamo, Vietnam, the Philippine-American War etc, the list is endless. Why do you want a friend who is always taking the side of your enemy? What is their real agenda here in our country? Its about time we recognize ang pang-ga-gago na ginagawa ng mga iput na ito sa atin. Anybody who who loves his oppressor ought to have his head examined. This is what Duterte is doing now, forcing us to examine ourselves. He deserves our support and our prayers.

    5. Why always blame the Americans! The Spaniards did more damages to our country during its 400 year rule. Let us forget the past

      • So let us blame both the Americans and the Spaniards. And please, we must look back at our history and avoid the mistakes and misfortunes we had.

    6. Pres.duterte does not want to unfriend the US but he thinks that this is one of way giving favor to the moro people.No one knows if this would produce good result regarding the problem in mindanao but he thinks it is one of the solutions.he has 6 years to serve the filipino people and lets see

    7. For better equipment, we really should look at other providers. The unlamented Yellow admin bought jets from Korea, so why is the former Philippine Ambassador to his beloved US of A, saying that if we buy ships from countries other than his beloved country It would be unable to communicate with ships from the US ?

      EEEY ???? Say Again ???

    8. vagoneto rieles on

      When President Duterte cites the need for “an independent foreign policy”; and, his desire to “step out of the shadows of the United States”, one gets the impression that we will soon be moving away from all existing treaties and bilateral agreements in defense and trade…among many other things…which inextricably includes those unwritten traditional ties that have existed since the turn of the 19th century. We will, henceforth, design and develop our own strategies, programs and devices going forward…independently. “We cannot have our cake and eat it too”.This reality becomes more stark in light of China’s naked intent of outright domination when they arrogantly suggested that the Philippines must react and negotiate ”appropriately” where their occupation of part, (perhaps, the whole) of the Spratlys.
      It is our fervent wish that Messrs. Yasay, Lorenzana, Lopez and others have those strategies and devices on hand. It would be worrisome to be in open water with neither sail nor paddle.
      On China, by the way, the United States started to “show the flag” in the West Philippine Seas only after China made moves to occupy and develop a part of the Spratlys. China might have been discouraged had they been somewhat earlier. It is not the other way around; but, all these seems to be academic, as the ball is clearly in our court now.
      What, exactly, do we want?

    9. PDU30 cannot truly pursue his independent foreign policy with the presence of foreign military forces- remember Panama’s Noriega. PDU30 is sorrounded by military officers (retired and active) who are American trained and controlled. Nobody in our military, police and government officials should be under the influence of a foreign government. PDU30 can start by taking out all foreign forces from the Philippines. We can develop our own military strategies- our own jungle warfare, our own defense. The supposed training to use the modern military equipment that our military gets from Ameica is useless because they will never give us this modern equipment. We should not send our military men for training abroad for there they are being recruited to become whatever for the interest of America. There should be no more foreign military advisors in our country.

      America had its chance of more than 100 years to truly help Philippines but it just played on Philippines. It is about time that we should now talk to other world powers. We, Filipinos, are largely responsible for what we are now. Now, we have a President who is taking risk to be ousted and even lose his life just to have a drug free and a truly independent country, we should support him. PDU30 should get the full commitment of China or Russia to fill up the investments and financial aid that America might withdraw otherwise we might as well stick it out with America.

      Our country is in a brink of chaos.

      PDU30 watch America, watch the yellow forces.

      God bless us.

      • America doesn’t want a weak Philippines, America want a strong Philippines, US has been aiding the country, monetarily, militarily, for a long long time. American interest in the Philippines is mainly its strategic location in Asia, we are suppose to be the hub of Asia. but that did not happen. Instead of blaming the Americans, we should blame our selves, what we are today is our own doing, nobody else. Our corrupt leaders who just enriched themselves and neglected the country. President DU30 is just a wake up call, for us Filipinos to stand up for our rights, because we now a country of losers. Oligarchs and government officials are teaming up to take the country’s wealth. They are the controlling our everyday’s lives. NOW is the time for real Change.

      • Ignacio Balbutin on

        The US just played on the Philippines? you must be kidding. Who freed us from the cruel Japanese occupation in WWII, You read the article again and see what the US has done for us

    10. How does a small country deals with a powerful giant? Of course, you vacillate, test the the waters, float ideas, you feint, you move in and out as in boxing, you play one giant vs the other, you display brinkmanship and then retracts, unfriend and befriend, smokescreen. These are the age old game of diplomacy since time immemorial – and Duterte is playing it like a pro – and all is fair in love as in diplomacy.
      Don’t worry Mr. Makabenta, the US needs us, as of now, due to our unique geographical location in the Pacific, but do we really really absolutely need them? We need a paradigm shift on this one. Did other countries not as pawning as we are to the US, improved or not, developed economically or not?

    11. Independent foreign policy means to seek for what is best for our country, regardless of who will be offended – making our own interest primary. For example, we should maintain our relationship with the US, but we should not also shirk from talking with China – the largest economy and military power in this region – even if the US does not approve.
      It means we have to rethink everything previously considered as normal. It means reviewing EDCA and asking if it is to our interest or to the West’s? It means not being a pawn of the West at all times, but if we indeed allow ourselves to be one, that it must somehow be counterbalanced with economic benefits to our people.
      It short, it means to stand up on our own – how hard it may be.

      • Its hard dahil nakiki pag negosyo ka sa bansang nag nanakaw ng karagatan natin? gets mo ba? o maka China ka din?

    12. Mag ingat tayo sa pagkampi sa ano mang sigalutan ng America at China at iba pang mga bansa. Tayo lang kawawa. Pilipinas ay winasak ng 2nd world war samantalang ang bansa nila ay hindi man lang nakaranas na bombahin (except Pearl Harbor). Pagkatapos ng giyera ay para tayong basahan na iniwan at tinanggal ang sana ay tatanggapin na benefits ng ating mga betarano that benefits for Filipino veterans were included in a law that they passed in Congress and signed by Roosevelt. Nang ideclare na a independence ay pinawalang bisa ng U.S congress ang batas na yan. Huwag uli tayong pauto sa America.

    13. Duterte in my opinion is either very smart and very stupid at the same time. Why smart ? He was able to convince 16 million Pilipinos that he is the right person for the job. Why very stupid, when is angry, he creates enemies that should not be enemies. Extra Judicial Killings. He said he killed unarmed people many times in his speeches. So that is it, he is a murderer. So why are we discussing EJK ? Is is good for our corrupt country ? I do not know. Pilipinos are very bad people. Snatchers, criminals all over. Do not believe we are good people.

      • A president will have enemies whether he opens his mouth or not. He has enemies for the very reason he is the president.

    14. We have so many American Filipino is USA and the the family of DUTERTE are receiving the graces fro the said country. You can not severe our ties with the American because DUTERTE is not forever

    15. Exposing the massacre of some 900 Moros (men, women and children) in Bud Dajo, Sulu in March 2006

      2006 ?

      That’s supposed to read 1906 which was 110 years ago.