Why the White House invited President Duterte


Ricardo Saludo

WHITE House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said it all. The American equivalent of the Philippines’ Executive Secretary told ABC News: “There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the [Asian] region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea. Whether they’re good folks or bad folks — people we wish would do better in their country — doesn’t matter. We’ve got to be on the same page.”

That’s how Priebus explained the invitation by United States President Donald Trump for his Filipino counterpart Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House. It was conveyed in a phone call last Saturday night during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit state dinner for Asean heads of state and delegations in Malacañang Palace.

That invitation is now getting a grilling from American media hostile toward President Duterte not only for the thousands of suspect deaths in his war on illegal drugs, but more so for his cussing at then-US President Barack Obama for expressing grave concern over the killings.

Duterte unleashed his “son-of-a-whore” line at Obama days before the latter’s last summit conference with Asean in September, prompting the US to cancel the bilateral meeting between the two leaders.

American media has itself suffered Duterte’s diatribes, most recently CNN and The New York Times, along with international human rights entities like New York’s Human Rights Watch, London-based Amnesty International, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva; and UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard.

And in just the last couple of weeks, two international organizations, Reporters Without Borders and Washington’s Freedom House, took issue with Duterte for his statements that were seen as encouraging or justifying violence against journalists.

Nor did he win media sympathy when he recently threatened not to renew the TV network franchise of ABS-CBN for allegedly refusing to air campaign ads in last May’s elections. Duterte also sought to press tax evasion and property eviction cases against firms of the family controlling the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a strong critic of the President.

Yet despite all that baggage and bad press burdening Duterte, Trump found reason to weather vehement criticism, and accord the Filipino leader the grand gesture of a presidential invitation to visit the White House.
And ever the flashy dealmaker, Trump timed his call for maximum prestige and publicity gain for Duterte, who could then let it be known to visiting Asean heads of state and government that the most powerful leader in the world rang him up.

What the Donald wants from Digong

To seasoned geopolitical watchers, Trump clearly wants something big from Duterte, and Chief of Staff Priebus indicated that it has something to do with North Korea.

On April 28, the day before the Summit, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho wrote Asean to seek its support in Pyongyang’s tussle with Washington. In his call the very next day, Trump brought up with Duterte the crisis over North Korean nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program.

The Asean chairman expressed grave concern over possible war and its devastating impact on Asia. “Who am I to say that you should stop?” Duterte said of his talk with Trump. “But I would say, ‘Mr. President, please see to it that there is no war because my region will suffer immensely.’ I will just communicate to [Trump], ‘Just let him [North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] play … Do not play into his hands’.”

That doesn’t sound like Trump got much out of his phone call, at least not enough to court media and human rights opprobrium by conferring on Duterte the ultimate White House honor. Nor is it likely that Trump pressed for a stronger Asean line on China’s maritime activities. That would have displeased Beijing, whose help Washington needs to restrain Pyongyang.

So, what did the Donald want from Digong?

Here’s one dumb answer: In case there is war in Korea, the Pentagon wants to station massive US forces in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed three years ago during then-President Obama’s visit to Manila. The EDCA would also allow the American military to use Philippine bases, of which five have already been picked by Washington.

But President Duterte has more than once expressed dislike for the EDCA, even threatening to abrogate it, which he can since the Philippine Supreme Court had ruled that it is an executive agreement not needing Senate ratification.

When Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced in January that the US would build facilities in selected bases over the next three years, Duterte erupted over the alleged entry of American nukes in the country. Nothing more has since been mentioned about the US using the bases.

Now, if there is another Korean war, the Pentagon may need to deploy more firepower in Asia than it ever did since the Vietnam or Korean conflicts, or even the Second World War. That’s because the forces America may face would certainly have far more powerful weapons and equipment than the Vietnamese, North Korean, Red Chinese, or Japanese adversaries did decades ago.

Without the Philippines to hold and provision substantial naval and air forces, the US military may have difficulty deploying a big enough armada of warships, subs and planes to intimidate North Korea and perhaps other states not to push their luck. Moreover, much of the Seventh Fleet would be in open ocean, far easier targets than vessels and aircraft hiding among our 7,000-plus islands and disparate waterways.

So, probably at the Pentagon’s behest, Trump is using his charm on Duterte, who has already professed admiration for him. He has invited Duterte to the White House, boosting the latter’s national and international prestige. And that makes it far more likely than ever to get the nod for American military assets to deploy in the archipelago if there is war.

Should Duterte take the bait and open the country to US might? Let’s talk about that next time.


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  1. If only the politicians would have allowed Douglas to continue with his ways, there would have been any North Korea nor any 38th Parallel to speak of. But in the present case, the US will provoke North Korea so that the latter will start a pre-emptive strike on South Korea. That will be the alibi the US needs to go to war against North Korea.
    For sure, they will try to go all-out to obliterate North Korea and they would need a lot of logistics and war materials for that. Hence, the need to have bases in the Philippines. It will now depend on how our diplomats would be able to extract ex-deals or benefits from The Donald in case they have to allow stationing of materials within our territories.

  2. Nanguuto na naman ang US…Ano kaya ang hihingin ni Digong sa US na Di naman kilala sama ng loob ng China. Hope Digong will have the wisdom to blow out the smoke of impending war. No one will benefit should it come.

  3. the Americans are too proud. I say no to american military asset in PH. They should just store them somewhere else. Go ask Taiwan instead. I dont want NoKor Nuking Palawan or Ilocos due to American toys.

  4. dating kriminal on

    Ric, you are absolutely correct what Donald want from Digong, and that is the EDCA. The location of Philippine Islands has strategic values and it can be used as storage and re-supply point in the whole Pacific areas for American troops. Since post World War II, Korean Conflict, Vietnam War, and the Cold War, Philippines have played a very important role in storing military equipment and used as a resupply point in support of American Forces Activities in the region. However, EDCA nowadays can also be used to store equipment such as generators, medicine, food, clothing, and you name it, to help Filipinos during disasters. Your readers writing their story during Spanish- American War and what happened in 1899, have NO values anymore. They have performed cut and paste operation and what they have posted here was not even related to this article, and was even beyond their comprehension.

  5. Ramil Lopez on

    US War Crimes in the Philippines…

    Anthony Michea of the Third Artillery wrote: We bombarded a place called Malabon, and then we went in and killed every native we met, men, women, and children. It was a dreadful sight, the killing of the poor creatures.

    Captain Elliot of the Kansas Regiment wrote this about the Caloocan fight:
    Talk about war being “hell”, this war beats the hottest estimate ever made of that locality. Caloocan was supposed to contain seventeen thousand inhabitants. The Twentieth Kansas swept through it, and now Caloocan contains not one living native. Of the buildings, the battered walls of the great church and dismal prison alone remain. The village of Maypaja, where our first fight occurred on the night of the fourth, had five thousand people on that day – now not one stone remains upon top of another. You can only faintly imagine this terrible scene of desolation. War is worse than hell.

    There were four US regiments of Black soldiers in the Philippines during the Philippine-American War. Many were outraged at the abuses and attitude of the white soldiers toward the Filipinos. Zinn refers to a letter from a volunteer from the state of Washington who wrote: “Our fighting blood was up, and we all wanted to kill ‘niggers’…. this shooting human beings beats rabbit hunting all to pieces.” David Fagan, one of the Black soldiers, left the US ranks to fight along side Filipinos and “for two years wreaked havoc upon the American forces.”

    Like many of their officers, American troops also showed incredible callousness toward the Philippine civilian population. A man named Clarence Clowe described the situation as follows in a letter he wrote to Senator Hoar. The methods employed by American troops against civilians in an effort to find insurgent “arms and ammunition” include torture, beating, and outright killing.

    At any time I am liable to be called upon to go out and bind and gag helpless prisoners, to strike them in the face, to knock them down when so bound, to bear them away from wife and children, at their very door, who are shrieking pitifully the while, or kneeling and kissing the hands of our officers, imploring mercy from those who seem not to know what it is, and then, with a crowd of soldiers, hold our helpless victim head downward in a tub of water in his own yard, or bind him hand and foot, attaching ropes to head and feet, and then lowering him into the depths of a well of water till life is well-nigh choked out, and the bitterness of a death is tasted, and our poor, gasping victims ask us for the poor boon of being finished off, in mercy to themselves.

    Another soldier, L. F. Adams, with the Washington regiment, described what he saw after the Battle of Manila on February 4-5, 1899:

    In the path of the Washington Regiment and Battery D of the Sixth Artillery there were 1,008 dead niggers, and a great many wounded. We burned all their houses. I don’t know how many men, women, and children the Tennessee boys did kill. They would not take any prisoners.[17]

    Similarly, Sergeant Howard McFarland of the 43rd Infantry, wrote to the Fairfield Journal of Maine:

    I am now stationed in a small town in charge of twenty-five men, and have a territory of twenty miles to patrol…. At the best, this is a very rich country; and we want it. My way of getting it would be to put a regiment into a skirmish line, and blow every nigger into a nigger heaven. On Thursday, March 29, eighteen of my company killed seventy-five nigger bolo men and ten of the nigger gunners. When we find one that is not dead, we have bayonets.[18]

    “‘I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,’ and, further, that he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and in actual hostilities against the United States, and did, in reply to a question by Major Waller asking for an age limit, designate the limit as ten years of age. … General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to ‘kill and burn’ and ‘make Samar a howling wilderness,’ and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms, and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as dangerous as their elders.”[21]

    Smith carried out his mission by having U.S. troops concentrate the local population into camps and towns. Areas outside of these camps and towns were designated “dead zones” in which those who were found would be considered insurgents and summarily executed. Tens of thousands of people were herded into these concentration camps. Disease was the biggest killer in the camps, although precisely how many lives were lost during Smith’s pacification operations is not known. For his part, Major Waller reported that over eleven days between the end of October and the middle of November 1901 his men burned 255 dwellings and killed 39 people. Other officers under Smith’s command reported similar figures. Concerning the overall number of dead, one scholar estimates that 8,344 people perished between January and April 1902.

    • Has our Government raised the issue of apology or compensation from the Donald Government about the atrocities committed by their soldiers? If The DeeGong is really sincere for asking justice for the “historical injustice” committed against the Moro people which is his raisson d’etre for the peace talks with the MILF/MNLF, he should first ask for “historical justice” as well as apology and compensation for what aremikan soldiers did on our countrymen during the Philippine American War.

  6. jess nazario on

    Are we sure that the Philippines will not be affected in any way if the U.S. nukes North Korea or even just Pyongyang
    on their own and not using any Philippine territory

  7. Pls! Don’t underestimate the thinking capacity of PRRD he is free to choose bet. Chinese Pres. or Pres. Trump, maybe if the American bases will be re- stablish here china will be hesitant to occupy island within south china sea.

  8. Panis kayo lahat, sabi nila wlang diplomatic experience at hindi kaya ni Digong ang international community. E sa lahat ng president ng Pilipinas si Marcos ang huling nakatungtong ng white house. Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino ni hindi na invite sa White house.

    • Salamat sa pahayag mo, Julio. Kaunting paalala lang ng kasaysayan: Ang totoo, nakadalaw sa White House lahat ng pangulong nabanggit mo, maliban lang yata kay Estrada. Salamat muli.

  9. Do you really think the president of my country even knows what EDCA stands for? How about this? Are you positive he could find Manila on a map of Luzon? We won’t even try something hard like is Davao City in Iowa or Mindanao? He might ask what’s a Mindanao?

    Why did our president invite your president? Maybe your bad boy makes our bad boy look good – which ain’t nothing.

    • Pidrow Penduko on

      Trump on EDCA, Manila in Luzon on a map and Davao City in Iowa and Mindanao?

      Your country’s electoral process elected him as your 45th President isn’t it?

      Why don’t you ask your president?

    • Thank you for your comment, Mike. As the article said, “In case there is war in Korea, the Pentagon wants to station massive US forces in the Philippines under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed three years ago during then-President Obama’s visit to Manila. … So, probably at the Pentagon’s behest, Trump is using his charm on Duterte, who has already professed admiration for him.”
      The Pentagon certainly knows what the EDCA is about (in fact, it follows the text of similar US defense agreements with other states). And it is the Pentagon that probably asked President Trump to work on President Duterte. Thanks again.

    • All the superpower countries think of philippines is a battle base. A perfect strategic location for massive wars.

    • arnel amador on

      your prez perhaps, wanted to make sure that that props for hollywood movies would convince nokor to stay put, which “fat ill” of nokor seems not incline to do. since ph is in the fire zone of those toys, the trump, maybe, just wanted to make sure that ph would be benevolent enough to share those toys from nokor, instead it all directed to mainland usa, and at the floating us armada nearby. i know meyor digong is well aware that it ain’t kwetis that would land to ph should the dreamed d-day comes. in their mind pinoys are disposable (here, they are exempted from human rights violation), hence, the bright boys in state department made that advice to call the very bad boy meyor prez of ph. how cute isn’t it!

  10. Ramil Lopez on

    In the 1890’s war of the US vs Spain we became one of the first victims of US imperialism. The Treaty of Paris saw America and Spain complete the cheapest slave transfer transaction in the history of mankind. Uncle Sam paid $20 million to Spain, one dollar for each of the estimated 20 million Indio slaves, plus all of the very rich resources of our beloved country. Americans’ mass rapes of women, massacres of children and the elderly, concentration camps for the Filipinos followed for several years. In WW 2 when America was at war with Japan we became victims again in a war which was not our own. Our so-called liberator America even bombed our cities. President Duterte please do not allow the Americans to build military bases again in our country and drag us into their war of greed. Abrogate the stupid EDCA signed by Aquino and Obama!

    • barks barks on

      Guam and other small inslands were also included in that $20 million deal

    • Ogie de Guzman on

      And we have been considered the USA’s little brown brothers ever since. Enough of our cow towing to the US of A. They were a valued ally and still are but the Philippines decides its own foreign policy; never again be dictated nor cajoled through threats of reduction of aids. Dear Americans you have abused the generosity of our land, our people long enough. You should try to become our EQUAL partners, with equal rights, and none of those CIA covert maneuverings you are so great at. You should try that with your own people, the land of the free and the home of the brave but hell what you do with your minorities is beyond me. Ask the African-Americans and the Native Americans if they are getting a fair shake. Some will say yes but some will still say no. So, you want to do that to us as well ?

  11. How about a dumb suggestion: If the Americans really want to have a base here in the Philippines, why not have a horse trade that I know the Americans will never approve not in a million years. Tell the Gringos that if they want to use the bases here in our country, that they must legalize all the Filipinos TNT in the USA. Tell that to Trump and lets see how the master negotiator maneuver this to the US congress. Hey its been a long time since we Filipinos have the upper hand!

    • Ogie de Guzman on

      Wow, so astute of you to bring up the Filipino TNT issue. Really ? The Philippines is not only about our citizens wishing for the land of milk and honey by any means possible. PRRD and the rest of us here in the motherland have enough problem with the destabilization plots of the Libido err Liberal Party as well as curving criminality, graft and corruption from within and without. If you are really a patriot, you, us should think of the consequences of a war between the USA and North Korea. Nobody wins in a war least of all those so called collateral damages. And sir, we will become collateral damage with the dangerous chess games these two are playing right now. This should be well thought out at every angles then we as a nation should decide what will be in the best interest of our nation as a whole.

    • Your idea is very very wrong. What if Trump allows it and he will put all his fire power here in my beloved country. North Korea will target my beloved country the Philippines. One nuclear missile w/ several warheads and we’re done, were finish. PDU30 is correct in cancelling EDCA. Trump will legalized Filipino TNT’s because there will be no more Philippines to go back home. As simple as that.

  12. Good luck Mr. Trump my president is wiser than you. Mr. President let them fight their own war and continue to focus on domestic problem. Ameticans leave us alone.

    • and trump will send all the toilet cleaners back and double prices for iphones.
      back to jungle drums.

  13. Jose Samilin on

    Mayroon tayong kasabihang isinulat ng ating makatang si Francisco Balagtas, ito ay magsisilbing paalaala kung sakaling si Pangulong Duterte ay pupunta sa White House, “Kung and isalubong sa iyong pagdating ay may masayang mukha at pakitang giliw, lalong pag-ingatan na kakabakahin ang siyang isa-isip kaaway na lihim.”