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Philippines’ Duterte Seeks Peace


Philippines’ Duterte Seeks Peace

Marjorie Cohn

In April 2016, Rodrigo Duterte won the Philippine presidential election by a landslide, with more than 6 million votes. He openly declared that he was the nation’s first Left president, calling himself a socialist but not a communist. So far, his regime has been controversial, to put it mildly.


Duterte seeks peace? Duterte's proposed lowering the age of criminality responsibility from age 15 to age 9, or jailing 9 year olds, and for how long, and how brutal. Duterte is vicious, and does not come in peace.


"Oplan Bayanihan, a counterinsurgency program modeled on U.S. strategies."

Sounds remarkably like Plan Columbia initiated by B Clinton that set up a bunch of paramilitaries that big landowners used to kill off peasants and take their land. It was responsible for the disappearance of hundreds to thousands of leftist students, politicians, community organizers and union workers at the hands of the Aguilas Negras during the regime of Uribe. The paramilitaries still have't been punished and there is no hint that punishment will come.


Thank you for this informative article, Marjorie Cohn. The MSM's fake news keeps telling us what a murderous tyrant Duterte is, as if his predecessors were somehow better. It's good to have a more balanced perspective.


Duterte promised to end joint military maneuvers with U.S. forces and expel the hundreds of U.S. troops currently stationed in the Philippines. He also expressed his intention to end bilateral agreements concluded by his predecessor with the United States and reverse permission for the United States’ use of five Philippine military bases. “I will break up with America,” Duterte said. “I would rather go to Russia and to China.”

That may sound commendable, but it also foolish. I hope these statements are opening volleys prior to negotiation, rather than the results of failed negotiations. Unlike Russia or and China, the Philippines is not big enough, nor economically string enought to pursue a policy independent from the empire. Castro did, but at great cost.

If Duterte is truly stubborn, he will be removed one way or the other, and if he is not, and remains in power, then he will be subjected to endless demonisation in the so called "free press" worldwide, and the Phillipines will be subjected to endless sanctions, which it is not in a position to survive.

I have lived in both Britain and also Australia, where regardless of who is elected the government takes its ultimate marching orders from Washington. Australia has a history of one Prime minister, Gough Whitlam, who did not. Luckily he was overthrown by stealth and not by force.


The age of criminal responsibility in most countries is way below 15. The UK is 10 for example. France I think has no minimum age. Duterte is a man of peace, not just with the communists but also the Moro (Muslim) separatists and with the Chinese. He always prefers talks over war.


A well written and balanced article. Thank you.


Duterte is not stupid. At home he has spent a lot of time visiting army camps and doubled their salaries so blocking that favourite US route to regime change. Abroad he has visited China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, (all given strong support), Vietnam, Peru, Laos, and drppoed into New Zealand. He has met Putin and will visit Russia next month. He has bought back pledges of aid, investment, trade way above anything the US provides. Other countries (Sweden, Israel, UK) are all dramatically increasing trade and investment. Offers of arms have come from Sweden, Israel, Russia and China.

It is unlikely the US would go for sanctions as it would get little support and he has ensured the Philippines can survive economically without the US. Any attempt at regime change will be met with civil war there is little doubt of that. The bloodbath that would face the oligarchy can not be described in words.


I respect your reasoning, and I dont know what the future might bring. I dont necessarily disagree with you, but I am just putting forward possibilities:-

The favorite method is carrot and stick. On on failure of carrot and stick are other means used. The next favorite means is leader decapitation.

When Duterte came to power, did he not displace much corruption? Is there not a displaced oligarchy? Arent they highly likely to co-operate with a generous foreign power that has always lined their pockets. Victoria Nuland openly boasts of having spent 5 billion dollars in order to create the overthrow of the democratically elected Ukraine government.

I dont have a crystal ball, and dont know what the future will bring, but it comes to mind that the empire has frequently created such a bloodbath on failure of leader decapitation in order to get what it wants:-

  • Libya comes to mind, where the empire funded and trained rebel, and then under a "no fly zone" protected them by their own air power, and assisted the revolution by arial bombing for six months. Hillary Clinton openly delighted at the result.

  • ISIS has been fed arms for several years via convoy through Turkey, and air dropped weapons to other so called rebels. This has created millions of refugees which the empire blames on others. Hillary Clinton promised to finish the job with a "no fly zone" over Syria and destroy the country Libya style. I dont know what Trump will do.


Countries that have successfully resisted bribery, leader decapitation and complete destruction include Venezuella, Iran, Cuba and North Korea. These countries are largely isolated, subjected to sanctions, and so demonised that the average person views them as a threat to world peace.

The Philippines is not oil rich, and that will not be a motivation. But strategic control of the Asia Pacific region will be. And those military bases will not be easily given up.

One bargaining objective that Duterte may request in return for keeping the bases would be a lessening of the economic debt incurred during the Marcos years that has crippled the Philippines and kept is as a third world country. Removal of that debt could result in economic prosperity. Of course the world bank will insist that it cannot just forgive debt. In that case, Duterte, must keep pointing to the Ukraine where the world bank has done just exactly that. Alternatively, let the USA keep their bases, but charge them high rent, which will offset debt repayments It is worth quite a bit to them, so the empire may agree to pay.


I suspect that Duterte may be asking Russia and China to purchase a significant portion of the national debt in return for the removal of USA bases. Interest payments on that debt consume up 40% of the GDP of the Philippines and prevents it from ascending to becoming a booming first world economy.


While it is true the Philippines is still paying off the Marcos debt it is now nowhere near as high as you say. The total debt to GDP ratio is very low (35%) and all foreign debt could be repaid from foreign exchange reserves which are very high. One of the main problems with the previous regime is that they focussed more on repaying debt than developing the country or helping the poor - something Duterte has reversed. The IMF and others constantly criticised Aquino for underspending and have pointed out the golden opportunity Duterte has - low debt, high growth, young workforce. They are also very supportive of his agenda.

Yes the oligarchs are squeeling and plotting regime change. However Duterte has the backing of 76% of the population, the army, the Communist rebels and the Muslim rebels not to mention the richest families in the country outside of the oligarchy such as the Sy family (net worth USD 14 billion) so internally he is relatively safe.

Externally, yes the US seems to lack any thought to what follows regime change but in this case he has spent the last four months in constant travel building up international support not just from the usual suspects (China, Russia, Iran) but also countries within the US sphere - for example Japan, Israel, Indonesia and also countries that the US would like to bring within its sphere such as Vietnam. They should have moved earlier, now the political backlash would be severe.

Duterte grew his political teeth regaining control of Davao City which was a battleground for the communists, the Muslims and pro-Marcos military. He got them all on his side and turned Davao into a relatively safe and prosperous city. He is an astute political manouverer not the idiot the media make him out to be.