I do not want to say that “our country voted against a UN resolution that seeks to end human rights abuses toward the Rohingya Muslims” because this is not who we are. Neither am I willing to say “the Philippines is surrendering the West Philippine Sea to China” because I do not believe that such a statement comes from the will of our people. In lieu of “the Philippines,” I want to say “the present government” or “the current administration,” because our foreign policy nowadays reflects the wishes and whims of the President much more than it reflects the aspirations and values of our people.
Consider, for instance, our legacy of helping refugees — from the Russians fleeing the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 to the East Timorese seeking refuge in the wake of their independence struggle in 2000. Never forget that we opened our shores to Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler’s terror in the 1930s, as well as to the Vietnamese “boat people” fleeing civil war in the 1970s. Even today, I meet former Vietnamese refugees who remember the generosity of our people.
Thus, the Duterte administration’s decision to reject a crucial vote supporting the Rohingya in their desperate hour is a betrayal of our long-standing solidarity with peoples who face oppression in their own lands.
Consider, too, our legacy of resistance against adversaries that seemed more powerful than us. Did Andres Bonifacio ever say, “We are no match against Spain!”? Did Antonio Luna ever say “We are no match against America!”? And did Wenceslao Vinzons, Nieves Fernandez and Gumbay Piang ever act as if we were powerless against the Japanese? Surely, our country needs to be a friend of China. But not a vassal. President Duterte’s defeatism disgraces all our heroes who fought based on what is right, not on who holds might.
Unfortunately, it is painfully clear the President does not care about the national interest. Or else, he would not embarrass all of us—and compromise the livelihoods of overseas Filipinos—by saying that the people of Iceland “go about eating ice,” or heaping coarse insults, not worth repeating, on foreign leaders. Or else, he would not engage in what professor Randy David calls “selective nationalism”: invoking “sovereignty” when it comes to the US or the UN, but abandoning it when dealing with China, where it matters the most.
Instead, Mr. Duterte’s foreign policy seems to prioritize his own interests, enacting his subservience to China — time will tell why — and his efforts to shield himself (and his allies) from accountability. Three recent episodes are illustrative:
First, his visit to Beijing where he perfunctorily “brought up” the Unclos ruling, only to abandon the point as soon as Chinese President Xi Jinping, as expected, rejected it. Compare his actions and words to those of the leaders of Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, and you cannot help but conclude that Mr. Duterte is unfit to be Commander in Chief.
Second, his decision to suspend loans and grants from the 18 nations who voted to investigate his “drug war” at the UN Human Rights Council. Take note that these countries were not against the Philippines. They were against the killings, now numbering tens of thousands, as any nation ought to be. As Mr. Duterte himself should be. Only a government with something to hide will reject an independent investigation of the mass murder of its own people, and spurn assistance and goodwill just to spite those who support it.
Finally, the administration’s strong reaction to some US senators’ proposal to impose a travel ban on Philippine officials responsible for Sen. Leila de Lima’s detention — a double standard, considering its nonchalance toward Hong Kong’s China-linked decision to bar Conchita Carpio Morales and Albert del Rosario from entry. Never forget that De Lima was jailed on the basis of convicts’ uncorroborated testimonies after her efforts to investigate extrajudicial killings. Is the government really willing to damage our relations with the US just to protect the President’s unjustifiable and hypocritical “drug war,” and defend his acts of vindictiveness?
Alas, as all of the above makes clear, the government’s foreign policy is pro-Duterte — and anti-Philippines.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.