Why Duterte is right to disengage from America

Ricardo Saludo

Ricardo Saludo

They’re missing the global picture. Advocates of hosting US forces and joining them in sea patrols to challenge China should open their eyes to the increasingly heated geopolitical tinderbox. It’s really scary, and one has to wonder why the Philippines would want to be on the firing line of what may happen next. Just consider these recent news.

Russia has moved nuclear-capable M-Iskandar missiles near its border with Poland and Lithuania, two members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance led by the United States. Russia has also simulated pre-emptive nuclear attacks on hostile assets, and recently conducted a nationwide wartime evacuation drill with 40 million government people.

In Syria, Moscow backs embattled President Bashir Assad against rebels supported by the West. There, Russia has deployed its advanced S330 anti-aircraft rockets to protect Assad’s forces and Russian warplanes backing them. If US and allied jets again attack the Syrian military, as it did a few weeks ago, Russia would shoot them down.

Seasoned superpower watchers are agreed that relations between America and Russia are at their lowest since the Cold War ended after Moscow’s communist empire broke up a quarter-century ago. The leader whose glasnost reforms triggered the Soviet meltdown, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, just on Monday said that the world has reached a “dangerous point” amid US-Russia tensions.

Asia’s military drills heat up
What about Asia? Military exercises with the US have been around for years, even decades for some allies. But things are heating up. Soon after President Rodrigo Duterte said he would stop joint patrols with the US, Japan said it wanted to join the Americans, provoking a strong response from China.

The biannual US-hosted Rim of the Pacific maneuvers is the largest in the world. In July and August, RIMPAC involved 26 nations, the most ever, with more than 40 ships and submarines, 200 aircraft, and 25,000 naval personnel. There are also the yearly CARAT drills with Southeast Asian allies, and the Cobra Gold in Thailand in February, another of the world’s biggest exercises, with seven nations as main participants, and 21 others in limited roles.

Just weeks before the latest US-Philippines Balikatan exercise, Russia and China had their biggest naval workout, following the April agreement by their defense ministers to hold more joint drills. And the People’s Liberation Army Navy mounted a 300-vessel exercise in August, in preparation for a “cruel and short war” in the East China Sea, where Beijing claims the Senkaku/Daioyutai islands under Tokyo’s control.

And things could very well go beyond mere drills, depending on who wins the US presidential elections in November. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who leads many polls, is seen as likely to play tough with Russia and China.

The Washington Times, a conservative paper, headlined recently: “A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for war with Russia, China, others.” As Secretary of State, Clinton implemented the Obama administration’s Pivot To Asia policy to enhance alliances and build up military capabilities in the region. In that campaign, she pushed the South China Sea tensions to the front burner in regional conferences, to Beijing’s displeasure.

As for her Republican rival Donald Trump, his volatility and unconventional manner would also provoke international tensions if he should become President. He has said that he would take strong measures against imports from China, almost surely provoking a trade war, plus financial reprisals — Beijing is the largest holder of US Treasury bills outside America.

Trump has also said that he would ask US allies to pay for the protection of American forces, or he would pull them back. Whether he actually means that, the upshot is more uncertainty ahead if Trump waltzes into the White House.

Whoever becomes US Commander-in-Chief in January, the American military is about as hawkish as those of its top global rivals. Said US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently: “I want to be clear to those who wish to do us harm… the United States military – despite all of our challenges, despite our tempo, despite everything we have been doing – we will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before. Make no mistake about that.”

Plainly, the guys with the guns in Washington, Moscow and Beijing aren’t in any mood for tea and cupcakes.

Get the nation off the gunsights
With big-power tensions and forces surging all around, President Rodrigo Duterte is right to look beyond the domestic preoccupation with Chinese actions in the Spratlys. Judging from his swing away from America and toward good relations with China and Russia, he may well be positioning the Philippines out of the firing line, should there be hostilities between these nuclear-girded giants.

And fighting could ignite and quickly escalate even before any declaration of war, as the US Army-sponsored RAND report, “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable,” argued recently. It said that military capabilities on both sides are so advanced, they are capable of inflicting great damage on opposing forces. Hence, “both have an incentive to strike enemy forces before being struck by them” < http://www.manilatimes.net/the-war-report-president-duterte-must-read/280564/ >.

So while President Duterte is constitutionally bound to undertake measures defending Philippine territory and exclusive maritime zones, as Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio rightly stressed, the Chief Executive must make sure he does not violate a far greater imperative, as clearly stated in Article II, Section 4: “The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.”

If holding joint maritime patrols with the US, escalating rotations of nuclear-capable American vessels and aircraft, and giving them access to Philippine military bases consequently make the country a legitimate target in any American conflict with China or any other power, President Duterte is duty-bound to review those inherited arrangements, and devise other ways to protect our patrimony without putting Filipinos at grave risk.

That is his paramount constitutional, presidential and moral duty.


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  1. Philippines would have been a superpower if Magsaysay never perished in that plane crash. This article is so wrong in so many places. Philippines are weak, we are probably the weakest country is Asia in terms of military power. Look at Japan, look how America transformed Japan from a greedy country into a country that produces rather than takes. Look how much Philippines has fallen after WW2. Corruption and incompetence killed our country. Duterte should just ask America to build a base capable of deploying a nuclear warhead (Fort Drum would be a great place for that) and aim it to China, that will deter them and they will probably leave Kalayaan Islands. People should study WW2. Naivety will not save this country in the time of war, only preparation and military might.

  2. Jenny Delacruz on

    This is a very intelligent and very good assessment of the Philippines’ foreign relations with all other countries. I do hope that those Filipinos opposing the steps taken by PDU30 should read your analysis. Very well done.

  3. Ryan the Great on

    President Duterte simply laid his diversionary tactics to prevent the Philippines from being caught in the crossfire between the only 3 Military Superpowers in the world which is The USA versus China & Russia. The tale of the tape with their respective allies will be:


    Now, isn’t it nice to be a spectator only?

  4. Duterte is unstable. America will watch as he falls on his own, but we take no pleasure in the millions of Filipinos who will, and are, suffering under his madness. If you want to talk after his disastrous presidency, call us and maybe we can talk. But not guarantees; trust takes a long time to return. Take care, and Go To Hell Duterte. You need to be drug tested.

  5. I grew u during the 70’s where Americanizing families was the trend. Though I am thankful that I was brought up free from Philippine-isms (superstitions, crab mentality, victim syndrome, caste-system), I would like to see Filipinos coming into our own identity, where the bad influences of the early occupiers be purged from our collective systems.

    It’s time for Filipino 3.0! Calibrate our collective thinking getting the best traits from our heritage and do away with the old. Honor, pride, bravery, self-reliance – these are what our Filipino heroes and heroines made of.

    p.s. I know this is off-topic but I would like to elaborate Philippine-isms:

    Superstitions – too many to mention that are passed down from generation to generation without any scientific backing. Leads to infant mortality, ignorance of parents and child abuse (to some extent).

    Crab Mentality – People who will question order even if it’s for their own good because they are not of the same color.

    -Officials and citizens with good ideas are stopped from acting on it. Too many good laws taking too long to pass in consideration to the oligarchs who will be affected by it.

    Victim syndrome – Everyone has been a victim at one time of another. The difference is that most Filipinos would like to stay victims because it’s easier to get sympathy and live off someone else’s efforts than your own. May I say that the taxes I pay are used by people who do not pay their taxes but can afford the latest smart phone, have jewelry and bet in daily in illegal numbers game.

    -Using gender or situation to justify being a victim (Re: CHR defending drug personalities and not the drug addicts families who are the real victims- I talk from experience)

    Caste System- There is a wide gap between the rich and the poor when it comes to experiences in life. Never can someone born rich EVER know how it is to be poor. They think that their logic and opinions can put food on the table- without really looking at the situation.

  6. USA is a pseudo POWER in real sense this pretending SAM is indebted to foreign countries who are in possession of their SOVEREIGN FUNDS. Let this SAM fire a small firecracker towards the SANGLAYS and let the whole world reckon the final outcome. Then and there the SANGLAYS will surrender immediately the TRILLIONS of SAM Sovereign Bonds end let the whole world see where this SAM will get the money to redeem ( I think the correct phrase for this is PAYOUT OUTRIGHT AT A DISCOUNT OR FACE VALUE ). SAM will beg from IMF, WB or maybe from Russia for loans to pay the SAM Bonds of the SANGLAYS. SAM the POWERFUL is only on paper that is the main reason why SAM is active on developing war grade weaponries…for use as shield and reminder to holders of SAM Gov’t Bonds…SAM will not honor the BONDs if not presented on maturities or else….this is the POWERFUL SAM in a truth.

  7. I think that President Duterte is correct about a lot of things. Maybe his tact is what is controversial. In this case, I believe he had the USA partnership on top of his priority. He wanted a closer tie. In fact he asked the US what they were planning, and if America was for him in the next few years. This was made prior to his formal oath as President of the Philippine Republic.

    The real problem is he was told not to start anything that can agitate Chinese position. This is a silly reaction considering that some US military on the know realize that all territory that was occupied by Japan in World War 2, has come under US protection at the point of signing the Japanese unconditional
    surrender. It was neglect by US Military that China has been allowed to build structures in SCS. Thus, destabilization in this case occured because of poor US positioning rather than Chinese agression.

    I think that from hindsight, President Duterte is planning ahead. He is not leaving things to chance. He appears to create his short-, mid- and long-term strategies and move in an organized, well-thought out manner. The problem is instead of acknowledging the serious effort, he was dismissed; Thus, adding reasons for his anger and fits directed against Obama. Also, President Duterte is now forced to accommodate a Plan B that will allow China more stakes in his government programs. He is doing this to foster peace and stability, allowing progress and development for his constituents.

  8. I don’t agree to Mr. Saludo. Philippine has been under attack by China even before the decision made by UNCLOS over the West Philippine Sea. The problem over the West Philippine Sea has been there for several decades already, and China has never ever changed their stand that those disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea are inherent to China. How can those territories in the West Philippine Sea become inherent to China? For those desputed territories in the West Philippine Sea to be inherent to China implies and requires that China or Chinese is the maker of the universe. The fact is China is also a piece of land on earth created by someone before Chinese came to being. Territory, desputed or not, its status in relation to its possesor are changeable, arbitrary, but definable. China’s definition of its territory in the South China is overly and expansively that it already takes up the territories of other countries well definely by the country itself and international Law. Should we give up to China our territories in the West Philippine Sea provided and well defined by the international Law because of fear? Should we not stand for what is right? I don’t look down the initiative of the present administration to a bilateral dialogue with China, but what I don’t like is this: President Du30 has been already submissive to China’s wants and desires even before his plan for the bilateral dialogue begins. I understand that Philippines is a small and military weak country, and I know that we are not looking for more wars, nor aspiring for one either, but there shall have other ways to stop China’s sweeping calim in the West Philippine Sea if President DU30 will only be humble to acknowledge the support of United States and Japan, Austrilia and European Union, Asian countries and other countries of good will. What President DU30 only needs is to change his own none sense pride and stop his none sense look of proud man.

  9. Ignacio Balbutin on

    hahaha, useless post, sayang ang research mo, ano ba gusto mong ipalabas, If Quezon give a reward to Mcarthur what’s wrong with it?

  10. matino na pinoy on

    The comments made by Bert O Romero said it all, and the word oxymoronic should read as stupidity. Oftentimes, the President’s brain is not engaged when he opens his mouth, and that is when he steps on his little dick and gets in trouble. President Duterte’s humility is no longer proportion with his greatness. In other words, he needs to tone down his arrogance. hinay hinay ka lang muna, idol.

  11. Cancelling any military connections with the US is not a big issue for America. Please do not forget that US have other military bases spread across Asia other than the Philippines. One big military base in Okinawa, Guam, Diego Garcia, South Korea and others. The military alliances with Israel, India and NATO countries is big factor if war with China will happen and the Philippines will just watch in awe. That is the reason why China is reluctant to directly confront America as surely China will be at the losing end and will restart anew as before.

  12. Bert O. Romero on

    1.) PDU30’s pivot to China and Russia is oxymoronic as it is also ill-timed. With the collapse of the USSR in 1991and the continuing decline of China’s economy since 2014, why should the Philippines abandon the US when it is the only remaining global power in terms of military, economy, diplomacy, political-security, and other measurements of national power? For decades and until now, the annual defense budget of the US estimated at 750billion US dollar is higher than the combined defense budgets of China, Russia, and three other self- proclaimed regional powers . This is in addition to the American superiority in technological innovation which is admitted by these other nations. Economically, the US has recovered from the 2008 Great Recession with its 4.5 percent unemployment rate from the former high of 10 percent. While its annual growth rate of one percent is much lower than China’s declining 6 percent from its previous high of double digit growth rate, still American economy is on the upswing route . This explains the recurring talks to raise the Fed’s interest rate. Why abandon an economy which is on the upswing to be with an economy that is on the decline?
    2.) The US is the country’s primary source of BPO – one of two main reasons for the Philippines’ admirable growth rate these past 55 quarters, the other being remittances by our OFWs – while China and Russia aspire to be considered serious hosts to BPO companies thereby competing with the Philippines. How oxymoronic can one get !!!
    3.) Protection of human rights, observance of the rule of law, and promotion of democracy and freedom are core values of American foreign policy which every US president , whether he /she is a Democrat or Republican, is duty-bound to preserve and propagate. Only those foreign leaders who are historically handicapped and suffer from self-centered narrow mindedness will fall prey to misinterpreting American emphasis and prioritization to these core values.

    • Miss Isidro is right. Duterte has a mental problem. He thinks he is a god and everybody are all his servants including US, EU UN. He thinks we are a nation that is rich and everybody wants to do business with us. All these are false ideas. We are poor, very poor. We rely on OFW remittances to feed 101 million starving Pilipinos and most Pilipinos are uneducated and a dirty scums of the earth. Look at the drug problem, poverty problem. Is that what you call deserving and intelligent people ?

    • You missed the point of the author.

      Whoever is the more powerful, Russia – China or America, a war will have casualties. And we have to move out of the firing zone.

      So far, we have not sided with China or Russia, we are neutral. When the war breaks out, let them send their missiles to each other’s country – not here.

    • The history you know was written by the victors. Yeah, Manifest Destiny was about protection of human rights. Look who’s historically handicapped. You sound like Andrew Jackson.

    • SIR.. oxymoronic? can you please use this word to an appropriate connotation & dont just write a comment without kowing about what you had read & understand in this column by Mr Ricardo Saludo.

      Hope you are not a kind of small boy just take a gift from someone. America is not stupid & they are so descreet from all of their moves.

    • Read more the economic situation in US, my friend. Check economic collapse in Youtube. Collapse is soon coming and we are also be affected.

  13. We Pilipinos are lost really. Who are we going to side US or China or Russia? What is the independent foreign policy ? Can somebody explain to me what this is all about ? The way I look at this is we are now pushing US and welcoming China. Is that an independent foreign policy ? No wander we still a third world country. All os us including me are stupid , so so stupid. Why stupid, because I decided to reside in this drug infested nation with a, lunatic president.

    • We were a third world country. We are still a third world country. And so far, we are third world country who wants to stay away from warring country’s line of fire.

      If this is the work of a lunatic president, then he better not come to his senses.

    • Yes, you are quite right with your statement about pushing US and welcoming China, but its more than just that which leads the Phl to become more progressive. To me, the independent foreign policies that you speak of, in relation to this article, tackles on the three military agreements between the Phl and the US, of which both leaders are capable of opting out. Another aspect of your argument is in relation with China and its economic and diplomatic ties that Phl is trying to strengthen.
      You see, the dynamic relationship of these three countries goes beyond that of pushing US and welcoming China. All countries inevitably rely on each other for economic stability, but may not agree on some terms such as territorial claims and military influences.

  14. You read the President’s mind, Sir! PRRD once said that the Philippines got its fingers into WWII because the Americans were here in the country. Had they been not here in the Philippines during those times, most probably, the Pinoy did not taste second world war.

    • Ignacio Balbutin on

      baloney, the Japanese empire is bent on taking the whole of Asia so whether the americans were here or not, they will still attack us. check your history ok

    • Hindi ako makapaniwala sa assumption na ito. Grabehan. Di tayo makakatikim ng gyera nung second world war kung walang Amerikano dito? Napaka reckless naman ng theory na ito. We are a country close to Guam and Hawaii (USofA). So kung sino man kaaway ng US, siguradong maglalaway sa pwesto natin sa mundo, bukod pa sa obvious na napakaraming yamang mineral na pwedeng manakaw ng kung sino man ang sasakop sa atin. Minsan, hindi na yata tayo nag iisip ng tama para lang maipag tanggol ang polisiya na ginagawa ng mga hinahangaan nating pinuno. Walang problema sa pag hanga, ang kaso, wag naman nating kalimutang mag isip, otherwise para lang tayo sunud sunuran nyan, mas delikado po yata ang ganun.

  15. With American presence and influence in Phils. I am sure China has one big MISSILE pointing toward us just in case trouble irrupts between US/China.

    I agree, Mr. Duterte needs to fix this problem now or never, because the next Pres. whoever it may be will have no ,political will and courageous of Duterte.

    It is so ashamed that our country are like a receiver of hands down aid we never learned how to stand on our own always like a baby learning how to walk, never learned to walk our own. Ever since I came to N. America never did I asked for handouts always working to fed my family. I hope the Pres. can break this attitude, GOD BLESS YOU MR. DUTERTE. I hope you succeed. Some whites are racist anyway….

    • Ignacio Balbutin on

      false pride, nobody is an island, everybody needs everybody and for the Philippines it is good to be friends with everybody. We need all kinds of investors for our economy to be strong

  16. It ain’t the truth? Remember the ww2. After the war the US Congress rescinded the law they passes during the war. Let’s not be a sucker again.

  17. the philippines should stay nuetral between the super power military nations does saving them from being drag to any military confrontation.. they have not yet recovered fully from the devastation od ww2 that ruinedt he country and a very token reparation from japan.

    • Filipino WW2 soldiers were promised compensation by US. equal to their US counterparts but what they got was the recission act of 1946 and 200 million dollars given to Philippine govt as compensation ( very few veterans got any money from that 200million dollars) and in 2009 a lump sum of 15000 dollars for those residing in US and 9000 for those in RP provided they are still alive!

  18. Unfortunate Pinoys who are advocating the continuation and even strengthening of its relations with America will be the first ones to desert the country if war breaks out and will head for the relative safety of the continental USA.

    • Toni with due respect please peruse this article if it makes any sense about your comment on the ones who will head for safety of the continental USA.

      MacArthur Given $500,000

      By Jim Warren and KnightRidder; Copyright (c) 1980 Lexington Herald January 29, 1980

      It is island of Luzon in the Philippines, January 1942. Another Philippine island, Corregidor, trembles under Japanese bombs as American and Filipino defenders wait for help that will not come.
      The U.S. War Department wants Philippines President Manuel Quezon evacuated from Corregidor to avoid capture, but Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, says it’s too hazardous to attempt.
      A month later, Quezon hands, the general $500,000 from the Philippine treasury. MacArthur accepting the money in violation of Army regulations, changes his mind. Quezon and his family leave Corregidor by U.S. submarine.
      The story is fact, and it has been known and debated among MacArthur historians for the past year, although it has not been widely known outside academic circles.
      The exact meaning of the MacArthur-Quezon transaction is uncertain. However, its discovery in war records poses new questions about one of America’s war heroes.
      The issues were raised in an account by historian Carol M. Petillo in last February’s edition of the Pacific Historical Review, based on records she uncovered during research for her doctoral dissertation.
      The Pacific Historical Review, published by the University of California Press, is the official publication of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association.
      [prof. Norris Hundley, editior of the historical review, says that before articles are published, they are sent to other scholars in the field who check for accuracy.]
      The documents Petillo found in the National Archives showed that on Jan. 3, 1942, Quezon directed by executive order that $640,000 from the Philippine treasury be conveyed to the personal bank accounts of MacArthur and three members of his staff “in recognition of outstanding service to the Commonwealth of the Philippines.”
      Quezon said that the “recompense and reward” was for “distinguished service” from Nov. 15, 1935, to Dec. 30, 1941.
      The transactions, made by radio grams from Corregidor to the Chase National Bank of the City of New York, placed $500,000 in MacArthur’s account according to the records. Major Gen. Richard K. Sutherland, MacArthur’s chief of staff, received $75,000; Brig. Gen. Richard J. Marshall Jr., the deputy chief of staff, received $45,000 and Lt. Col. Sidney L. Huff, MacArthur’s personal aide, recieved $20,000.
      Petillo wrote that records indicate that President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Secretary of the interior Harold Ickes knew about the transaction but apparently did not interfere with it.
      Now on the faculty of the history department at Boston College, Petillo said it would be “simplistic” to interpret the money as a “bribe” by Quezon to get MacArthur to evacuate him, but that MacArthur’s acceptance of the money appears “morally questionable.”
      Several historians familiar with the war period and MacArthur, who died in 1964 and whose 100th birthday anniversary was Saturday, said in interviews that they are convinced that Petillo’s research is accurate. But some cautioned that her conclusions about the Quezon gift are nebulous and cannot be substantiated.
      William Manchester, author of the popular biography of MacArthur, “American Caesar” said he was “skeptical” of her findings, although he admitted he had not read her account of the story.
      During 52 years of often brilliant, sometimes controversial military service, MacArthur became a national hero. His firing by President Truman in 1952 for disobeying orders in the Korean War brought a storm of protest in America.
      Evidence of the Quezon gift did not surface until Petillo’s research in 1977-78. She said she picked up “hints” of the transaction, but did not understand their meaning until she found Quezon’s “Executive Order No.1” among Sutherland’s in the National Archives.
      “It was not unusual, given the Spanish tradition in the Philippines of paying for whatever you got,” she said. “So it was not unusual, from Quezon’s perspective, and he would probably have wanted to bring pressure to bear wherever possible on Corregidor.”
      According to Petillo’s research, orders for the transfers of funds were not transmitted to the War Department until Feb. 15, 1942. The War Department assured the Chase bank that the transfers should be made, and Roosevelt, Stimson and Ickes were informed, according to Petillo. Word was sent to Corregidor about Feb. 19 that the transfers had been completed, she said.
      “It is significant that after several statements arguing that Quezon could not safely be evacuated, MacArthur, one day after the transfer of funds was ordered, reversed his position and decided that president’s evacuation indeed could be achieved,” Petillo wrote. “On Feb. 20, just after he received verification of the transfer, this decision was carried out and Quezon headed south toward the unoccupied islands.”
      Records show that on Feb. 19, Quezon apparently gave MacArthur 1,280,000 Phlippine pesos to cover the payments in the case the orders radioed to the bank were not carried out.
      On Feb. 25, after the transfers were completed, MacArthur returned the pesos to Lt. Col. Manuel Roxas, who was in charge of the Philippine treasury.
      Roxas remained in the Philippines and during the Japanese occupation collaborated with the enemy. When the Philippines were recaptured, MacArthur arrested several other collaborators, but allowed Roxas to remain free, Petillo notes.
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      “Perhaps Roxas’ signature on the sheet attached to Executive Orders No. 1 was a reminder of the recipients of the $64,000 of the confidential exchange which Roxas had witnessed on Corregidor,” Petillo wrote.
      MacArthur went to the Philippines in 1935 as military adviser, remaining on active duty with the Army. But in 1937, he retired from the Army, rather than be reassigned in the United States. With World War II approaching, MacArthur and his staff were transferred back into the Army in July 1941.
      MacArthur and the three officers thus, were again subject to regular Army rules that apparently would have prohibited them from accepting the gift, according to Petillo.
      Dr. Forrest Pogue, biographer of Gen. George C. Marshall, said he doesn’t question that the transaction occured.
      “There has always been some talk that MacArthur got a very good thing out of that,” he said. “She [Petillo] is the first to really get into it. I don’t think there was anything illegal about it, nothing corrupt. And by modern standards of pay it was not all that much.”