Duterte and a resur­gent Philip­pines

Manila Bulletin - - Views • Features - By GETSY TIGLAO

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.

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