PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte stands to gain a lot of international goodwill from the 17 other world leaders who will be attending the 12th East Asia Summit in Angeles City on November 13 to 14, if he plays his cards right, but he will have to work very hard to translate such goodwill into real international support, if it is true that he intends, as highly informed Cabinet sources claim, to establish a revolutionary government sometime after the summit.
These sources have revealed that despite the military top brass’ initial cold reaction when PDU30 first broached the “RG” idea, he is nonetheless poised to cross that particular barrier following the retirement of the previous Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año and the appointment of Lt. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero. This could happen as early as December 10, the sources said. It will be DU30’s Christmas gift to the Filipino people, they added.
This information appears to have seeped quickly into the diplomatic grapevine, causing some friendly governments to send cautionary signals to the impulsive and propaganda-driven president. Japan, for one, is believed to have sent word it might be compelled to withdraw its promised official development assistance of one trillion yen (P452.8 billion) over the next five years, should this ominous prospect come to pass.
Aside from the ODA, some $2 billion in soft loans, reportedly packaged by the LDP ruling party from the private sector, with a token annual interest of .001 percent for 25 years, could also be affected. Certain special assistance programs could also be included, the sources said.
If the report is correct, it could be the first time a major donor government has indicated pulling out assistance from the DU30 government for a threatened political course of action other than and beyond the widely denounced extra-judicial killings in its war on drugs. This could be equivalent to economic sanctions, which the United States and the United Nations Security Council (seldom Japan) customarily impose on rogue governments guilty of human rights abuses, terrorism and other violations of international law.
Japan is reported to have sanctioned 72 organizations and 81 individuals for their dealings with North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong-un is threatening the world with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The latest of these include four Chinese firms and two from Namibia as well as one Chinese individual and another of unknown nationality. But Japan has no record of sanctioning foreign governments, except in association with the US Security Council, for valid legal grounds.
Japan is a longtime major ODA provider for the Philippines, but following DU30’s October 2016 visit to Tokyo, its assistance has ramped up in favorable comparison to China’s pledged assistance, also after DU30’s state visit, which has prompted many to regard Beijing as the new horn of plenty for the DU30 government.
A real shocker
The report from Japan must have come as a shock to DU30 who, until now, has been blasting the Europeans and their unspectacular aids and grants which, in his view, give them no right to criticize his drug killings. Japanese assistance is a major contributor to the country’s economic and social development, despite the lack of any official communique on DU30’s human rights violations. But to the Japanese, the kind of government that runs their partner in development is a core issue, which they cannot afford to simply shove under the rug. And DU30 apparently recognizes this concern. Thus, he flew posthaste to Tokyo on Sunday to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, even though the latter is expected to come to Manila for the East Asia summit in a few days.
Abe was the first foreign leader to visit the Philippines after DU30 became president; the only such leader DU30 has received (last January 13) in his home in Davao. Abe, who had met with US President Donald Trump before coming to Davao, was reported to have transmitted Trump’s message, assuring the rambunctious Filipino president that he would not comment publicly on the latter’s human rights record, provided he stopped cursing US government officials. DU30 had showered invectives on former President Barack Obama and former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg for expressing their concern about the killing of thousands in his murderous drug war.
Trump and DU30 then exchanged warm greetings on the telephone, without any mention of the drug killings. DU30 was profuse in his admiration of Trump, and Trump invited DU30 to give him a call next time he came to the US. Prior to this conversation, on his October 2016 state visit to China, DU30 had declared his decision to “separate” economically and militarily from the US, and align himself with China and Russia “against the world.” After that warm exchange on the telephone, DU30 began to waffle on his announced decision to separate.
While attending the UN General Assembly in New York last month, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tried to amend DU30’s statement on “separation,” while DU30’s common-law wife “Honeylet” Avanceña tried to socialize with the group of Mrs. Melania Trump, the US First Lady.
Months earlier, on April 30, following what appeared to have been a very friendly telephone conversation between the two presidents, the White House announced it had invited DU30 to make a visit. This was met with instant catcalls from members of the US Congress and the media who demanded that Trump “disinvite” his Filipino counterpart. For his part DU30 announced he had been to the US before and had no desire to go there again. This provoked some speculations that Trump might eventually have to cancel his Philippine visit to avoid being photographed with DU30.
Trump here but not at summit
The latest word is that Trump will be visiting Manila in the course of a 12-day swing to China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam, but will not be attending the East Asia summit on November 14 because of a very tight schedule. The summit will be attended by the 10 heads of state or government of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and eight dialogue partners. Trump will attend the 2017 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Danang, Vietnam on November 12, and will arrive in Manila on the same day for the special gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of Asean.
But he will need to be back in Washington D.C. on the 14th, and will have to be represented by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the summit, who will be the only foreign secretary in the company of 16 heads. The only other non-head of state or government is Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. The others include Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japanese Prime Minister Abe, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, aside from the 10 Asean heads.
This is in marked contrast to Barack Obama who attended every East Asia summit from 2011, except in 2013 when a federal government shutdown compelled him to cancel his Asian trip. Trump’s inability to extend his visit by one day naturally provokes all sorts of political speculations. If DU30’s current mission in Tokyo is to solicit Japan’s support for his proposed “revolutionary government,” I am afraid he will need more than a host of angels to storm the heavens with prayers for his success. Japan is a serious country with serious scholars and politicians who understand only too well the meaning of “revolutionary government.” They also know of our own experience with such a government.
In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence on behalf of the revolutionary government which ended Spanish colonial rule of nearly 350 years. In 1986, Corazon Aquino proclaimed a revolutionary government, having been installed President by the military rebels after ousting the sitting president, Ferdinand Marcos. The victors had torn the Constitution apart, and it had to be replaced. In the interim, they could legally exist only as a revolutionary government.
During the B. S. Aquino 3rd administration, members of the National Transformation Council believed the completely non-transparent and totally questionable automated presidential election of 2010 had created a de facto rather than a de jure President. They therefore proposed the creation of a transitory revolutionary government to fix the flawed and totally corrupted electoral system and other structural defects of the Constitution, as a precondition for holding free and honest national elections under stable and normal conditions.
This did not come to pass. But former Mayor DU30 must have heard of the idea and evidently decided to adopt it even though he had been elected president. His avowed desire to establish a revolutionary government does not rest on legitimate legal premises. Despite his less than 50 percent plus one electoral support (38 percent), which has been extravagantly described as a “landslide,” no one questions his constitutional legitimacy, only his competence and fitness for the office. So, he cannot oust himself as the constitutionally elected president and install himself as revolutionary president.
Revolution vs oneself
A revolution or revolt against a sitting president is always an illegal one, and exposes the perpetrators to the hangman’s noose in case of failure. They take power and receive public obeisance only if they succeed. But a sitting president who ousts himself as a constitutionally elected leader in order to become an extra-constitutional dictator becomes a rebel against the Constitution and the State even if his coup succeeds. He thus invites all sorts of challenges, both armed and unarmed, from various parties, internal and external. In our modern world, it invites economic and other sanctions from mature and responsible democracies.
This is why I have serious doubts that DU30’s talks with Abe, and his talks with Trump later, should he raise the same subject during the latter’s short visit in Manila, would be an astounding success. Aside from dismantling the Constitution, which everyone tries to praise even without truly understanding it, a revolutionary government of the kind envisioned by PDU30 destroys the ruler’s sense of accountability and predictability, and ultimately his real worth.
If you think someone has become a loose cannon in both domestic and international affairs without much encouragement from an absent opposition or a timid citizenry, just hand him all the powers he wants. God is the only one who deserves to have absolute power because he is absolutely good; otherwise Lord Acton seems to be always right—power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or as Stanley Baldwin famously put it, in his cousin Rudyard Kipling’s words, we’re seeing “the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”
With all the powers which the Constitution and the grace of God have reposed upon the President, there are many things he can do for the common good, which appear not to have slipped into his imagination or consciousness at all. Many men and women without any official title at all have managed to do so much more just by being themselves—their ordinary selves. Only one thing is needed: one must allow a “listening heart,” as Scripture says of Solomon’s, and a clear mind to lead himself, never a terribly busy mouth.