Those in the know and those who study our foreign relations carefully are sure of one thing and there is empirical basis for it. That the old Western democracies, the open societies such as the US and the European Union are better partners than the rest of the world. Occasionally, these Western democracies fall into the misfortune of getting bad elected leaders. But their governing cultures and strong institutions are often enough able to make up for the flawed decisions of bad leadership.
The built-in mechanisms and tools that make them treat other countries in a fair manner are not confined to their political institutions and tradition. Technology, for example, can unravel the most confidential of communications among scheming leaders. This restrains the nativist urges to plot against allies and enemies alike in favor of self-interests. Those damn e-mails can always be hacked.
The world now is transparent as it can be and scheming and plotting – or plans to subvert duly elected leaders – are generally off the table as far as these Western democracies are concerned. The supposed CIA plot to oust Mr. Duterte should be taken with a grain of salt.
The technological advances of these Western democracies push mankind into giant leaps of progress. Even with the mediocre state of our ICT technology, the web-based revolution, has in a few short years, offshored a BPO sector that generates some $25 billion in revenues, more or less the hard currency from our established economic juggernaut – the OFW. What if the Internet was first incubated in Russia or China? We can only speculate on that, but one word comes to mind – leverage. The two countries will probably leverage that discovery before they share it to the world.
And where does the bulk of our OFW remittances come from? Remittances from the US are more than the total of the nine next big sources of remittances, from Saudi Arabia at 2nd to Australia at 10th.
The institutions that were forced onto the world by the Western powers can sometimes impose doctrines that are ruinous to the world, such as the IMF-World bank-driven Washington Consensus in the 80s. As a Filipino farmer, I still can recall the scrapping of concessional loans to small farmers as a result of the wholesale adoption of the contents of that Consensus by our economic managers. Farmers, with little access to formal credit to begin with, had to borrow at rates higher than the established commercial clients of the banks.
The Central Bank’s rediscounting window for agricultural credit was arbitrarily closed, again as a result of the Consensus. That ruinous policy had help send the country’s agricultural sector into a death spiral.
Yet, the built-in tools for shifts and evolutions have now remade the IMF-World Bank into institutions more responsive and nimble, from their lending programs even to their basic economic research – research that is now capable of shattering orthodoxies on issues such as level of debt and austerity.
The appointment of economists such as Mr. Blanchard into these institutions have weaned them from subscribing to failed orthodoxies.
Yet, despite all these advantages of strengthening our alliances with these countries and institutions, those in the know feel that should Mr. Trump win the November 8 US presidential elections, Mr. Duterte should abruptly make a pivot – away from Mr. Trump and into the welcoming embrace or Mr. Xi and Putin.
Not that Mr. Duterte’s language appears as a paragon of civility compared to the endless, unrestrained rants of Mr. Trump. Many commentators have noted that Mr. Trump is running to be the first dictator of the US, not as a president that will uphold sacred democratic ideals. And countries like the Philippine that were already prejudged by Mr. Trump – a “haven for terrorists” – will have to move away from the axis of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Duterte does not have the luxury of critiquing Mr. Trump, even with the mildest words possible. Mr. Trump will strike back and probably will launch a drone strike to get back at Mr. Duterte. Mr. Duterte should clearly bear in mind what Donald Trump wrote in 2007.
“When someone intentionally harms you or your reputation, how do you react? I strike back, doing the same thing to them only ten times worse.”
After Mr. Duterte cussed Mr. Obama, Mr. Obama just reacted coolly. Mr. Trump who wants to send Hillary Clinton to jail (only dictators do that), would react violently after a mild criticism from Mr. Duterte.
Because Mr. Trump knows only the side of the law and the constitution that suits his dictatorial impulses, the first thing on his agenda will cause havoc on the Philippine social and economic landscape. Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, tens of thousands are Filipinos. Reckless and inhuman deportation – which is first and foremost in his agenda – will strain the resources of a country like ours that does not have the resources and coping mechanism for the mass return of undocumented immigrants from the US.
On Mr. Trump’s first few months in office, he will surely direct the mass deportation of 11 million people – a problem Mr. Duterte can’t cope up with.
Mr. Trump, who will not hesitate to use the power of the state against his domestic enemies, will push the multilateral institutions under the influence of the US to freeze loans and grants to countries such as the Philippines.
The short version is this. Mr. Trump’s policies and vengeful nature will push Mr. Duterte into the welcoming arms of China and Russia. His election will make the pivot mandatory.