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Duterte’s shift in foreign policy has a history

Those who think that the Philippines’ shift away from American dominance happened only when Duterte became president are wrong. It has a long history. He merely articulated what was already in the minds of most Filipinos since the war of independence vs. America in 1899. It was a brief war but it was cruel and said to have been the template of other American conquests around the world since. Stephen Skinner’s Overthrow goes earlier saying that America has a century of regime change from Hawaii to Iraq.

We had won the revolution against Spain and this was formalized by ceremonies and the making of the Philippine Republic (Spanish: República Filipina, Filipino: Republikang Pilipino), more commonly known as the First Philippine Republic or the Malolos Republic, was a nascent revolutionary government in the Philippines. It was formally established with the proclamation of the Malolos Constitution on Jan. 23, 1899, in Malolos, Bulacan and lasted until the capture and surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo to the American forces on March 23, 1901, in Palanan, Isabela. It was effectively a a republic with parliamentary government.

Then came the US-Spanish struggle for power. Admiral Dewey was in the region and it made sense (to American colonialists) to take over the Philippines. But it was a decision Dewey was unprepared for. He needed more men and reinforcements.

With a war of independence of the Philippines against Spain, the Americans took advantage and take over the Filipino victory. Indeed we were bought and sold like cattle in the Treaty of Paris. There was not a Filipino when the deal was done.

So the changing alliances of today are not without precedent. In the film “Heneral Luna” which was recently shown in Manila theaters, it tells how timorous oligarchs more concerned about their wealth and power did everything they could for the Filipino rebels to give up the fight and submit to the new conquerors. Heneral Luna who was considered the ablest of the Filipino generals was killed by the oligarchy more interested in preserving their wealth and status.

Luna wanted to continue fighting, put the oligarchs in place and discipline the recalcitrant among the rank and file. He was no different from Duterte, Luna cursed in anger. The movie shows him using the word punyeta just like Duterte’s p****g i** mo!

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It is happening all over again with different dramatic personae. It is not a mystery how memory works. Indeed, to my mind, it never went away. It remained dormant until it was called for.

Carlo Mundi narrates in his article “Duterte’s foreign policy is changing the balance of power in Asia” and Filipinos and other once colonized by Western powers in the region praised and cheered him on.

Mundi’s article reminds us that “the Philippines were under the control of the US for over a hundred years.”

With that background, it is not difficult to understand why President Duterte should declare that “the Philippines will separate from the US” when he visited China.

He was merely continuing the 1899 war of independence. It may have been dormant but it was always there. He aims to do this by an independent foreign policy which includes working with China and Russia. That “has shaken the balance of power, not just in Asia, but around the world,” Mundi adds.

I often heard elders say that the Philippines is key and strategically located. It was looked at by Western nations as the way to China’s  markets and wealth.

“Duterte is the first Filipino leader to question the sacrosanct nature of the Philippines’ US-centric foreign policy since the American commonwealth in the 1930s. From Quezon, to Marcos, to Aquino – Philippine interests have always been synonymous with US interests. Whatever is good for America, is also good for the Philippines. If they went to war, we went to war with them.

Their enemies were our enemies. Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq – all these countries were, for a time, enemies of the Philippines. Not that we had anything against them, or they harmed us in any way, but simply because the US said they were bad.“

Duterte is changing that attitude. It will no longer be servile to American interests. It will continue the close relation with it but will also work with countries in competition against America when it is needed.

Among wealthy Filipino oligarchs and political dynasts it has come as a rude surprise that it should come from a mayor who became President. They preferred the status quo that made them in charge of the Philippines. Those who are for change must continue to support Duterte. His flaws are insignificant compared to the huge undertaking of changing the country the way it should have been in 1899.

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There are many Filipinos abroad who should now come and help with the remaking of our country. The Chinese used their overseas citizens abroad. They gave incentives to those who came back to help in nation building.  One has written this column, for example that we need a deputy national security adviser who would keep watch on developments in international economics. At present this is not coordinated. We need one and this is best under the Office of the President.

“For example issues related to APEC are handled in the DFA primarily by the Office of the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, UN issues are handled by another office, ASEAN by the Undersecretary for Policy. In the DTI most of these issues are handled by the Bureau for International Trade Relations (BITR). Today, most line agencies have an international division.

The DFA because of its mandate on foreign affairs tends to be the lead for most of these things but it is a co-equal agency with no power to mandate coordination.

The National Security Council was reorganized by Executive Order 115 in 1986 – it specifies the following:

In addition to such specific duties and responsibilities as the President may direct, it shall be the duty of the deputy security adviser to advise the President about the integrating domestic, foreign, military, political, economic, social, and educational policies relating to the national security so as to enable all concerned ministries, departments, and agencies of the government to meet more effectively, problems and matters involving the national security.

So even though the NSC has a broad mandate to cover both political and economic security, organizationally there is only one Deputy – likely to come from a military/security background.

In the US system the National Security Advisor has a number of Deputies – some with statutory roles.

The issue of food security remains a considerable concern. It was an issue which is historically tied up with the impacts of drought in the 1980s and the continuing famine in many developing countries including the Philippines.

 

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