Jul 142017
 

INTERVIEW GIVEN TO THE VARSITARIAN, OFFICIAL STUDENT PAPER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF SANTO TOMAS (UST). UST IS THE OLDEST UNIVERSITY IN THE PHILIPPINES. JULY 4, 2017.

1.Varsitarian: How would you assess Duterte’s choice of secretaries for foreign affairs? How would you assess Perfecto Yasay and Alan Peter Cayetano’s performances as secretaries for Foreign Affairs? How effective was Duterte’s appointment on the two secretaries?
 
PROF. SIMBULAN: PRES. DUTERTE’S CHOICE OF PERFECTO YASAY WAS A BIG BLUNDER BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT SHOULD HAVE DONE HIS OWN VETTING OF HIS APPOINTEE IN A KEY CABINET POSITION, THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (DFA). THE PRESIDENT SHOULD HAVE SPARED HIMSELF THE EMBARRASSMENT OF HAVING APPOINTED AN AMERICAN CITIZEN WHO EVEN LIED ABOUT THE STATUS OF HIS CITIZENSHIP BEFORE THE CONGRESS’ COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS. AS FOR YASAY’S REPLACEMENT – SEN. ALLAN PETER CAYETANO, HIS KNOWLEDGE AND COMPETENCE IN PHILIPPINE FOREIGN POLICY IN GOVERNMENT AS A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATOR IS UNHEARD OF. OBVIOUSLY, HIS APPOINTMENT WAS BASED ON PRESIDENT DUTERTE’S POST-ELECTION COMMITMENT TO APPOINT HIS VICE PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE TO THE DFA POST. THE DFA UNDER PRES. DUTERTE WILL FACE THE CHALLENGE OF REINTERPRETING THEIR PRINCIPAL’S OFTEN VULGAR, SWEEPING AND UNDIPLOMATIC LANGUAGE BEFORE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCES. I WOULD HAVE PREFERRED TO SEE A PATRIOTIC FILIPINO DIPLOMAT, FORMER PHILIPPINE AMBASSADOR TO ASEAN DR. WILFRIDO VILLACORTA OR FORMER CONGRESSMAN NERI COLMENARES APPOINTED AS FOREIGN AFFAIRS SECRETARY SO THAT THIS WOULD BE IN SYNC WITH PRES. DUTERTE’S DECLARED NEW PATH FOR THE PHILIPPINES’ “INDEPENDENT FOREIGN POLICY”.

 2. Varsitarian: Critics have described President Duterte’s relationship with America as a rocky relationship, given the reactions of President Duterte to the criticisms and praises of Barack Obama and Donald Trump respectively re: war on drugs. How will you assess this relationship between Duterte and Trump in the long run? Will the relationship be effective?
PROF. SIMBULAN: IT IS NOW OBVIOUS THAT PRES. DUTERTE DOES NOT WANT TO BE CRITICIZED REGARDING HIS METHODS OF HANDLING THE ANTI-ILLEGAL DRUGS CAMPAIGN AND ABOUT THE DISTURBING NUMBER OF EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS AS A RESULT OF THE ON-GOING CAMPAIGN AGAINST ILLEGAL DRUGS. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED WHEN FORMER U.S. PRES. OBAMA CRITICIZED HIM – HE HIT BACK BY DIGGING INTO THE HUMAN RIGHTS ATROCITIES OF THE UNITED STATES DURING THE PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN WAR, THE MASSACRES COMMITTED BY U.S. SOLDIERS DURING THE U.S.-MORO WARS AND THE CURRENT WAR OF ATTRITION OF THE UNITED STATES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN WHERE THE U.S. INDISCRIMINATELY USES KILLER DRONES AND RAINS BOMBS ON CIVILIAN POPULATIONS. IN CONTRAST, WHEN U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP ASSUMED OFFICE THIS YEAR, HE GAVE PRES. DUTERTE HIS ASSURANCE OF SUPPORT FOR HIS ANTI-ILLEGAL DRUGS CAMPAIGN AND DID NOT MENTION ANYTHING ABOUT EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS WHICH WERE ALREADY BEING MENTIONED BY MOST AMERICAN DAILIES INCLUDING THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE WASHINGTON POST, NOT TO MENTION THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT. THAT IS WHY PRES. DUTERTE NOW IS IN SPEAKING TERMS WITH PRES. TRUMP, AND NOW GIVING THE ASSURANCE THAT THE PHILIPPINES WILL NOT DUMP EXISTING PHILIPPINE-U.S. RELATIONS DOWN THE DRAIN.
 3. Varsitarian: Over the year, China has given foreign aid and assistance to the Philippines recently on the Marawi clash. Will this set-up work out despite the island disputes and the “threat of war” by China if the Philippines pursues its claim on Benham Rise? 
 
AS FAR AS I KNOW, THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THAT CHINA HAS PROVIDED WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION DIRECTLY TO THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT,  TIMED IN SUPPORT OF PRESIDENT DUTERTE’S ANTI-TERRORISM CAMPAIGN IN MARAWI. IN 1972, CHINA THEN UNDER MAO ZE DONG, PROVIDED WEAPONS AND AMMUNITION IN THE SO-CALLED “KARAGATAN CASE” TO THE NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY(NPA), BUT THIS ARMS LANDING FOR THE NPA WAS DETECTED AND FOILED BY THE GOVERNMENT.  MOST OF THE WEAPONS SUPPLIED BY CHINA TO THE NPA ENDED UP IN THE HANDS OF THE PHILIPPINE MILITARY. CHINA IS CLAIMING ALMOST 90% OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA WHICH INTRUDES INTO THE PHILIPPINES’ EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE AND EXCLUSIVE CONTINENTAL SHELF. BUT THE UN PERMANENT ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL IN THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS HAS ALREADY RULED THAT CHINA’S SO-CALLED NINE DASH LINE IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA HAS NO BASIS IN INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THAT THE PHILIPPINES’ CLAIM AND STAND ON ITS EEZ, ECS AND TERRITORY IS LEGAL. EVIDENTLY, THE STRATEGY OF THE DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION IS NOT TO CHALLENGE CHINA AT THIS TIME BUT TO ESTABLISH GOODWILL AND GOOD RELATIONS SO THAT THE COUNTRY CAN BENEFIT FROM THE REGIONAL AND GLOBAL PROSPERITY OF CHINA IN TERMS OF TRADE, INFRASTRUCTURAL LOANS, TOURISM, AND INVESTMENTS. THE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUES WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN INTERNATIONALLY RULED IN OUR FAVOR, CAN BE RESOLVED LATER,  WHEN GOODWILL HAS ALREADY BEEN ESTABLISHED. THE WARMING OF TIES WITH CHINA UNDER PRES. DUTERTE HAS ALLOWED THE RESUMPTION OF BILATERAL TALKS, EVEN WHILE DISCUSSIONS ON THE MORE CONTENTIOUS MARITIME DISPUTES ARE POSTPONED FOR FUTURE DISCUSSIONS. PERHAPS, THE PRESIDENT IS KEEPING EYE ON THE FACT THAT IN A FEW MORE YEARS, CHINA WILL OVERTAKE THE UNITED STATES AS THE RICHEST ECONOMIC POWER IN THE WORLD. 
4. Varsitarian: How do you assess the “warm” reception and the foreign aid offered to the Duterte administration during his state visits to China and Russia? What is your assessment on Duterte’s approach to both countries; when should Duterte start trusting these two countries as Philippine “allies”? 
 
BASED ON THE PUBLIC PRONOUNCEMENTS OF PRES. DUTERTE, HE WANTS AN INDEPENDENT AND BALANCED FOREIGN POLICY. HE DOES NOT WANT TO LEAN EXCLUSIVELY ON OUR TRADITIONAL ALLY, THE UNITED STATES. HE BELIEVES WE SHOULD DEAL WITH ALL NATIONS EQUALLY AND MAXIMIZE THE BENEFITS THAT WE CAN DERIVE FROM EACH. HE HAS EXTENDED A HAND OF WARM FRIENDSHIP WITH CHINA AND RUSSIA AND HE HOPES THAT THEY WILL RECIPROCATE WITH GESTURES THAT WILL SUPPORT OUR ECONOMY AND DEVELOPMENT PLANS – IN OUR INDUSTRIALIZATION, AGRICULTURE AND INFRASTRUCTURE. THE COMPETITION AMONG THESE COUNTRIES TO GET THE PHILIPPINES’ ATTENTION BECAUSE OF OUR GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA MAY REAP A HARVEST OF SUPPORT FROM OUR FRIENDS AND ALLIES. OF COURSE, THIS VERBAL PRONOUNCEMENT REMAINS TO BE SEEN BECAUSE WE STILL HAVE A LONG STRING OF EXISTING SECURITY TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS IN PLACE WITH THE UNITED STATES. WE HAVE THE PH-US 1947 MILITARY ADVISORY AND ASSISTANCE AGREEMENT, THE 1951 PH-US MUTUAL DEFENSE TREATY, THE 1999 PH-US VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, AND THE 2014 PH-US ENHANCED DEFENSE COOPERATION AGREEMENT. UNDER THESE AGREEMENTS, WE HAVE ALLOWED U.S. TROOPS TO ESTABLISH THEIR PRESENCE ON OUR TERRITORY THROUGH U.S. MILITARY FACILITIES, U.S. TROOPS’ PRESENCE AND OTHER USES OF OUR TERRITORY FOR THEIR MILITARY PURPOSE. SHALL WE ABROGATE THESE EXISTING AGREEMENTS TO BALANCE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER BIG POWERS LIKE CHINA AND RUSSIA? OR SHALL WE LIKEWISE FORGE SIMILAR SECURITY AGREEMENTS WITH CHINA AND RUSSIA? HOWEVER, THE EXISTENCE OF ANY FOREIGN MILITARY FACILITY OR DE FACTO MILITARY BASE IN ANY PART OF PHILIPPINE TERRITORY IS REALLY DIRECTED AGAINST OTHER COUNTRIES THAT MAY BE HOSTILE TO CERTAIN FOREIGN POWERS. THESE ARE THEREFORE, ANATHEMA TO THE COUNTRY’S TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENT PHILIPPINE FOREIGN POLICY.
5. Varsitarian: How do you assess the relationship between Duterte and the United Nations? Do you think the war on drugs’ reputation can affect the foreign aid coming in the country? Will having China, Japan, and Russia as “suppliers” of foreign aid compensate for this relationship? 
 
THE UNITED NATIONS, WITH WHICH WE HAVE TRADITIONALLY INITIATED STRONG COMMITMENTS PERTAINING TO THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, THE ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY, ABOLITION OF TORTURE, ETC. IS VERY DISTURBED BY THE LARGE NUMBERS OF REPORTED AND DOCUMENTED CASES OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS UNDER THE DUTERTE ADMINISTRATION. PRESIDENT DUTERTE DOES NOT GIVE THEM ANY ASSURANCES ESPECIALLY WHEN HE PUBLICLY ENCOURAGES THE MILITARY, POLICE AND OTHER LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES TO KILL ALL THOSE INVOLVED IN ILLEGAL DRUGS, OR TO BYPASS DUE PROCESSES AS IF SUSPECTED CRIMINAL AND EVEN DRUG USERS HAVE NO RIGHTS AND DESERVE TO DIE. PRESIDENT DUTERTE’S STRONG WORDS AGAINST THE UNITED NATIONS (UN) ARE ALSO OBVIOUSLY IN REACTION TO ITS  CRITICISMS ON HIS ANTI-ILLEGAL DRUG CAMPAIGN AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS. IT WILL NOT BE GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY IF WE WILL LOSE ASSISTANCE FROM THE UNITED NATIONS AND EUROPEAN UNION. THEY HAVE BEEN VERY GOOD SUPPORTERS OF PHILIPPINE ANTI-DISASTER MANAGEMENT AND REHABILITATION EFFORTS TO THE COUNTRY ESPECIALLY IN THE FACE OF NATURAL CALAMITIES SUCH AS THE EXPLOSION OF MT. PINATUBO AND THE YOLANDA SUPER-TYPHOON.
6. Varsitarian: Will this relationship help in the long run and will straying away from such the EU and UN pan out more effectively than following orders and policies of the United Nations? 
 
IT IS NOT NECESSARILY INTERVENTION NOR “FOLLOWING ORDERS” WHEN OTHER COUNTRIES OR EVEN THE U.N. EXPRESS THEIR CONCERN OR ARE DISTURBED BY HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AND EJKS IN OUR COUNTRY. IN FACT, WE HAVE SIGNED AND MADE COMMITMENTS WITH THE UN AND  WITH OTHER COUNTRIES – BILATERALLY AND MULTILATERALLY – ON ISSUES PERTAINING TO THE RECOGNITION OF PEOPLE’S RIGHTS, RESPECT FOR DUE PROCESS, TORTURE, OUTLAWING INVOLUNTARY DISAPPEARANCES, PROHIBITION OF EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS BY STATES AND EVEN ON THE ABOLITION OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT. LIKEWISE, WE CAN ALSO EXPRESS THE SAME POSITION WHEN OTHER COUNTRIES ARE SEEN TO VIOLATE INTERNATIONALLY-RECOGNIZED RIGHTS FOR PEOPLE IN GENERAL, ESPECIALLY INDIGENOUS PEOPLES AND WOMEN.
7. Varsitarian: Given the worldwide reception on the Marawi siege, would it have helped the distribution of goods during the Marawi clash if more countries had pitched in to help? Do you see this as an effect of the Duterte’s approach to democratic countries who have contested Duterte’s war on drugs? 
 
HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE ARE NORMALLY CHANNELED THROUGH GOVERNMENTS, BUT NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS INCLUDING THE INTERNATIONAL AND PHILIPPINE NATIONAL RED CROSS MAY ALSO PROVIDE RELIEF AND BE THE CHANNELS FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF FOREIGN AND LOCAL ASSISTANCE. THE GOVERNMENT HAD TO CONTROL THE FLOW OF HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE INSIDE MARAWI AS THIS MIGHT JUST GO IN THE HANDS OF THE MAUTE TERRORISTS.
9. Varsitarian: How has Duterte’s foreign policy affected the country’s national defense policies given Duterte’s interventions on the Marawi clash (i.e. declaring Martial Law in Mindanao, closing Marawi’s doors to aid not only from local organizations but from international orgs and countries as well)
THE COUNTRY’S SECURITY WEAKNESSES HAVE BEEN EXPOSED BY THE MARAWI CONFLICT. THE AFP WAS NOT PREPARED IN TERMS OF ADVANCE INTELLIGENCE OR MAY HAVE IGNORED INTELLIGENCE PROVIDED BY U.S. FORCES IN THE PHILIPPINES. THE ENTIRE AFP HAS BEEN MOBILIZED AGAINST JUST A LOCAL HOMEGROWN MAUTE-ABU SAYAFF-BIFF GROUP AND YET COULD NOT ELIMINATE IT IN COMBAT EVEN AFTER  MONTH-LONG OFFENSIVE BATTLES. FOR SURE, NOW THAT IT HAS BEEN MADE PUBLIC THAT THE U.S. DIRECTLY PROVIDED TECHNICAL  INTELLIGENCE, TRAINING AND LOGISTICS TO THE AFP IN MARAWI, THE MAUTE-ABBU SAYAFF WILL BE GETTING MORE ASSISTANCE FROM ISIS/ISIL OR FROM THEIR OTHER ISLAMIC SUPPORTERS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD. THIS IS NOW THE GLOBAL TREND, SO WE SHOULD BRACE OURSELVES FOR MORE ATTACKS. A LOCAL CONFLICT CAN EASILY BE INTERNATIONALIZED WHEN FOREIGN ENTITIES ARE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE ON BOTH  SIDE OF THAT CONFLICT.
10. Varsitarian: Given the unconventional relationships with countries such as Russia and China, has Duterte crafted an effective foreign policy map for the country for the next five years of his presidency?
PRESIDENT DUTERTE IS IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION IN TRYING TO STRIKE A BALANCE IN OUR FOREIGN POLICY MAP FOR THE COUNTRY. THE OBJECTIVE IS TO BE FRIENDS TO ALL AND ENEMY OF NONE, AND TO MAXIMIZE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ALL COUNTRIES SO THAT THIS CONTRIBUTES TO OUR COUNTRY’S PROSPERITY AND DEVELOPMENT GOALS, PARTICULARLY FOR OUR INDUSTRIES AND AGRICULTURE. HOWEVER, THE WORSE THING THAT CAN HAPPEN IS IF THE PHILIPPINES TAKES THE EXTREME OF PIVOTING ITS FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICIES TOWARDS CHINA AND RUSSIA IN A RELATIONSHIP OF DEPENDENCE, SIMILAR TO OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE UNITED STATES AFTER 1946.
A REORIENTATION HOWEVER,  IS NECESSARY SO THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE CAN PROVIDE THE ADJUSTMENTS,  SUPPORT AND REORIENTATION FOR THE NEW DIRECTIONS TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN PHILIPPINE FOREIGN AND SECURITY POLICY.

   

 

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