President Duterte’s foreign policy in his first 100 days in office could generally be characterized as being, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” at least in his war against illegal drugs.
His near-obsession with ridding the country of some 3 million drug addicts has left him railing against the Philippines’ closest allies, the United States and the European Union, and even the United Nations, which have cautioned him against his seeming disregard for human rights.
Just before leaving for his first international appearance as head of state in Laos for the 28th and 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summits, he made international headlines for cussing US President Barack Obama, something he has denied doing and explained away as being taken out of context.
His communications group made matters worse by announcing that Mr. Duterte would be seated between Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, but he actually sat between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The seating arrangement allowed him to speak with the Indonesian President on the plight of convicted drug mule Mary Jane Veloso. But then again, Mr. Duterte drew strong criticisms from the Filipino community for his conversation with Widodo where he was said to have given the “go-ahead” to Veloso’s execution.
In his defense, the President’s men explained that what he had told Widodo was, “Follow your laws. I will not interfere.”
After the summits, Duterte proclaimed that he was the one who snubbed Obama and that he was inclined to send home the American troops in Mindanao, hinting at scrapping the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States.
Returning from his official visit to Vietnam, Mr. Duterte earned the ire of the international community by saying that he would just be happy to slaughter 3 million drug addicts similar to Adolf Hitler’s massacre of millions of Jews.
He was quoted in his return speech in Davao City from Vietnam to have taken exception to comparisons of him with the leader of Nazi Germany during the campaign period in May and said in disgust, “Then I am him.”
He drew the line, though, that while Hitler slaughtered innocent Jews, he would be killing criminals.
When the rhetoric drew the ire of the international community, particularly the Jews, he apologized and compared himself to Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu instead.
Flames of scorn
But within days, the President fanned the flames of scorn anew by telling Obama that he can go to hell after his criticisms of the bloody war against drugs while the EU can go to purgatory “because hell’s already full.”
Over at the House of Representatives, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, a member of the opposition, might have seen the succeeding events before they took place.
On Oct. 4, Tuesday, Lagman declined to give an assessment of President Duterte’s first 100 days in office.
“Let us wait until we reach the 100 days, because between now and Friday, he (Duterte) might make a serious blunder or an important miracle,” Lagman said at a press conference.
The very next day, Mr. Duterte once again lambasted US President Barack Obama and the European Union, telling them to go to hell and purgatory, respectively, for supposedly meddling in his administration’s war against drugs.
There was no letup from the President. On Thursday, he called international foreign aids as “crumbs from other nations’ favors” in a speech in Butuan City.
He also said that if the United States refuses to sell the Philippines arms, his administration is inclined to buy arms from Russia and China instead.
US officials have started finding his rhetoric “at odds” with the long and warm relations between our two countries and said that the Philippines is always free to pursue other diplomatic links if it so wishes.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay’s statement on Duterte’s independent foreign policy where he said, “America has failed us,” did not help in any way fortify the two countries’ ties.
In his latest tirade, Mr. Duterte dared the United States and the EU to pull out its assistance from the Philippines saying, “We can survive onour own.”
Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said there’s something wrong with always “playing the victim in circumstances that he (the President) created.”
Villarin said it was high time for the President “to be like a statesman.”
“If the approach to governance is all emotion-laden, that there’s always an outburst of emotions that is being made into policy—that is dangerous. In governance, you really have to take all sides. In the end, you will have to look at the perspective of differing, opposing views,” Villarin said.
Villarin said the Duterte administration is likely to “implode” after the 100 days if it would continue with a “lack of coherence in policies.”
Villarin, who is also from Davao, noted that President Duterte is not exactly a leader exposed to foreign policy and diplomacy, having been ensconced in Davao City all his life but thrown into the national scene all too suddenly.
National security analyst Chester Cabalza said that the President “should clarify and define his foreign and security policies as he asserts the country’s own interests and direction.”
“Although his intents for independent foreign and security policies are sound and revolutionary, his approach of expressing it seems tactical that may lead to the misconstruction of his language,” Cabalza said, adding:
“The Philippines under his tenure has the right to explore engagements and renew friendships with other big powers but an old ally should still be accorded with special attention.”
THE ADMINISTRATION needs to clearly spell out the “independent foreign policy” being adopted by President Duterte for the international community to understand the path the Philippines would be taking in the next six years, a security analyst said.
“The President must clearly define what he means by an independent foreign policy in order for the international community to know our intents and values,” Chester Cabalza of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) told the Inquirer.
“Our independent foreign policy should regard the importance of present alliances notwithstanding the long-term goal of self-reliance in its defense posture to safeguard its people and territory,” Cabalza said.
Mr. Duterte emphasized the Philippines’ independent foreign policy during a speech in Davao—before his unusual debut on the world stage at the recently concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit—where he directed obscenity-laced remarks at US President Barack Obama.
As a result, the White House canceled a scheduled bilateral meeting between the two leaders.
Mr. Duterte fumed at Obama’s intent to discuss human rights issues with him, but later regretted spewing an expletive.
He, however, continued with his tirade against the United States when he showed the brutality of American troops against Filipinos in World War II in a speech before heads of state at the Asean summit.
No fan of longtime ally
Mr. Duterte also said he was no fan of the United States, a long-time ally and strategic partner of the Philippines.
“Interpreting the Constitution, the government can and may forge an independent foreign policy. But the intent and validity of the prerogative should be taken at the right time. There should be a thorough study of past foreign policies that connects to the present global and regional security environment,” Cabalza said.
Cabalza said an independent foreign policy must be executed in a manner “not maligning small, middle and great powers.”