Toward the end of his term, when most everyone was saying BS Aquino 3rd was the worst thing that ever happened to us, I said desultorily, without any idea of who would succeed him, “who knows, PNoy might yet turn out to be better than the next guy?” I was being flippant, and did not expect to have to explain my meaning. But as President Rodrigo Duterte completed his first 100 days in office a few days ago, a friend called me to ask what, exactly, I meant.
The answer is complex and elaborate, and we neither have the space nor the time. But given the situation DU30 is in, we must try to ascertain how stands the presidency after three bruising months. The media like to ask: “In a scale of one to ten, how would you rate PDU30’s first 100 days?” I don’t answer such questions, but almost everyone else does, and DU30 gives himself a modest score of six, even though one Visayan prelate seems to think he deserves a higher rating.
The emperor has no clothes
Former President Fidel V. Ramos provides the most striking and significant response. While Secretary Martin Andanar pronounces DU30 “the greatest President” (he has ever worked for), and most everyone else tries to avoid an open clash with that opinion, FVR does not mind saying what the little child says in the famous story about the Emperor without clothes, “you are naked, Mr. President.” Instead of quoting a figure as DU30 himself does, FVR writes, in his Manila Bulletin column, that in his overall assessment, “we find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of DU30’s administration—and losing badly. This is a huge disappointment and let-down to many of us.”
“Ours is not to heap more brickbats on PDU30—because he has had more than enough already—but to help enable him to transform (through his own efforts) from a mere provincial official to a capable international player (on behalf of) 101,000,000 multicultured Filipinos,” he wrote. Previous to that, a front-page article in the French newspaper Liberation called DU30 a “serial killer.” This prompted one Cabinet member to say, “This is too much.”
Unlike The New York Times in the US, or The Guardian in Britain, or other familiar newspapers elsewhere, which have lately been running stories and editorials about the Philippines and DU30, this was the first time the newspaper, which the world-famous philosopher Jean Paul Sartre (the only man to reject the Nobel Prize for Literature) founded and edited in 1973, ever carried an article of this nature on the Philippines or its President. Not even during the darkest days of Martial Law did this newspaper ever take notice. This means that all shades of intellectual opinion have now weighed in on the issue of DU3O’s drug killings.
Why Ramos’ opinion matters
The Ramos article contains nothing half as trenchant as the Liberation’s epithet. What sets it apart from other comments, though, is that it is not coming from any of DU30’s usual critics. It is what I would call an “in-house or internal opinion” or a “self-critique.” Ramos is not only a well- known supporter of DU30; he is partly responsible for making him President. This is what he said at his inaugural address: “Salamat po sa tulong mo (thank you for your help) in making me President.” Many of the non-communist members of the DU30 Cabinet are known either as “Ramos boys” or as “GMA boys.”
On July 14, DU3O named Ramos as his special envoy to China, after the Philippines won a favorable ruling from the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in its maritime dispute with China, and the President decided to hold bilateral negotiations with Beijing instead of asking China to recognize and comply with the arbitral ruling. Ramos did not decline the appointment; in fact, he made one quick trip to Hong Kong to meet with certain Chinese personalities, including one former ambassador to the Philippines who now occupies an important position in the People’s Congress, in preparation for his official conversations in Beijing. Nothing new has been heard about his going to Beijing.
In September, DU30 said he had received a list from FVR containing names of suspected drug dealers. This appeared to be an attempt to portray FVR as a rabid supporter of the drug war, where the mounting number of summary killings of drug suspects has triggered worldwide condemnation. However, Ramos denied the claim.
Subdued Palace reaction
Caught flat-footed by the Ramos article, Malacañang’s first reaction was to express “respect” for its political ally’s opinion, describing it as “fatherly advice.” This was the first time DU30 held his fetid and vicious tongue in the face of what he would have normally regarded as a “provocation.” But the Communist Party of the Philippines made up for DU3O’s uncharacteristic restraint by excoriating the West Point-educated Ramos as an “American boy” out to torpedo DU30’s announced pivot to China and Russia, at the cost of the Philippines’ historic political, military and economic ties with the US.
In his column, Ramos lashed out against DU30’s “off-and-on statements” on Philippine-American relations, particularly on security and economic matters. “So what gives?” he wrote. “Are we throwing away decades of military partnership, tactical proficiency, compatible weaponry, predictable logistics, and soldier-to-soldier camaraderie just like that? On P.DU3O’s say-so???”
Indeed, nothing has happened between the Philippine government and the US government to cause a break in relations. The only thing that has happened is that Barack Obama was reported to have expressed a desire to talk to DU30 about the human rights issue related to the drug killings, and DU30 responded by asking who was this Obama to want to talk to him about human rights? Weren’t blacks also being killed on the streets in the US, he asked. As a result, Obama canceled a proposed meeting with DUC on the sidelines of the September Asean summit conference in Vientiane, Laos.
Since then, DU30’s pivot away from the US and toward China and Russia has taken a life of its own. The two most pro-American Cabinet secretaries—Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana—have started sounding completely anti-American in both their speeches and reasoning. Without giving the reason/s for it, they have announced the cancellation of the joint naval patrol with the US in the South China Sea and the termination of the joint military exercises under the Mutual Defense Treaty after 2016. However DU30 has given us a peak into the rationale for some of his pronouncements.
The NDF wants the Americans out
In an apparent slip during his speech to the National Banana Congress in Davao on Oct. 7, DU30 revealed that the NDF had insisted on the withdrawal of US troops and the cancellation of the joint military exercises as a pre-condition for the peace talks that recently got restarted in Oslo, Norway. It now appears that the CPP/NPA/NDF is now pulling the strings on how the government is to conduct its national security and foreign policy.
This is most disturbing. It is the exact opposite of what we read elsewhere. In Colombia, whose President Manuel Santos has just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve peace, the citizens rejected the government’s peace agreement with the rebels in a referendum, for negotiating with “a spent force,” among other reasons.
It now appears that DU30’s pivot to China and Russia, although it could be defended as a legitimate diplomatic initiative, is but a mere excuse and cover for what serious national security sources describe as DU30’s covert project with the CPP/NPA/ND to establish a resurgent Philippine communist state. They would like to establish what they had failed to do during the Cold War. According to these sources, the plan is to recreate a virulent communist state, patterned after the rogue state, North Korea.
Despite the high praise DU30 has recently heaped upon China, it is not the state model DU30 is reportedly looking at. For although the Communist Party continues officially to run things in China, there are only Chinese now, rather than communists in China, says one analyst. DU30’s character and governing style are more suited to the North Korean model, which is run by one man, Kim Jong-un, and has strong ties with the New People’s Army. The apparent plan is to promote DU30 as the new and bigger Kim Jong-un across northeast and southeast Asia.
These sources claim that aside from the strong commitment of support from North Korea, the communist parties in Germany, India, Peru (Sendero Luminoso), Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, among others, are all eager to see the emergence of a new communist state in what used to be an American satellite. According to these sources, this project recently got a boost from the communist parties in Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia when they met with communist members of the DU30 Cabinet who traveled with him to the Vientiane summit.
Ramos does not mention any of these developments in his article. But as a longtime Constabulary chief, Armed Forces Chief of Staff and Secretary of National Defense before he became President, it is unlikely that he would be the last one to know about these. One thing clear, though, is that FVR has never been known to make any innocent or premature political move. It took him a while to support the military uprising at EDSA in 1986, but when he finally did, the end of Marcos quickly followed. In the case of Estrada, he gave the signal for his removal when he saw the time had arrived.
As documented in my book, A Nation on Fire: The Unmaking of Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Remaking of Democracy in the Philippines (Icon Press, Manila, 2002), Ramos came to the National Security Council meeting in Malacañang on Nov. 6, 2000, a week before the House of Representatives impeached Estrada on Nov. 13, 2000 on charges of bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
He did not call attention to himself, but when asked to say something to the Council, he rolled out a formal statement accusing Estrada of various excesses and asking him to resign. Although the secrecy of NSC deliberations is deemed absolute, Ramos copied his statement for the press, and read it aloud to reporters after the meeting before leaving the Palace.
I am not saying anything similar could happen. But I do not predict anything. Andanar and company have spoken of plots to assassinate or oust DU30, and DU30 himself has challenged the CIA “to assassinate” him. Probably more careful about Mossad, he has formally apologized to the Jewish community for comparing the victims of the Holocaust to the victims of the drug killings, and the community has accepted his apology, including the apology of his ambassador-designate to the UN, Teddy Locsin Jr.
But “nothing could mollify the long suffering Jews who have done well for the Philippines,” said Ramos in his article. The insult to the Jews ran in the headlines on the day they were mourning the passing of the 93-year-old Shimon Peres, former President and last of Israel’s founding leaders.