Always say less than necessary. When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. If you can’t say anything nice, shut up! Win through your actions, never through arguments. Demonstrate, do not explicate.
— Former President Fidel Ramos advising President Rodrigo Duterte
Is President Rodrigo Duterte talking too much?
Yup, said the man he thanked for his rise to the presidency, former President Fidel Ramos. So, too, did Senators Richard Gordon, Panfilo Lacson, Leila de Lima, and Ralph Recto. Even his staunch ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, plus many in media, want Duterte to mince his words.
This writer disagrees. The President should keep up his colorful remarks, not because one is fond of technicolor language, but because Duterte’s discombobulating deliveries are delivering results that immensely benefit the country.
For sure, he must avoid legally dubious remarks, like the one cited by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio for seemingly affirming China’s historical claim over most of the South China Sea. But the headline-grabbing stuff, while shocking and unsettling, has shown promising results.
Just think: When was the last time the three most powerful nations in the world were all trying to be nice to the Philippines?
Beijing waved Duterte off the tarmac with $24 billion in Chinese aid and business — by far the largest haul in any state visit by a Filipino leader. Moscow is asking what it can do for the country. And Washington is waiting for Duterte to set the shape and form of future relations.
All that because of his “separation” line in Beijing, plus his four-letter fuming at US President Barack Obama last month. And Russia will be even nicer after Duterte’s hero quip over the weekend about President Vladimir Putin.
For sure, none of those niceties is stringless. No renminbi of assistance and investment would come if Duterte doesn’t walk his talk, but continues his predecessor’s fawning and provocative stooging to America. Washington and Moscow also want quids for whatever quos they proffer.
But the good news is those niceties are on the table, and we can take or leave them, as national interest dictates. Not bad for a foul-mouthed ex-mayor.
Yes, he has unsettled governments, diplomats, senators, newsmen and analysts, requiring much clarification the day after. But it’s not President Duterte’s job to make things simple and predictable. Rather, his duty is to get the best deals and outcomes for Filipinos. So far he’s doing that — with his audacious word plays.
Duterte’s deliberate deliveries deliver
For starters, his repeated threats to wipe out drug offenders since the election campaign, have energized police and spooked traffickers and users by the hundreds of thousands. His warning to let corrupt airport staff eat the bullets they plant in luggage quickly stopped the sleaze even before he took office.
In foreign relations and security, President Duterte’s seemingly unscripted, yet surely deliberate deliveries are also delivering the goods.
With his globally headlined “separation” from the United States, Duterte has made it highly unlikely that China would grab islands from the Philippines under his watch, or build up Scarborough Shoal into a military-capable facility like Fiery Cross Reef.
Why not? Because that would be a slap in Duterte’s face, turning his handshakes in Beijing into unwise, unpatriotic gestures before the whole world. And everyone is aware by now what he’s capable of if he’s insulted.
Plainly, China knows if it does anything unfriendly in the next six years, Duterte would not just unleash expletives; he may well give American troops not just five, but 10 bases to use under an even bigger Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, instead of scaling down the EDCA.
Nope, China won’t mess with the Philippines while Duterte is around. In the meantime, we should build up our defenses against future encroachments, especially the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) weaponry urged by security experts.
As for America, it is asking the Philippines to define the security arrangements we want. Last Thursday, our column “Change is coming to the US Alliance” < http://www.manilatimes.net/change-coming-us-alliance/292136/ > urged keeping the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, while expanding military links with Russia and China.
We should also drastically pull back the EDCA, reducing rotations of the Seventh Fleet, and giving access to just one base far away from population centers and croplands. And US assistance should focus on marine surveillance aircraft, anti-ship coastal defenses, and anti-aircraft systems, the A2/AD gear recommended by Washington think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Turning to Moscow, the elements of an expanded relationship is for a future column. For now, here’s an initial wishlist, tapping capabilities where Russia is a global leader: anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems, submarines, and the development of world-class athletes, ballet dancers, and classical musicians. Plus: countertrade swapping our agricultural and marine products for Russian oil gas, and coal. And much more tourism.
First the voters, then the world
Duterte watchers wonder if his media bombshells are deliberate strategy or dumb luck. Our Sept. 29 column “Duterte’s tough-talk foreign policy” said it’s all scripted to achieve clear political and media objectives, starting with his election victory.
Last year Duterte openly admitted he wasn’t sure about running — usually a no-no for serious candidates — and even missed the mid-October deadline for certificates of candidacy. So when he did throw his hat in the ring, everyone eagerly watched.
With little campaign money, he attacked the well-funded administration candidate Mar Roxas. So pro-Roxas press rebutted Duterte — giving him free publciity. His gutter talk and death threats against pushers also got headlines gratis.
Duterte even praised opponents, promising to adopt their proposed programs — gaining goodwill among their supporters. And he repeatedly declared he would sacrifice his life and the presidency to rid the nation of drugs, something no other candidate said.
Now, Duterte is employing his talk tactics on the world and again getting results