First of all, let me be CRYSTAL CLEAR, President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” is unconscionable. Thousands of people and innocent bystanders have been slain in the name of “cleaning up” the Philippines. Without due process, the Philippine National Police have become the prosecutor, judge, jury and executor of Filipinos who may or may not be involved with drugs. Its deplorable and I hope mounting national mass movement building and international attention and criticism can pierce the presidential halls of the Philippines to cease extrajudicial killings.
The headlines regarding the Philippines this morning is deeply connected to the aforementioned extrajudicial killings. But it seems to me, it is also about a resounding slap on the postcolonial wrist of Duterte. So what am I talking about? Duterte went on (yet another) controversial tirade a couple of days before maybe meeting with President Barack Obama. When prompted by a journalist about talking with Obama about the extradjudicial killings happening in the Philippines right now related to the war on drugs, Duterte got fired up and using his best Pinoy patriarchal voice (yes, I’m being sarcastic), said, “I am not beholden to Obama, my master is the Filipino people.”
When I was watching the press conference, I was like, “Daaaaaamn. He really went there.”
Because a little known historical fact is that past Philippine presidents were not only chummy with US presidents—but actually, many (and by many I mean, ALL) have been puppets to US political will, economic intervention and military occupation. See below chummy, puppet examples below of recent chummy, puppet presidents getting chummy with past US imperialist presidents:
Obama is in Laos right now at the ASEAN meeting (which btw is such a problematic group prioritizing neoliberal reforms that seek to cut the potential of SE Asian countries to develop with self-determination) and he basically heard about Duterte’s comments and canceled their pending meeting. Which in fairness (that’s a Filipino phrase for, “Duterte was asking for it”), Duterte was out of pocket swearing like a Pinoy patriarch whipping out his ego for the world to see—so ain’t nobody talkin to you with that potty mouth, even if you are head of the state. (Update: Duterte is regretful. Good job GPH media relations.)
But that’s not what I wanted to get at here in my morning pages. I think there is a certain shock and disbelief running through the American media (I listened to NPR this morning, read the NY Times, even took a peek at CNN) that a president, much less the Philippine president, would say such distancing comments about the US.
Underlying this shock is a sort of assumption that the Philippines, Filipinos and especially the head of state should remember the history of benevolent coloniality and current-day “help” US imperialism provides in the Philippines by way of military, aid, Justin Bieber tours, etc. What I read in today’s headlines was an aversion to a post-colonial state disavowing US intervention. How dare Filipinos be mad at the US? How dare Duterte say that his only master is the Filipino people? How dare he show anger at his American Big Brother whose only showed kindness, fairness and benevolence?
Yo, people are straight mad that anyone who has been shown US kindness (read: military aid, money, disaster aid, money) have feelings that are not of subservient gratitude—much less rage.
Don’t get it twisted, my people. I think Duterte should be held accountable for a police force and armed forces that has gone rogue. (Haters, see the opening paragraph before you come for me in the comments.) Not only the extrajudicial killings from the “war on drugs” but also the slain community leaders of the Lumad tribe in Mindanao. Duterte must stop killing his so called “masters”.
However, the shock wave that Duterte’s comments have made in the international media demonstrates that no matter how long its been since colonies have been signed into sovereignty on paper. They are still considered colonial projects, that should be grateful, passive, non-confrontational and dutiful. The Philippines as a former US colony should never be angry about US intervention, they should only have the utmost respect for a past-colonizer/neo-imperialist occupier.
Duterte’s comments regarding his accountability to the Filipino people is refreshing. Ain’t no president before him had the gall to put the Filipino people first. Now, the challenge is to see if he really is for the Filipino people.
Enough with them fightin words, Duterte has to ensure that outside of press conferences and big international meetings—he revokes the fetters of US imperial powers on the Philippines. He must terminate unequal agreements between the US and the Philippines such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperating Agreement (EDCA).