Commentary: The necessary president

When we visited Malacañang in February 2017 to meet the president, now Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy asked me what made me support the President. It’s a question often asked to me. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza also asked it to me when I met him here in The Netherlands during one of the peace talks with CPP/NPA. My answer has always been the same: Duterte’s stance on the South China Sea (SCS) issue.

I’ve always been passionate about that issue. And my stance has always been the same: What the Aquino administration did was wrong and set our country onto a dangerous path. That’s what I also told Mike Acebedo Lopez when he interviewed me.

When some of my Filipino friends here in the Netherlands invited me to stage a protest outside the Permanent Court of Arbitration here in The Hague during the time the arbitral case against China was filed in 2013, I emphatically refused and told them that the whole thing was a mistake and that would cost our country a great deal of money, diplomatic capital, and put our country in the crosshair of a bubbling hegemonic war between a rising superpower (China) and a declining one (US).

When Duterte spoke during the June 2015 Asia CEO Forum, I was surprised of his stance towards the SCS crisis. He understood the dangerous geopolitical position of the Philippines.

During the campaign, Duterte kept on mentioning his proposed conciliatory approach towards China. I was thrilled because, for me, he would seriously turn the tide of history.

Historians of international history have all been predicting that a new world war is looming, and the SCS is one of the potential flash points.

You see, when huge countries are at war, they usually don’t fight first in their own soil. For example, during the Cold War, US and USSR fought their wars in other countries.

Looking at the SCS geopolitical theatre, the Philippines is the best candidate for that possible proxy war between CN and US. North Korea has nukes and the resolve to use them. Meanwhile, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are very industrialized and well-developed. No one on their right mind would seek to destroy such countries. Remember: whoever is the victor in every war bears the brunt of rebuilding — that’s the price one pays for being the center of the new order that emerges after a devastating contest for global dominance. No matter how crazy it seems to us, war involves rational calculation. So the rational thing to do is for proxy wars to be conducted in countries where the price of rebuilding it after is less costly. In the SCS geopolitical theater, that is the Philippines.

Duterte saw that danger and is trying his best to nudge our country away from it. We wouldn’t fully realize the significance of what he’s doing until we get to enjoy the benefit of hindsight.

When he became president, Duterte went to the extent of pursuing a policy of neutralism, akin to what Finland did during the Cold War, and also echoing what Claro M. Recto advocated in the 50s. The CIA actually went to the extent of destroying Recto for that. Recto died of a “heart attack” in Italy while he was on a speaking tour. The CIA was implicated.


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