Rodrigo Duterte began his reign with a big bang, a war against powerful criminal elements in society and the apparently indestructible terrorist Abu Sayyaf group. Simultaneously, he initiated peace dialogues with the MILF, the MNLF, the NDF – NPA, and China. Federalism is proposed. Likewise, “trade alliances” are being considered with China and Russia.
President Duterte vetoed the Ph–US joint naval patrol in the South China Sea for the duration of his term. For reason of national interest, he stressed that he might cross his Rubicon and execute a 180 – degree pirouette in the love – hate saga of Ph–US relations.
Such are tectonic upheavals in domestic politics and international, diplomacy during the first 100 days of the Duterte presidency!
The President is right to reckon our national ills by our history. Rizal exposed the Spanish cancer, deleterious politically, economically, and socially. Bonifacio with other heroes revolted to cure it. They failed. Then Mabini, Quezon, Recto, Tañada, Salonga tried to mitigate American imperialism. They, too, did not fare well.
Now President Duterte has started a revolution in every front – to save and preserve his nation.
Less than six months in Malacañang, President Duterte has become, indeed, “a clear and present danger” to drug lords, criminal bosses and corrupt police officials and politicians.
His marching order to the police is clearly a mere restatement of the law of self-preservation, the first law. Daily casualties include one or more police men, and several other persons, from police operations and extra legal initiatives. There are more than 2,000 estimated deaths so far. About 700,000 involved in illegal drugs have surrendered.
Negative reactions have mounted. At home, a Senate Committee first headed by Sen. Leila de Lima, then by Sen. Gordon, was formed to look into the matter of “extra judicial killing”. Abroad, the United States and the European Union have expressed serious concerns. The UN Secretary General has joined the fray. Certain quarters issued statements in the press calling Duterte a “serial killer” and alluded to the possibility that he might be brought before the International Criminal Court. He was even compared with Hitler.
US President Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with President Duterte, who, in turn, snobbed Obama at the last Asean Summit in Laos. Duterte has pointed out that American police have systematically murdered black US citizens, and that the USA – UK invaded and despoiled Iraq without UN sanction.
President Duterte paused and invited the USA, EU and the UN to send their representatives to Manila to observe the situation, particularly with respect to alleged “extra judicial” or “summary” killings, with the condition that their officiousness be subjected to his cross – examination, as a part of fair play.
Then Duterte thinks aloud about abrogating Edca (Ph-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). Edca is an ignominy.
The President vows to implement a Filipino independent foreign policy enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. If freed from the talons of the American Eagle, then Manila could do a paradigm shift to bring the country in closer relations with China, Russia and others.
Recall that during his time, Pres. Manuel Roxas had pledged “to follow in the glistening wake of America”. This was ultra vires since the 1935 Constitution, with the Tydings – McDuffie Act appended, forbade foreign military bases.
Criminal jurisdiction provisions, from the 1947 Ph-US Military Bases Agreement to the present Edca, have been contentious. Any dispute of the parties is ultimately resolved by the US in its favor Hence, no US servicemen accused criminally, such as the Moonys, the Smiths, the Pembertons, have ever stayed inside a local prison.
Due to our colonial mentality, the US ambassador in Manila has acquired the distasteful habit of lecturing Filipino presidents on what is politically and economically good for the Philippines.
Ambassador Goldberg engaged in local politics, meddling in the internal affairs of the Receiving State. Kristie Kenny acted like she was the American governor – general for Mindanao. Subordinate US embassy officials
haughtily deal with Malacañang, bypassing the Department of Foreign Affairs.
President Duterte could have declared Goldberg persona non grata but has not. However, he has treated him and others of his ilk as a mere nuisance per accidens Neither did he gloat over the decision of the UN arbitral tribunal in our favor and against China on Unclos and “nine dash line” issues. Recently in Beijing, he declared our “separation” from the USA.
As a political revolutionist, President Duterte may, under the current radically changed circumstances, terminate (denounce) the 1951 Ph–US Mutual Defense Treaty, legally pursuant to the 1969 UN Convention on the Law of Treaties – thereby doing away, in one stroke, with all the unequal, non-mutual and obnoxious agreements with America, especially Edca.
He might even withdraw from the Rome Statue, and slam ICC jurisdiction.
Again, only a reformer like Duterte could right a wrong protocol subsisting in Manila for decades. The Doyen or Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in this capital has always been the Papal Nuncio. In most capitals of the civilized world it is the longest–serving foreign envoy who is the Doyen. Duterte will redress an insult to non- Catholic ambassadors by following international practice.
Finally, the Duterte revolution will be unfinished if he does not correct a centuries–old anomaly. He should tax the Church – not because he is viewed as an agnostic but because national interest dictates it. This would place him on the same pedestal of two famous women in history – Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Catherine the Great of Russia, who, unmindful of hell, taxed and reformed the Church.
President Duterte is his own man and our last chance. He is the gift of Davao to the Filipino people whom he intends to liberate from vice, crime, superstition, and the American dream – all of which, like shabu, lobotomize the mind.
Nelson D. Laviña is a retired Ambassador