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FROM THE DAILY INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: JAPAN VISIT - CLOSER THAN A BROTHER'
(Touting the two countries’ “solid, strategic partnership,” Mr. Duterte also described Japan as “a special friend who is closer than a brother.”)


OCTOBER 28 -
President Duterte’s official visit to Japan went according to plan, and we can join his hosts in breathing a sigh of collective relief. The cancellation of his courtesy call on Emperor Akihito could not be helped; the emperor’s uncle had died at the age of 100, and the imperial family was in mourning. But the President responded graciously to the Japanese protocol officer’s request not to push through with the appointment. “I respect that. I would ask for the same request if I were in his shoes.” Indeed, the President’s visit abounded in grace notes. He repeatedly emphasized “the rule of law” as a standard by which international disputes—including contentious controversies with China over the South China Sea—should be resolved. “The Philippines will continue to work closely with Japan on issues of common concern in the region, and uphold the shared values of democracy … the rule of law and peaceful settlement of the disputes, including the South China Sea,” he said after meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Jose Ma. Montelibano - Absurd pro-colonial dispensation


OCTOBER 28 -By: Jose Ma. Montelibano
I am haunted by the words of someone whom I looked up to for his prodigious intellect and vast unique experience, Professor Manoling Yap, and whom I deeply admired for his deep love of the motherland and her sons and daughters, the Filipino race. I miss him terribly today. Manoling often repeated this: “We Filipinos are all victims of an absurd pro-colonial dispensation on the verge of chaos… Any President who merely tries to administer this decadent dispensation without fundamentally overhauling and rectifying its pro-colonial character is bound to fail the people and become victim of this dispensation’s built-in contradictions and antagonisms.” READ MORE...

ALSO: By John Nery - Duterte’s American fixation


OCTOBER 29 - Cabinet secretaries and campaign volunteers alike have told me that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is open to new ideas and serene about ceding full control to his appointees within their scope of work. In my own, limited interaction with him during the presidential campaign, he struck me as someone entirely at ease in his own skin. All of which makes one ask: Why is his foreign policy driven by longstanding resentment, and why does his signature governance initiative depend on an old, unsound idea? Since his election, and especially since his so-called war on drugs provoked US President Barack Obama to raise human rights concerns, he has attacked the United States for its great-power hypocrisy and Obama for, well, being an American. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Randy David - Method in the madness?


OCTOBER 23 -RANDY DAVID
In his public appearances here and abroad, President Duterte has been using a form of speech that may be likened to a dialect. He is not talking the way most heads of state talk. Too often, he has employed taboo language not usually heard in public discourse. That is why his official spokespersons—people designated to explain what he’s saying—are having a hard time interpreting his speeches. They can’t say for sure what he means, or if he means at all everything that he says. Yet, since he’s the president, they must assume that he does. The problem is compounded by the fact that the President also likes to speak extemporaneously in English, of whose idioms he clearly has no command. This makes his speeches seemingly accessible to foreigners, though in fact they are not. READ MORE...


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 ‘Closer than a brother’ Philippine

MANILA, 0CT0BER 31, 2016 (INQUIRER) Daily Inquirer / 01:17 AM October 28, 2016 - President Duterte’s official visit to Japan went according to plan, and we can join his hosts in breathing a sigh of collective relief. The cancellation of his courtesy call on Emperor Akihito could not be helped; the emperor’s uncle had died at the age of 100, and the imperial family was in mourning. But the President responded graciously to the Japanese protocol officer’s request not to push through with the appointment. “I respect that. I would ask for the same request if I were in his shoes.”

Indeed, the President’s visit abounded in grace notes. He repeatedly emphasized “the rule of law” as a standard by which international disputes—including contentious controversies with China over the South China Sea—should be resolved. “The Philippines will continue to work closely with Japan on issues of common concern in the region, and uphold the shared values of democracy … the rule of law and peaceful settlement of the disputes, including the South China Sea,” he said after meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

READ MORE...

This kind of language was an improvement over great-power rationalizations that have sometimes been used to justify closer ties with China.

He sought to assure the Japanese that his state visit to China the previous week was about trade and commerce, not military aid or partnership. “You know I went to China for a visit. And I would like to assure you that all there was was economics. We did not talk about arms. We avoided talking about alliances,” he told a forum for Japanese businessmen.

He pledged that the Philippines will “not abandon Japan in our partnership and security matters, given the common belief that our conflicts and problems with other nations must be resolved peacefully, in accordance with international law.” This was a remarkable statement, not only because of its message, but also because of the role the messenger assumed: Usually, it is the larger nation, with the bigger economy and army, who makes promises about not abandoning a neighbor.

Touting the two countries’ “solid, strategic partnership,” Mr. Duterte also described Japan as “a special friend who is closer than a brother.”

Even his continuing broadsides against the United States, Japan’s principal ally, used smaller-caliber language. There were no personal insults or prolonged history lectures, which would have been inflammatory in decorous Japan, just the deliberate rhetoric of a political leader who had, finally, calculated the odds and done the political arithmetic. “I have declared that I will pursue an independent foreign policy. I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out,” he said, referring to American forces in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

He added: “And if I have to revise or abrogate agreements, executive agreements, this shall be the last maneuver [and] war games between the United States and the Philippine military.”

We suppose that the President’s Japanese hosts had already factored his out-with-America policy direction into the visit. That change in policy remains very controversial in the Philippines, for the simple reason that Mr. Duterte did not campaign on it; the electorate remains heavily pro-American, and his talk of “separation” has roiled the waters. But Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is committed to its American alliance and continues to host US bases and at least 50,000 US soldiers.

It must have expected the President to say what he said about the Americans—and still made the case, privately, for continued US military presence in the region.

In this, and in the matter of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, Prime Minister Abe tried to strike a balance. He did not raise human rights issues over the killings; he only offered assistance for the rehabilitation of drug users. He heard the President on the Americans, but did not say anything in public. This important relationship bears close watch, over the next several months.


Absurd pro-colonial dispensation By: Jose Ma. Montelibano / @inquirerdotnet 01:09 AM October 28, 2016


By: Jose Ma. Montelibano

I am haunted by the words of someone whom I looked up to for his prodigious intellect and vast unique experience, Professor Manoling Yap, and whom I deeply admired for his deep love of the motherland and her sons and daughters, the Filipino race. I miss him terribly today. Manoling often repeated this:

“We Filipinos are all victims of an absurd pro-colonial dispensation on the verge of chaos… Any President who merely tries to administer this decadent dispensation without fundamentally overhauling and rectifying its pro-colonial character is bound to fail the people and become victim of this dispensation’s built-in contradictions and antagonisms.”

READ MORE...

Manoling predicated much of his prognosis and proposals on the above perspective, and I totally agreed with him coming from our my cultural and historical journey in trying to discover the Filipino. Manoling went through an experience, a life journey, and used his talents in philosophy, economics and politics to package and share his knowledge and insights. I was fortunate to have spent, with others, many hours of listening to his stories and discussing not only the past but the possibilities for the future.

Through my own personal journey and adventure, I found synergy with all Manoling shared with me. His and my circumstances were very different, of course, as were our ages. But we still had much in common because our ideas and insights found convergence despite having taken quite contrasting paths. If I was convinced of the substance of what he shared with people like me then, in the 90’s until his last years, I find only affirmation since then.

I have watched with keen interest president after president lead our country all throughout my adult years. I also remember boyhood and schoolboy memories, peripheral though most were, of every president from the last year of President Quirino to the full term of President Macapagal. Recalling all these, Manoling’s wise insights were always affirmed, never contradicted. And, today, these same insights are being put to the test, maybe to its limits.
Manoling’s son, Josef T. Yap, with Jose Dalisay, authored a book about the life of his eminent father, entitling it “Lessons from Nationalist Struggle.” I hold that book close to my heart and mind today, as if to keep me grounded yet above the fray. Authors Yap and Dalisay wrote that Professor Manoling Yap was an active player in one of the most significant and turbulent chapters in Philippine history, including a resurgence of a nationalist movement from the late 50’s to the early 70’s. I wonder what Manoling will be saying about today and what is about to unfold in current Philippine history under the Duterte presidency and its impact beyond his term. I suspect he will agree with me that this unfolding can compete with any period, maybe surpass them all.

I would be presumptuous to call myself a nationalist. The word is too big for me, has too many meanings and nuances. Look at the meaning of nationalism from Wikipedia and you can get lost. Yet, I cannot but help feel great attraction for one basic description of a nationalist as someone who advocates political independence for a country. I and many other Filipinos can be categorized as nationalists under this general definition. I know, however, the devil is in the details.

Prof. Manoling Yap gave details, hoping these would separate his nationalist stand from the many other devils. He said:

“We Filipinos should know the historical truth, put aside our petty bickerings and superfluous differences, foster a spirit of national solidarity, make the necessary sacrifices, and vigorously move to build a strong, progressive nation-state that is anchored on five indivisible and indispensable pillars:

1, A strong industrialized modern economy;

A strong, just and democratic government;
A united and patriotic people strongly committed to the principles and practices of universally accepted human values, social justice, and sustainable development;
4.A strong professional armed forces and police force for national security; and

A free and independent foreign relations policy strongly committed to the principles of cooperation and reciprocity, respect for national sovereignty, and territorial integrity, non-aggression and non-interference in internal affairs, and peaceful co-existence in the relationship between and among nations.”
I realized later that my attraction for Manoling’s advocacy came from his idealism that did not waver despite the ugly realities that he himself experienced and witnessed in the dynamics of domestic and international politics. He had rich firsthand presence in the thawing of relationships between China and the West, between Russia and the West. He was there where the rest of the world can only read history. Yet, he remained an idealist.

Our petty bickerings, as Manoling called it, remains our deadliest operational weakness as a people. It takes very little for the shrewd to manipulate the Filipino people, to makes us all quarrel over almost any other issue. Manoling points to our pro-colonial character with its built-in contradictions and antagonisms.

Today, I am reminded of a great man’s clarity of vision and undying love for our motherland, how his highest wishes and brilliant intellect never deviated from the collective and sustainable good of the people. The presidency of Rodrigo R. Duterte would have thrilled Manoling because of its potentiality. At the same time, It could have devastated his dreams as well. Because President Duterte can lead us to the promised land as much as he can lead us from one colonial mindset to another, if he himself falls prey to that embedded partisanship inculcated by centuries of divide-and-rule policies of foreign masters.

This much I know from history and its many lessons, that a people and country cannot become a nation-state from a colonized character. Yet, how, then, can we understand how to dismantle a preconditioned colonial character without unusual disruption, without inspiring leadership to almost force us by personal example towards a needed but elusive transformation?

So near, yet so far, Manoling, dear friend. Like you, many of us may not see the new dawn. Yet, like you, may we never tire of pursuing it.


Duterte’s American fixation By: John Nery / @jnery_newsstand Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:18 AM October 29, 2016



Cabinet secretaries and campaign volunteers alike have told me that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is open to new ideas and serene about ceding full control to his appointees within their scope of work. In my own, limited interaction with him during the presidential campaign, he struck me as someone entirely at ease in his own skin. All of which makes one ask: Why is his foreign policy driven by longstanding resentment, and why does his signature governance initiative depend on an old, unsound idea?

Since his election, and especially since his so-called war on drugs provoked US President Barack Obama to raise human rights concerns, he has attacked the United States for its great-power hypocrisy and Obama for, well, being an American.

READ MORE...

I think it is fair to say that the vigorous criticism of American presence and policy preceded any articulation on his part of the Philippine Constitution’s directive for the country to develop an “independent foreign policy.” The gut reaction to what President Duterte’s leftist supporters call continued American “domination” of the Philippines came first; in a remarkable disclosure, he even told a forum in China that he felt slighted many years ago when his application for a US visa was rejected. His own humiliation thus magnifies the worst excesses of American colonial rule in the Philippines; it helps explain why, in his first appearance on the world stage, in Laos, he was driven to lecture the summit of leaders on atrocities Americans committed against “my ancestor.” (He did not, however, include American complicity in the crimes of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, because Marcos’ descendants support him.)

The war on drugs he launched in the Philippines less than four months ago—his signature initiative—has already claimed thousands of lives, including the obviously innocent (children caught in the crossfire, overseas Filipinos back home for a quick visit). And yet the experience of other countries, including Thailand, has already discredited this take-no-prisoners approach. It simply does not work.

But here’s the supreme irony. President Duterte’s war on drugs is an American invention. It is an American travesty of justice, which he seems intent on imposing on his own country. Not least, it is an American failure, with which Mr. Duterte is unaccountably fixated.

It was US President Richard Nixon who, in 1971, designated drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1” and officially declared a “war on drugs.” “War” is the right word, because what Nixon started eventually mobilized government agencies, military assets and police resources in many countries in a massive attempt to stop the trade in illegal drugs. It has failed, it is failing, because the undertaking, understood precisely as a war, sees users as enemies, rather than victims who both need help and are a potent source of the help needed.

The excellent Vox special report on the war on drugs notes: “Over the past four decades, the US has committed more than $1 trillion to the war on drugs. But the crackdown has in some ways failed to produce the desired results: Drug use remains a very serious problem in the US, even though the drug war has made these substances less accessible. The drug war also led to several—some unintended—negative consequences, including a big strain on America’s criminal justice system and the proliferation of drug-related violence around the world.”

Why is President Duterte fixated on this American idea? For the same reason, I believe, that he thinks China is “good” to the Philippines, Marcos was the Philippines’ best president, and Beijing and Moscow continue to be politically aligned and would welcome newly nonaligned countries like his: His formative ideas were formed in the 1960s and 1970s, and now, at long last, he is in a position to make them real.

John Nery (@jnery_newsstand) is editor in chief of Inquirer.net and represents the Philippine Daily Inquirer in the Asia News Network.


Method in the madness? By: Randy David / @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:02 AM October 23, 2016


RANDY DAVID


In his public appearances here and abroad, President Duterte has been using a form of speech that may be likened to a dialect. He is not talking the way most heads of state talk. Too often, he has employed taboo language not usually heard in public discourse.

That is why his official spokespersons—people designated to explain what he’s saying—are having a hard time interpreting his speeches. They can’t say for sure what he means, or if he means at all everything that he says.

Yet, since he’s the president, they must assume that he does. The problem is compounded by the fact that the President also likes to speak extemporaneously in English, of whose idioms he clearly has no command. This makes his speeches seemingly accessible to foreigners, though in fact they are not.

READ MORE...

For example, I don’t think he is supposed to be taken literally when, during his recent visit to Beijing, he told his predominantly Filipino audience that he was inclined to form a triumvirate with China and Russia—“against the world.” That sounds more like a line from the 1974 song “You and Me Against the World,” than a serious foreign policy statement.

Anyone who proposes anything like that must be out of his mind, or is patently ignorant of the complex relationship between China and Russia, or completely misunderstands the nature of the contemporary world. Mr. Duterte could be any of these. But, I prefer to think he’s just joking. Perhaps he may even be only half-joking. Because of its barefaced absurdity, the statement retains its plausible deniability.

“When people talk,” observes the psycholinguist Steven Pinker, “they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role-playing, sidestep, shilly-shally, and engage in other forms of vagueness and innuendo. We all do this, and we expect others to do it, yet at the same time we profess to long for plain speaking, for people to get to the point and say what they mean, simple as that. Such hypocrisy is a human universal.”

I think the President has become so used to being applauded for his folksy verbal games—such as when he trails off with barely audible expletives to communicate mocking exasperation—that he has felt confident to bring his signature performance to audiences abroad. What this really amounts to is nothing more than a particular way of being irreverent and funny by mining the hypocritical side of a speech culture.

If he were not president, he would probably have made an outstanding Filipino version of Lenny Bruce or George Carlin. One can imagine these American stand-up artists having a field day satirizing the world of diplomacy and governance to which they are outsiders. But what a disaster it would be if President Duterte, or any head of state for that matter, plays such games within the system into which he has been thrust.

The least that could happen is that he would be misunderstood. People would not know when he is articulating policy or merely verbalizing a personal angst. Without the benefit of clear policy statements, his administration could be plunged into chaos. If he persists in ignoring the procedural norms of the institutional system over which he presides, he could lose credibility, and, before long, the authority to speak for it.

None of this is certain. Much depends on what public opinion encourages him to do, and, so far, his approval and trust ratings remain high. I think the surveys indicate that Filipinos want him to succeed, and while they may be wary about where he’s taking the nation, they are giving him the benefit of the doubt. So, let us assume for a moment that there is method in this madness.

Mr. Duterte would have thought that, because of his shady human rights record as Davao City mayor, he would never have been America’s preferred candidate for the Philippine presidency. He would have known that anything he did in his war on drugs would be subjected to the human rights and rule of law test by which America and the Western world put Third World autocrats on the defensive. In short, he would have known he had nothing to gain from trying to please the United States or the European Union or the United Nations. Thus, he decided he did not need their approval. Perhaps he even believed that the only way he might earn their grudging respect is by antagonizing them.

But China is a different matter. First of all, it is known that Mr. Duterte is keen to set himself apart from the pro-West elite that had ruled the Philippines for so long. The pivot to China is an eloquent expression of that wish. Secondly, by appearing to break with the West, he is telling China that he is not just another American stooge who speaks with a forked tongue.

What might he hope to gain from this dramatic turn to China? Two things perhaps: One, he needs China’s presence to neutralize America’s power in the country and the rest of the Asian region. Two, he hopes to get China to jump-start the country’s own long-term agenda for self-propelling economic growth.

It could be a clever strategy, but, to the extent that it entails burning longstanding bridges, it is one filled with incalculable risk for the nation as a whole. It fails to reckon with the enduring American influence that, whether we like it or not, resides in our people’s consciousness and is built into our institutions. In like manner, it overestimates the capacity of Filipinos to rise overnight above deeply rooted racial prejudices and take a purely pragmatic view of the country’s relationship with China.

These factors are not only cultural; they are also structural. No single individual, not even the willful Mr. Duterte, can hope to overturn them in the short span of six years by a mere shift in rhetoric. Moreover, I also believe that no form of mendicancy can be good for our country.


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