Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been labelled a “threat to democracy” in an official US intelligence report whose authors probably have never had to live around drug addicts and the criminal elements that surrounds them. Also on the list is fellow ASEAN leader Hun Sen, the long serving Prime Minister of Cambodia.
While Hen Sun and Duterte are two very different men leading two very different nations, they do have one thing in common: neither were ‘supposed’ to open up economic doors with China. Hen Sun has been the leading politician in Cambodia since 1984 and in spite of being brought to power thanks to his pro-Vietnam/anti-Khmer Rouge position in the Cambodian–Vietnamese war, in recent years he has pivoted his country’s economic interests towards China in an ironic twist of fate, given that China and the United States were the only major powers to support the Khmer Rouge. Today, Cambodia is increasingly pursuing a policy of multipolarity which has drawn Phnom Penh’s once close Vietnam aligned leader ever closer to Beijing’s economic orbit.
In The Philippines, Duterte has pursued his own unique model of 21st century non-aligned multipolarity which has seen Manila open new avenues of cooperation, dialogue and economic inter-connectivity with China, Moscow and members of ASEAN with whom previous Philippine governments did not have warm relations. At the same time, Duterte has also engaged in positive relations with China’s regional opponent, India, thus demonstrating the wide reach of Duterte’s constructive model which seeks to gain partners on a pragmatic basis without joining in regional disputes far removed from the interests of The Philippines.
While Duterte appears to enjoy a personally warm relationship with Donald Trump, the US Congress and wider ‘deep state’ are firmly anti-Duterte and is not surprising why. Duterte has challenged American hegemony in the most profound ways. First of all, he has challenged the idea that Filipino security is interdependent with that of the United States. He has also challenged the “colonial mentality” in Washington which would have wanted Manila not to make any economic agreements with fellow Asian states, particularly China, but instead to remain firmly in a US dominated economic orbit. Finally, in attacking the narcotics trade which funds terrorism and which itself has been historically dominated by the CIA, Duterte has hit at a US taboo, by putting his people before the black narcotics markets in which the CIA is knee deep.
Because of this, Duterte has become a danger to US hegemony in the region. Consequently, the US intelligence agencies along with local yellow liberal media have jumped on board the ‘anti-democratic’ bandwagon.
Duterte’s Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has stated,
“We view this declaration from no less than the intelligence department of the United States with some concern. I do not think that’s true. [Duterte] is a lawyer, he knows the law, he wants to uphold the rule of law, he knows about the bill of rights.
…with declarations such as this, it is very difficult to be friendly with the United States…It doesn’t seem to be too friendly a declaration.” “This is something we are taking very seriously. It is coming from the intelligence community. It is not even coming from the State Department. It is something that the President will take seriously as well”.
By striking at the heart of US power in Asia in the areas of security, trade and the black narcotics market, Duterte has put the priorities of improving the lives of Filipinos before any considerations of winning favour with a country whose Congress and intelligence agencies still look down on The Philippines.
Only the United States could criticise someone who is incredibly popular among his people under the notion that he is a “threat do democracy”. Duterte is democracy in action, but the only democratic vote that counts for the American elite is how popular one is among the US deep state.