President Duterte’s foreign policy speech BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - October 6, 2019 - 12:00am

In a powerful speech at the Valdai Forum in Sochi, Russia, President Duterte outlined the essence of his independent foreign policy in unequivocal terms when he said:

“The Philippines does not ask for special treatment or favors from its partners. It does not seek exemption from the norms and principles that have kept the peace in our world for decades. What we seek – as I assume what the Russian people and all nations also desire – is fairness, equality, and mutual respect. 

“We want a strengthened rules-based order where countries, big or small, are treated the same. We want unimpeded freedom – guaranteed by our Constitution – to exercise our right to govern ourselves as a people and as we see it fit. And we want friends and partners to respect our independence to make sovereign decisions just as we respect theirs.” 

 Our message in Washington is very clear whenever we engage with American legislators and key government officials: We are here not with our palms up to beg, borrow or ask for aid, but extending our hand as a gesture of friendship and commitment to the special partnership we have with the US, expecting to be treated as an equal partner in a mutually beneficial relationship with shared common interests. 

We are pleased that the Executive branch of the US government understands this well. We have a very good relationship with the Pentagon, the US State Department and the White House, and there is keen interest on our part to deepen our friendship with members of the US Congress, many of whom now have a better understanding and appreciation of the situation in the Philippines. 

Unfortunately, there are a few misguided individuals with “self-serving crusades” as President Duterte described it, who hurl unfair criticisms against the government, who only “see what they want to see to justify their preconceived notions… not trying to understand what truly is happening” in our country.

Quoting from “Anna Karenina,” a novel penned by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, the president illustrated the different challenges that countries like the Philippines face, with challenges and problems that require a different set of solutions: “Happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

He lamented those who “act like they know the answers to our problems… impervious to our specific socio-economic and political conditions… They weaponize human rights oblivious to its damaging consequences to the very people they seek to protect,” the president said, pointing to the chaos and instability that resulted in Libya following military interventions.  

All we seek, the president continued, is to “protect our republic from those who tear it apart. We only seek to curb criminality that corrodes the very structure of the government. We only seek to build a credible defense against those who might be tempted to violate our territorial integrity,” something that all nations are entitled to and what democratically elected governments are mandated to do.

He also spoke out against those who seek to limit the government’s ability to protect law-abiding citizens from the outlaws, denouncing those who “clip our wings, making it more difficult for us to effect meaningful change for our people.”

He made it very clear, however, that he is “not against the United States and/or the West. The US is a close friend of the Philippines – in fact our only treaty ally. We have deep ties with the American people, forged by shared history and nourished by common values. America can certainly offer so much more to the world,” President Duterte acknowledged.

His intention is to “expand the horizon of Philippine diplomacy” by deepening engagement in Latin America, Africa and Central Asia, to look at the Middle East with fresh eyes going beyond oil and OFWs, and to strengthen economic ties with these regions.

“But make no mistake. While we recognize [the interdependence] of nations, we hold fiercely sacrosanct our own independence,” the president reiterated, enjoining nations to act together because “in this period of flux, it is important that we expand our notion of ‘our selves’ to include others; [to] choose the enduring power of persuasion over coercion; that we follow the path of peace in order to achieve our shared and noble aspirations for our peoples,” the president concluded.

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Some of our intelligence people are verifying reports about certain groups using human rights advocates as fronts at the US Congress supposedly to put undue pressure on the Philippine government regarding Senator De Lima, assailing the supposed slow progress of her case. 

Ironically, Senator De Lima knows how cases especially complicated ones take time to adjudicate. When she was DOJ Secretary, and during the time of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, they came under fire for the slow progress of the Maguindanao Massacre. While they want to speed up the case, the courts can only do so much, Sereno said, explaining that oftentimes, the long arm of the law has a very short reach.

Actually, some of the US Senators demanding the release of Senator De Lima should look back at their own history and see that no less than George Washington warned: “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”  

Washington was referencing the 1796 presidential election when France tried to influence the outcome in order to put Thomas Jefferson in power. Jefferson lost to John Adams, the chosen successor of Washington.  

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