Never in the history of the Republic have we seen the spectacle of a former president openly criticizing the incumbent. Fidel Valdez Ramos (FVR) was president from 1992-1998. His term ended 18 years ago. After him came Erap Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.
He supported the candidacy of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in the last elections.
Yet he has been openly vocal in his criticisms, even boldly lamenting that the Philippines has become a sinking ship under President Duterte.
This, even as he was a lot more restrained, and was not as critical of Erap, Gloria and PNoy, if at all.
It therefore behooves one to ask the obvious question. What gives, FVR?
And the only answer I can provide is that his stance is probably borne by a condescending view, a patronizing attitude towards this probinsyano city mayor whom he may have thought he can order around. His initial support notwithstanding, FVR may have carried the bias of a traditional Luzon-based politician who thought that a Mindanaoan like Digong lacked national and international exposure, and possessed a parochial demeanor. FVR may have wrongly assumed that Digong, being a provincial politician, would be lacking in political skills required for the presidency.
However, there are things that are certain. FVR is rabidly pro-American. Digong is espousing an independent foreign policy that is weaned from America’s interests.
FVR represents the past and insists on keeping tradition, expecting Digong to behave by the book. He comes in as a patronizing and meddlesome conservative voice who privileges traditionalism, echoing his sister Leticia Shahani’s view that President Duterte needs to tone down his rhetoric when dealing with the world.
Digong, on the other hand, represents the present, as a radical departure from the usual and the traditional. He hopes to bring us to a future that promises to be different from the past. The President, his uncouth vulgarity notwithstanding, endeavors to liberate us from being in a perpetual battered wife state of mind vis-à-vis the United States, where despite being treated unfairly by it, that we keep being in love with it because we think it loves us back.
And nothing could be more apt to frame this than how FVR lectured the President on his combative stance vis-à-vis the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, labeling the President’s rebuff of the accord as akin to “shooting himself in the mouth.”
FVR wants us to accept an accord that on its surface appears benignly beneficial, yet upon deeper scrutiny is actually a form of climate imperialism. It is already well established that developed industrialized countries are mostly to blame for global warming. Their drive towards industrialization has emitted so much carbon into the atmosphere. Under the climate accord, these rich countries, in a modality called as carbon trading, can easily buy off developing countries like the Philippines to hold off our development by giving us funds to maintain our forest cover so that they can take credit for whatever carbon will be sequestered therefrom.
And these funds are not even designed as payments for the foregone development that our country will suffer, but are monies earmarked to finance actual reforestation and green development activities.
These funds are not even in the form of restitutive payments consistent with the principle of environmental justice, for the damages to life and property that the Philippines suffers from killer typhoons such as Yolanda spawned by elevated ocean temperatures caused by global warming. It is worth mentioning that the country that was at the forefront in resisting the move to make loss and damages due to climate change as basis for any liability and compensation was the USA, the country we love so much.
Worse, however, is when our climate negotiators outdid what is expected of us and committed to a 70 percent emission reduction goal even if we are not an emitter country.
In short, the stance of the President would force us to confront the west for a terrible injustice, and our complicity with such injustice, in the guise of green development that is disadvantageous to us. We are just treated as environmental laborers whose development trajectories will have to be subordinated to a global commitment that may not have been justified in relation to our carbon emissions. And this occurs even as the rich countries will claim the benefits derived from our environmental work and economic sacrifice and count these as their compliance with the accord.
In being critical of the climate accord, Digong Duterte may have provided developing countries a template to challenge this benign form of climate imperialism.
And for this, FVR criticized the President.
He also resigned as President Duterte’s special envoy to China.
The President should just ignore FVR and accept his resignation. After all, it appears that there is no more need for him to represent us to the Chinese in a special capacity anyway.