Like a play looking for a plot, President Duterte’s “diplomatic war” with the United States is one in search of a valid reason and a just cause. We are dumbfounded by its sheer opacity, and the prospect that we shall ever see the real reason and cause for it seems rather remote. It is beginning to look like like a border war between two states that have no common border to begin with.
Philippine relations with China, on the other hand, appear to be warming up after six years of lying inside the freezer during the B.S. Aquino 3rd’s watch. DU30 will be visiting China in the next few days, accompanied by a large business delegation, to explore trade, investment and other opportunities. This portends seismic effects upon the politics of Asia Pacific. Amid statements that the country can stand without foreign aid, one Cabinet secretary says the China trip will bring in some $3 billion in “funding aid.”
Cold water on PH-US relations
An article in The Diplomat describes DU30’s visit as a “splash of cold water” on Philippine-US relations. This is an interesting turn in a century of Philippine-Chinese and Philippine-American relations. In the US debates on the merits of acquiring the Philippines after the Spanish-American war, the US minister to China Charles Denby saw the Philippines as America’s “gateway” to the vast Chinese market. In his article, “Shall we keep the Philippines?” (Sept. 1898), Denby wrote:
“I recognize the existence of a national sentiment against the acquisition of foreign territory; but…we have to compete with the commercial nations of the word in far-distant markets. Commerce, not politics, is king…There is a boundless future which will make the Pacific more important to us than the Atlantic…The possession (of the Philippines) gives us standing and influence. It gives us also valuable trade both in exports and imports… We are taking our proper rank among the nations of the world.”
The prophecy has been fulfilled. The Pacific has become more important to the world than the Atlantic. But DU30 is about to turn Denby’s statement on its head: instead of the Philippines acting as the US gateway to China, the US is about to become the Philippines’ gateway to the vast Chinese market. It is not clear what finished products DU30 has to sell to China, which has become the manufacturing center of the world. But clearly the Philippines stands to become a source of raw materials for China’s finished products.
Is this but a passing episode in the history of Philippine-US relations? Or will it mark the decline of those relations, with all their possible effects on the power relations in the Asia Pacific?
The child of a hundred years
Our “special relations” with the US now span over a hundred years. The relationship is far from perfect; but it has stood the test of time, despite its share of grievances and discontents. Our economic ties are rivaled only by our economic ties with Japan; our security and military ties are as old as America’s primacy in the Pacific; and our political ties have been watered by blood in war and cemented by shared advocacies in various forums around the world.
But in deciding to build stronger ties with China and Russia, DU30 has chosen to downgrade the Philippines’ historic ties with the US, even though the US offers no obstacle or objection to his move toward Beijing and Moscow, and neither of them wants it as the price of closer ties with them. It looks like DU30 wants to use his foreign policy to solve a domestic problem. A global storm is raging from the summary killings of drug suspects, and from DU30’s bellicose and fetid response to every question raised about it.
To salve DU30’s wounded pride, the usual fraudsters have come up with “surveys” claiming his continued “popularity among the masses,” whatever the truth is. Yet, despite his allegedly high popularity rating, nothing remotely resembling the shadow of a consensus has emerged in support of his announced tilt away from the US.
Filipinos are by far the most pro-American foreign nationals in the world, according to a study by Pew Research Center, a non-partisan think tank in the US. Many of them are also pro-DU30, so they are not marching against his announced pivot. But why are they not lining up behind it, either? Obviously because they have not heard the real reason for his shift. They feel lost.
It is China that has reclaimed and fortified the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China/West Philippine Sea. The US is but an interested bystander who wants to see the maritime dispute settled through peaceful means under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), while China wants it resolved as a purely bilateral issue between herself and the Philippines. Many agree that DU30 should explore wider areas of confrontation with China for as long as we are unable to discuss our territorial dispute. But nobody understands why DU30 has to punish the US for it.
What’s the real beef?
What precisely is DU30’s grievance against the US? He has not revealed it. Is the US unduly discriminating against Filipinos or their agricultural products? Has the US threatened to declare the Philippines a rogue or pariah state? Is the US stockpiling nuclear weapons in the Philippines in violation of our Constitution and our military agreement? Any one of these acts, or any similar acts might be sufficient reason for DU30 to act against the US. But nothing as serious as any of these has occurred. Our political, economic or military positions are not on collision course and have not clashed.
The only recorded incident involves DU30 calling the US ambassador a “gay sonofabitch,” and the US President a “son of a whore” after he was asked in a news conference whether he and Obama would be discussing the local drug killings at the Asean summit in Vientiane, Laos. He then dusted off a 100-year-old print depicting the battle of Bud Dajo on March 7, 1906 to show that the US colonial forces had “massacred” 600 Filipino Muslims, four years after the Philippine-American war had ended, for which no one had been prosecuted.
But DU30 has not declared that this US “violation of human rights” 110 years ago and Obama’s wanting to poke his nose into the present drug killings were the reasons for his decision to tilt away from Washington. They certainly cannot be. But absent an official explanation, the announced decision to tilt away from the US would appear to be purely the product of personal pique. This would be absurd. DU30 could rise above it and he should.
Confronting the world
While defending his human rights record, which is now threatened by a statement from a functionary of the International Criminal Court, DU30 could, and should engage the leaders of the world—the US, the European Union and the United Nations—on the “civilizational issues” related to the future of man, society and the world.
Without necessarily calling on his natural gift for profanity and invectives, he could use a portion (not all) of his pugnacity to challenge those who have turned political correctness into a dogma in order to glorify the beast in man and cast aside what is noble and sacred in his nature. This would compel him to revisit his views and beliefs about God and man, which he may not find so easy to do at all.
But as the elected leader of a predominantly Catholic and Christian nation—probably the last such nation in the world—he should be prepared to take the risk of finding out that the Catholic Pope Francis, whom he has had the privilege of insulting at least once, is absolutely right when he says, “There is a World War to destroy the Family,” (to which I will add, “the human person himself,) and that “we must defend ourselves against ideological colonization.”
The LGBT advance
Since the Swedish authorities arrested Pastor Ake Green in 2004 for preaching against homosexual practices in church, quoting the text of Holy Scripture, the LGBT movement has made waves around the world. In Aquino’s time, the Congress railroaded the Reproductive Health Law after Obama gifted PNoy a $454 million grant in exchange for the passage of the measure, which lawmakers had refused to touch for at least 15 years.
In 2014, about a million people, including gays, marched on the streets of Paris to oppose a proposal to legalize “gay marriage.” But in 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the US Supreme Court legalized “same-sex unions” all over the US, after legalizing abortion on demand in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Recently in Oregon, bakers Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined $135,000 by state authorities for refusing to bake cake for a lesbian wedding in violation of their Christian belief. They closed their bakery permanently rather than dishonor their faith.
However, at the UN on Oct. 6, the Human Rights Council appointed an LGBT Ombudsman in the person of Thai law professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, to act as an “independent expert on violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.” He is co-author of the Yogyakarta Principles, which advocate the advancement of gay rights around the world. As a Thai bureaucrat, he is heir to a sexually permissive tradition, which once boasted of having produced “Mr. Condom.” The 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation slammed the appointment as “conflictual and contested,” while the Russian delegate said, “the post does not exist as far as we are concerned.”
The demographic crisis
The future of man and the human family is one area of global dialogue where someone of DU30’s credentials could tell leaders of the First World and their lackeys elsewhere what the votaries of political correctness have long lost the will and the courage to tell them. On July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, Obama asked Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to exert greater effort in promoting gay rights in Africa. With classical African tact and politeness, Kenyatta told Obama, Kenya had so many more pressing problems to attend to, and that gay rights were “a non-issue to them, Mr. President.”
If and when DU30 gets to talk to the Russian scientists and scholars, he will discover that to them the demographic winter in Europe is the most serious crisis in the world. Russia is losing some 250,000 people every year from the lack of new births, while the graying and ageing of the population continues. In China, they are now trying to correct the negative results of their one-child policy in favor of the male child. The male population exceeds that of women by several million, canceling any chance of marriage for these excess males. Although China’s population remains large, it is not producing enough young people to replace those who are dying or growing old. This is a negative factor in war or in peace.
If DU30 is truly determined to have stronger ties with China and Russia, he should try to develop with Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin a common stand on these civilizational issues. He could then become a champion not only of his own country but of a big part of human civilization. But he will have to begin at home—by getting rid of his economic advisers who would like to impose population control upon the nation, and all those copycat sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) bills in Congress.