Duterte and a resurgent Philippines
AFTER its successful hosting of the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, and the other productive meetings that were held simultaneous to this, the Philippines affirmed that it is once again a major player in the world stage.
Filipinos all over the world should be proud that our country, still developing and with its own budget constraints, was able to organize and mount such an important international event which highlights the friendship and cooperation among the 10 member nations of the ASEAN, as well as its dialogue-partners that include the US, China, Russia, Japan, India, Australia, and the United Nations.
Apart from the ASEAN meetings, the bilateral meetings on the sidelines between the Philippines and other key countries would have a positive impact on our trade and investments. President Rodrigo Duterte held bilateral meetings with US President Donald Trump, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, as well as India and Brunei.
The independent foreign policy of President Duterte is working to our advantage. Whereas the previous Aquino administration was so pro-American, President Duterte has instead sought a balance amid the competing interests of its traditional allies, such as the US and Japan, and its new friends and the emerging superpowers, China and Russia.
With his strong pronouncements – cuss words and all – Duterte has shown he is no pushover and that he will fight for the Philippines’ best interests. Filipinos believe him because they see the progress under his leadership – the fall in the crime rate, especially index crimes; the ongoing infrastructure build-up, such as the new roads, railways, and subway; the military success in eliminating the Islamic State threat in Marawi; and the booming economy, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for this year forecast at 6.5 percent, on par with China’s growth.
The Duterte administration deserves all the accolade it is getting now from the world leaders and other participants in the meetings, for showcasing our renowned Filipino hospitality. Filipinos living here are eyewitness to this successful event, staged with much professionalism and “joie de vivre” such that even the confusion over the awkward ASEAN handshake was received locally with much humor.
But Filipinos who read only biased Western media such as the New York Times, the Guardian Newspaper, or Daily Mail, or listen only to CNN or BBC, will not get all these positive and heartening news. What they will get instead are twisted reports that will be spun by the public relations operators in the service of their antiDuterte clients.
These biased Western media, for instance, have highlighted the antiTrump and anti-Duterte rally that was conducted by a small number of urban communists during the ASEAN Summit. These leftists belong to fringe groups which continue to survive only due to overseas financing, some reportedly being given by socialist and communist groups in countries that belong to the European Union.
The fact that they are being allowed to stage rallies and harass and taunt the policemen guarding the ASEAN events is proof that the Philippines – despite criticisms from European and American political personalities – is very much a democracy, certainly not an “authoritarian state” defeated Democractic candidate Bernie Sanders claimed our government is. If this was any other country in Asia these communists would have been jailed immediately or not allowed to stage their rallies in the first place. At the very least, the Philippine government should require them to clean up all the garbage that they leave behind in the streets.
I pity Filipinos abroad who still love their country but are only getting to read biased reports such as the ones likening Duterte to Hitler or describing him as a mass murderer. My fellow Filipinos especially those living abroad and have no access to first-hand news, please note: No, there are no state-sanctioned killings. No, there are no several thousands in “extrajudicial” corpses in the streets. No, we have not shifted allegiances, the majority of Filipinos are still proDuterte.
There was one absurd tweet, reportedly from Amnesty International’s Philippine agents that said that there were 13 million deaths in the Philippines. Seriously? That number is more than the population of Metro Manila. Last time I checked, Metro Manilans and other Filipinos were still very much alive, out in droves in the streets and malls, very busy in the run-up to the hectic Christmas season, Filipino-style with lots of giftgiving and parties.
There was another comical report saying that Trump “ordered” Duterte to sing at the ASEAN Summit. The truth is that it was joke, the kind Filipinos make in karaoke events when they pretend that they don’t like to sing, but are just raring to do so. The Duterte joke was that he didn’t want to sing but has to, as the US commander-in-chief ordered him to. Get it?
Unlike Western nations and their humorless media, Filipinos love jokes and singing, and we “get” our President.