In his let-bygones-be-bygones tour, why did Obama skip the Philippines?



First read
In “The Interpreter” op-ed column in the New York Times, Max Fisher reported that President Obama, during his final year in office, spent time in acknowledging United States’ misdeeds in various countries that he has visited.

So far this year, Obama has visited Cuba, Argentina, Vietnam and Japan, each time discussing historical trouble spots and decades-old but still sensitive events, framed in the language of reconciliation and expiation.

1.) In March, Obama visited Cuba and President Raúl Castro. He told a Cuban audience that the United States had previously tried to “exert control over Cuba” and treated it as “something to exploit.” By tacitly rejecting past American behavior, Obama signaled that he would not repeat it. By opening himself up to criticism at home, he showed his willingness to make sacrifices for improved relations.

2.) Also in March, Obama visited Argentina. While there, he talked of a 1976 military coup that had received tacit American approval. He said: “The United States, when it reflects on what happened here, has to examine its own policies, as well, and its own past.

“Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for.”

3.) In May in Hiroshima, Obama cited the suffering caused by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Max Fisher wrote, “This signaled not just Obama’s concerns about nuclear weapons and his understanding of Japan’s needs, and US readiness to commit resources to meet them. This could help convince Tokyo that it can count on American support when it comes to, say, naval confrontations with China.

4.) This September, on the occasion of the Asean and East Asia summits in Laos, the misdeed singled out for reconciliation was the C.I.A.-led bombing and paramilitary campaign that devastated Laos during the Vietnam War. President Obama stopped short of offering an apology in Laos, but his words were clear and appropriately contrite, in “acknowledging the suffering and sacrifices on all sides of that conflict.”

Why exclude the Philippines?
In this litany of grievance and regret, why did President Obama leave out the Philippines, which is surely as deserving of conciliation as all these countries, if not more so?

Surely, it cannot be because President Obama has a crystal ball like that of a fortuneteller who can accurately predict that President Rodrigo Duterte would fly off the handle and bury him in profanities in the two summits in Vientiane.

More likely, it was a deliberate decision to exclude the Philippines from consideration, having already gotten our government’s assent to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and the disguised return of US military presence in the country – and even the endorsement of our integrity-challenged Supreme Court.

These considerations notwithstanding, it is totally baffling that in Obama’s selection of countries with whom to talk of reconciliation and expiation, he forgot the Philippines and the Filipinos.

Because it was here in our archipelago, and in 1898, where and when the United States of America embraced its destiny to become a global and imperial power – at the expense of our people and our newly inaugurated republic.

Given this glaring omission, either our foreign affairs department or our embassy in Washington was totally clueless about what was afoot in the Obama administration, or Obama wanted to send a message to President Duterte to mind his mouth and his human rights report card.

A turning point in history
By any measure in geopolitics and history, the US decision to invade, conquer and annex the Philippines in 1898 was epochal – a turning point, a watershed in history

In his book, 1898, The Birth of the American Century (vintage, 1998), the historian David Traxel wrote, “The United States had irrevocably entered the world in 1898, and although a strong isolationist movement would intermittently rise throughout the century, there could be no turning back to the country‘s earlier policy of avoiding foreign entanglements.”

That is the American viewpoint, and the verdict is shared by most historians.

There was another view of events—the Filipino’s viewpoint. To one Filipino historian and political scientist, Dr. Floro C. Quibuyen, in his book, A Nation Aborted (Ateneo University Press, 2008), American conquest in 1898 aborted the Philippine republic, which was the fitting climax of the Philippine revolution of 1896.

Dr. Quibuyen wrote: “American conquest deformed, with the wholehearted cooperation of the local elite, the blossoming nationalist hegemony, thereby co-opting the anti-Spanish, anti-colonial movement, and transforming it into a pro- American nationalism.

“On the cultural terrain, this was accomplished by the appropriation of Rizal by the American colonial regime.

“The nation – as civil society that Rizal had envisioned – did not materialize. What emerged, instead, was the monstrosity of nation-statism, and a people completely cut off from the spirit of 1896.”

Moving beyond the past
In a briefing with reporters, Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said, “A hallmark of President Obama’s tenure has been to face and acknowledge our history.”

That history has included “points of departure” from the United States’ “overwhelmingly positive” role in the world, Ms. Rice said. “Where that’s the case, we should acknowledge it.”

This practice, she added, “serves our interests and our relationships in our ability to move beyond the past in some of these places.”

Mr. Obama hints that the United States has caused harm abroad and perhaps even made mistakes. He squares American rhetoric with reality as the world perceives it. Supporters see this as sending a message to foreign states that they can trust Washington to hear their concerns and even compromise, encouraging allies and adversaries alike to invest political capital in the relationship.

Despite talk of rock-hard closeness, the US and the Philippines have not moved beyond the past in their own relationship. This is why President Duterte’s unexpected disclosure of a massacre in Mindanao perpetrated by American troops during the Philippine-American War was so shocking and unsettling.

Had President Obama not skipped the Philippines in his bygones tour, this unfortunate row might have been avoided. But no one had the wit to remind him of the Philippine-American War.


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  1. Obama is the weakest president America ever had. The invasion of the Phil sea by China intensive under his administration. 70% of the Americans, including me, do not trust her. It doesn’t matter if he skip the Philippines.

    I asked Donald J. Trump to include in the incoming presidential debate to include in the agenda the invasion of the Philippine sea and what he can do about it if Donald became the president. For sure Hilary can not be trusted on this matter. Her focus is on her questionable foundation.

  2. We are witnessing the PH pivot from the US to China. This is the way to peacefully resolve the territory dispute with China and protect the PH at the bargaining table. We can remove the US threat China sees in the PH while the PH gains the sovereign right over its territories.

  3. For arms procurement purposes, Taiwan, South Korea, and maybe Japan (if you forgave them for WWII atrocities they committed in RP) have aircrafts and naval ships that are enough for the defence demands of the Republic of the Philippines.

    The USA have tons and tons of surplus fighter planes and naval ships but they are not going to give the Republic of the Philippines a well armed air force and navy force. USA calls Philippines its ally. Here are the links to the USA plane boneyards and ships graveyards. . . . .… . . . . . .

    If RP was not attacked after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese could have attacked mainland USA during WWII. That was the doctrine of “extra territorial or foreward base defence” played by RP for the USA, which sacrificed millions of Filipinos.

    Canadian Circle for Asian Issues

  4. General Vicente Lukban, allegedly the Filipino commander who masterminded the Balangiga massacre in Samar province, a surprise Filipino attack that killed almost fifty American soldiers. Media reports stated that many of the bodies were mutilated.

    The attack itself triggered American reprisals in Samar, ordered by General Jacob Hurd Smith, who reportedly ordered his men to kill everyone over ten years old. To his credit, Major Littleton Waller countermanded it to his own men.

    Smith was court-martialed for this order and found guilty in 1902, which ended his career in the U.S. Army

  5. Hey, the Filipinos are free to switch sides and hook up with China, Russia and North Korea. Good luck with that.

  6. I know that this comment will not be publish because it is too late. Just reading the comments, it is my opinion that we as Pilipinos are lost. Tell me what is right and wrong. We do not know anymore. Is is right to be disrespectful ? Obama did not say anything that will make people mad. Why are we treating him as a bad person ?

    • because he represents the country called US of A, not his person….the country that interfers others, without being invited, and wrecked havocs to those countries, hence, his belated apologies…you are right, and i won’t be surpised if you are one of those totally lost…

  7. @Ben OConner
    Those people whether Black or White is the same … THEY ARE AMERICANS…. Don’t justify their bad deeds because of their race color and the intentions of your country during that time is to be an Imperial Power and a colonialist. When our President stands up against your atrocities before, you and your minions will and never accept the truth. That is why put this in your small sleek brain that majority of people now around the world HATES Americans. Whether you like it or not IT IS THE REAL TRUTH.

  8. vagoneto rieles on

    Through the years, since 1898, the Philippnes has been content to wait at America’s table; and, to be happy with the scraps off of it. It is no surprise , therefore, that President Obama would take the Filipino for granted while he bows and genuflects before an Arab King and shuffles as he approaches a Japanese Emperor. There is an apt and applicable Spanish proverb…” El que sufre mucho, con solo un poco se consuela”. (roughly, “He who suffers a lot will be happy with just a pittance”.) President Duterte was just late in coming.

  9. “Because it was here in our archipelago, and in 1898, where and when the United States of America embraced its destiny to become a global and imperial power – at the expense of our people and our newly inaugurated republic.”

    Newly inaugurated republic? There was none. Or at least, no new Philippine State came out of it. Aguinaldo’s independence proclamation was like Misuari’s independence a few a years ago in Zamboanga. In both cases, the declarations were never recognized by any State. Hence, Spain, weak as she was at that time, technically remained the sovereign ruler in PH.

  10. The Great Defiant on

    what America has done to us so far?
    even Putin was badmouth by arrogant skinny black man Obama.
    why cling on America who gives us nothing but junks?
    wake up man…wake up!!!!

    • yup, that “special relationship/friendship” ph has with usa for so long reduce us to become beggar without much choice. time to let loose is long overdue…

  11. All of us must be humble and courteous to everybody. President Duterte forgot to emulate these virtues. He showed that education did not change his bad manners. That is the reason he did not excel in school because of his bad mentality. Duterte is our president but we Pilipinos must must follow this guy. We Pilipinos are very respectful. We might lack money but we do not forget our humble culture.

  12. Mr. Makabenta, you have to consider that Mr Obama is black. Here in the states the black people emulates that they are victims of the past and present and do not have any trace of bigotry or atrocity to other race. So they say…. what about the Buffalo soldiers that went to the Philippines and massacred thousand of Filipinos, they’re black and they came on their own will to fight. Some did have the conscience to leave and fight against their own people (Americans), but many stayed and did what they had to do, kill the natives.
    So with this in mind Obama has noway of apologizing, since in his mind they did not do this or they were just told by their superiors and they did not intend to massacre anybody…and that’s a lot of BS! He could not wizzle out of their history (meaning the Black people).

  13. I bet President Obama will never forget when Duterte badmouth him before the start of the ASEAN summit. I bet during the term of Duterte our relation with America will deteriorate to the fullest unless Digong will be impeach. We have problem on the personality of Duterte that even his drumbeaters are having a nightmares every time he open his mouth in public.

    • Mr. Ramos where in the world is your loyalty to your country? Are you a Filipino or not. Instead of depending your country you are showing the world that you still have this colonial mentality. Aren’t you proud your president has the guts to show Obama the mistakes that Americans did during the war? Read your history.

    • And why will you want to impeach him, just because he badmouthed your Obama – who deserves it in the first place – for meddling into our affairs? With people like you, the Americans does not need this so-called reconciliation mentioned by this writer, what for?. Simple, why don’t you become a US citizen, anyway you are a certified Amboy?

    • so you are defending the obama. have you ever thought of what du30 exploded in obama’s face?? or have you forgotten the thousands of people killed daily by drones in syria, afghanistan, middle east?? i am not saying that du30 is correct in badmouthing anybody but obama and the u.s. or even the western nations in the e.u. has, i think, no moral right to teach du30 about human rights. i agree with you that obama will not forget the shaming he suffered. THAT IS WHY THEIR AMBASSADOR, who is supposed to be out of this country by now, goldberg is still here. if you recall, there are many articles that came out that this fellow had a hand in many destabilization efforts in countries he was assigned to. in fact he was declared persona non grata in one of the south american nations. just saying