A new love triangle — PH/US/China
If you have video you make the news.
And that graphic video of the Philippine police van running over protesters outside the U.S. embassy in Manila was enough to be re-run over and over again for all to see globally on TV.
When I saw it on network morning TV in the U.S., it was right up there with news of the third presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and that Duterte wannabe, Donald Trump.
The video was probably more of the Philippines than most Americans have seen in a long time.
Just seeing a few seconds of a van running over protesters is enough to make me wonder if it’s time for those of us abroad, especially in America to rethink the relationship to our ancestral home.
As a “Born in the U.S.A.,” self-described “American Filipino” journalist and commentator, I’ve covered the Philippines since Marcos.
I’ll share some of my views when I speak at the Filipino Mental Health Initiative’s 10 Anniversary celebration at 11:00 am on Saturday Oct. 22nd. It’s at the San Bruno Senior Center, 1555 Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno, Calif.
But here I’ll talk about just how amok Filipino politics has made me.
In the ‘80s, activists wanted the U.S. out of the Philippines, period, and then were successful in getting them kicked out in 1991 and 1992. Made sense. And for the most part, American Filipinos cheered. Finally, the Philippines could get out from under the colonial cloud of America and be itself!
Or so we thought.
It didn’t last. By 2012, the U.S. was back with joint war games, a Visiting Forces Agreement, a pivot.
Four years later, there’s a strong Duterte at the helm, the man who cussed at President Obama, invoked Hitler and is proponent of extrajudicial killings.
And it’s making Duterte popular—in the Philippines.
Solving the drug problems of the Philippines by gunning down the “bad guys,” isn’t necessarily the answer to the domestic ills of the mostly Catholic country. It’s certainly not scoring points with the enablers of Philippine democracy in the U.S., who cry out for the rule of law.
At the same time, Duterte is growing the distance between the U.S. and the Philippines, talking about ending joint missions, all the while courting the Chinese and signing new deals with the “enemy.”
That would be China. The same China that thinks it can encroach on Philippine space in the West Philippine Sea and get away with it. The same China that is considered an enemy of the U.S., the former Philippine colonizer and liberator.
How do we work our way around this strange emerging love triangle?
Add to the complication the video of the police van running amok at the U.S. embassy and the politics is even more confusing.
To make sense, the police should be joining the people in protest, right?
But that’s how screwy the politics is in the Philippines.
It used to be much simpler. People abroad just wanted the Philippines to be free of a dictator. And it wanted the U.S. out as well. The thought was that, of course, the nationalists, the protesters should win out and determine the direction of the country.
I don’t like the style of Duterte. The thought of extrajudicial killings sounds more like a return to Marcos.
But I have always been an advocate for the Philippines to be whatever it needs or wants to be.
And maybe it means being less global, more Asian than those in America want to think.
This is tough for many of us who are familiar with history. Because maybe it means ultimately a new-look Philippines that puts on the “big boy pants” and is not close to America, at all.
Maybe it means the PH becomes a country that forgets it was made in the image of American democracy, and walks away to be its own version of “democracy.”
Cutting deals with China? Well, the U.S. borrows money from China, sells itself literally (property-wise) to Chinese nationals, all at the same time missiles are pointing eastward.
These days, politics seem to be totally market driven. Your enemy is the guy who doesn’t pay. Everyone else you smile and hopefully take more from them than they take from you.
Tough when it’s a big player like China.
But then why shouldn’t the Philippines deal with China?
Colonial loyalty to the U.S. may not be enough anymore to stay exclusive.
We’re in a new age, and Duterte is for better and for worse, part of that change as the Philippines creates its own “democracy.”
That’s the only way the video played around the world–of the police van running over Filipinos at the U.S. embassy– makes any sense at all.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator in Northern California.
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