The public is wondering how our government will respond or react to the statement issued on Friday, August 12, by the United States embassy in Manila, in which it expressed a number of concerns about certain statements made by President Duterte and the phenomenon of extrajudicial killings in the prosecution of the administration’s war on drugs.
Before saying anything, our government must carefully take note that it is an embassy statement, not a statement of the US Department of State, which would make it an entirely different thing.
The US State Department, which is the equivalent of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, usually comments only on big-picture issues affecting US ties with other countries.
So it is best at this point to treat the embassy statement as an expression of the concerns of the current embassy officials in the country, instead of one encompassing the whole of the Philippines’ highly important relationship with the US.
This is not to suggest that the matter should be taken lightly or dismissed. This is to counsel our government to treat this matter seriously and fashion its response thoughtfully and surely.
The message from the US Embassy should be treated with understanding, because the statement comes from responsible officials of a government that is a close ally and partner of our country.
Both the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President should study the statement carefully and then frame a sound response.
The embassy statement is notable for being punctilious and bare of bombast. It is terse, consisting of only four paragraphs. It studiously avoids mentioning President Duterte by name; although it is crystal clear that the comments that provoked the US embassy to react were made by the incumbent President of the Philippines.
In the statement, the US Embassy raised three issues pertaining to the President and our bilateral relations:
First, our President calling US Ambassador Philip Goldberg “gay” and a “son of a bitch;”
Second, our President characterizing the recent US pledge of $32 million for law enforcement assistance as a way of making amends to the Philippines; and
Third, the reports of hundreds of extrajudicial killings in the country as a result of the President’s war on drugs.
The statement ended with an affirmation of the importance of the bilateral relationship between the US and the Philippines.
We think the response of our government, if it deigns to make a statement in reply, should be similarly concise, to the point and courteous.
If an explanatory statement or diplomacy will suffice to assuage ruffled feelings, this should be done.
Very important also is what the Duterte administration will take away from this awkward business.
The mature view is to remember that our country today serves a strategic and important role in the Asia-Pacific region; and our economy today, because of its recent dynamism, enjoys a very fruitful relationship with many nations and many foreign investors.
This is important to the national future, and it should not be compromised by careless speech and less than correct policy setting.