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The Philippines’ pivot in action: Can “The Punisher” withstand America’s punishment?

As the Philippines under its popular new President Rodrigo Duterte pivots away from the US, the US is intensifying its media campaign that misrepresents his anti-drugs policy in order to miscast him as a ‘dictator’. This looks like the preparation of a hybrid war scenario aimed at overthrowing Duterte’s government, which as in Syria could involve the use of Jihadist terrorists.

Andrew Korybko

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Rodrigo Duterte promised to wage a War on Drugs and return pride to the Philippines if his people elected him President, and with less than three months in office under his belt, he’s already making astounding progress on both interlinked fronts. More than 700,000 drug addicts and pushers have surrendered to the authorities, with around 3,000 being killed for violently resisting and endangering the arresting officers’ lives.

It’s thus evidently not for naught that Duterte earned the nickname “The Punisher” during his two-decade-long service as the mayor of Davao City, during which time he turned it round from being one of the most dangerous places in Asia to what is now one of the safest. 

On the foreign policy front, Duterte has stood up to the US to global applause, calling Obama a “son of a bitch” and the US Ambassador a “gay son of a whore”.

Moreover, his Foreign Minister powerfully reminded the US that the Philippines are not America’s “little brown brother”, in a moving statement that evoked memories of classic Cold War anti-imperialism.

In and of themselves, these words wouldn’t ordinarily mean much to the US and could easily be sucked up so long as Washington’s hegemony was left unchallenged.  The thing is however that Duterte is backing up his words with actions, and is rapidly moving the Philippines away from the US’ unipolar grasp and towards the open embrace of the multipolar world.

In the course of just one week Duterte’s government bravely announced that it wants the US to remove its Special Forces from the southern island of Mindanao, that the Philippines will no longer be conducting joint patrols with the US in the South China Sea, and that Manila is now looking to Beijing and Moscow for procuring its future military equipment.

All the while that this is going on, the Philippines ‘officially’ reassured the US that it was “not cutting ties” and that the authorities will respect the EDCA basing agreement that was signed under Duterte’s predecessor.

What the country however really wants is a “paradigm shift” in its relations with Washington. In fact the Philippines is pivoting away from the US at a quicker pace than even I had forecast in an earlier article for The Duran back in May, and the US’ so-called “Pivot to Asia” is direly threatened as a result.

The US for its part has moved forward with its Hybrid Warfare plans against the Philippines, beginning a nasty infowar which seeks to paint Duterte as a dictator for the way that his country is standing up to its narco-terrorists.

I spoke about all this in a recent edition of my Context Countdown radio show which was transcribed by GPolit into a stand-alone article

Just the other day a supposed ‘informant’ even alleged that the President personally ordered and took part in assassinations himself during his time as mayor. The individual has since been debunked as a fraud but the intent is clear – the US is pulling out all the stops to try to smear Duterte as a ‘rogue third-world dictator’ as the first step for preconditioning the public to his US-backed removal by any means.

The ‘problem’, however is that Duterte remains immensely popular in his country and boasted a sky-high approval rating of 91% in July during the last nationwide poll that was conducted – besting even President Putin in becoming the leader most beloved by his people.

Clearly, the US is not going to have any success at instigating a Colour Revolution in the Philippines.

However, the US has never let ‘democracy’ and the ‘people’s choice’ get in the way of regime change before, hence it is now moving past the point of mere Colour Revolution towards outright Unconventional Warfare.

Daesh-affiliated terrorist group Abu Sayyaf carried out a small-scale attack in Davao City at the beginning of the month during the same time as one of Duterte’s visits there, obviously with the intent of sending him a message that he is on their hit list.  This audacious act prompted the President to declare a state of emergency to allow the military to work more closely with local law enforcement bodies to protect the country from terrorism. 

It also led him to declare with his characteristic bravado that he “will eat [them] alive. Raw.”

It should be noted at this point that persistent rumors have abounded that the US military and intelligence services are linked to Abu Sayyaf, with reports first surfacing at the beginning of the millennium.

Duterte’s experience in governing the largest city in the violence-plagued and mineral-rich island of Mindanao might have exposed him to confidential information that confirmed these allegations, which would explain why he so confidently accused the US of “exporting terrorism” to the Middle East and why he urgently wants the US’s armed forces to leave the Abu Sayyaf-afflicted areas of the south.

Duterte’s fears about an explosion of terrorism in this periphery of the country are not unfounded.  A Philippine expert at the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore spoke about the dangers of Daesh triggering a regional crisis through the formation of a franchise caliphate in the Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc.

I expanded on this scenario in my 2016 Trends Forecast for The Saker at the end of last year, a detailed Hybrid War vulnerability assessment that I wrote for Oriental Review this summer, and one of my latest Context Countdown episodes, in which I showed how there is a very real threat that the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia could get drawn into a convoluted mainland-maritime conflict if the terrorists are not snuffed out quickly enough.

This is precisely the type of scenario that the US hopes to engender, forecasting that it will provide the Pentagon with a convenient “anti-terror” ‘justification’ to undergird its ‘Pivot to Asia’.

In seeking to capitalise as much as possible off of this eventuality, the mainstream media in the West is already weaving a suggestive narrative to the rest of the world, hinting that any future uptick in terrorism might be attributable to ‘desperate democrats’ fighting against an ‘irredeemable dictator’.  Thereby Salafist terrorists are painted as ‘freedom fighters’ against Duterte in the same way as they were against President Assad in 2011.

The Colour Revolution infowar has failed within the Philippines itself.  However the reason it is still being viciously fought in the global media is to convince the international public that Duterte’s ‘despotic’ War on Drugs is breeding armed ‘democratic’ resistance, thus ‘legitimising’ the use of terror, and deliberately misleading the targeted foreign audience into supporting the incipient Hybrid War.

The US is unleashing Abu Sayyaf as punishment against “The Punisher”, but a War of Terror on the Philippines won’t be enough to defeat Duterte if he continues to maintain the support of his people, just as President Assad has been able to do in Syria.

Despite the dismal failure of the US’s regime change campaign in Syria, the divide-and-rule destruction that it wrought might cynically be the reason why some Brzezinski-indoctrinated ‘strategists’ are flirting with bringing it to the Philippines.

Just as the US “exported terrorism” to the Middle East, so too it might seek to do the same in Southeast Asia, which is why Duterte must be prepared break the pattern and defend his country from the oncoming onslaught whilst he still has the chance.

As things stands, the joint anti-piracy patrols between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia are a solid first step in preventing the maturation of the Mindanao-Sulawesi Arc into the transnational hotbed of terror that was first warned about during the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue.  This multilateral initiative also serves the dual purpose of safeguarding against cross-border terrorist infiltration in one of Asia’s most hitherto unpoliced blind spots.

The latest state of emergency is also a helpful move in augmenting Duterte’s capabilities in fighting back against this threat.

However it is inevitable that the next step must eventually be the expulsion of all US military forces from the Philippines and the revocation of the EDCA on whatever grounds can plausibly be thought of – for example the typically outlandish behaviour of US servicemen or some similar scandal.

The US sees the writing on the wall and is fretful that this will happen sooner than later.  Thus the relentless mudslinging that the mainstream media is hurling against Duterte.  However its authors do not realise that it is precisely this Hybrid War activity which is inadvertently speeding up the scenario that they are so desperately trying to prevent.

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It’s Official: ‘Britain’s Democracy Now At Risk’

It’s not just campaigners saying it any more: democracy is officially at risk, according to parliament’s own digital, culture, media and sport committee.

The Duran

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Via True Publica, authored by Jessica Garland – Electoral Reform Society:


Britain’s main campaign rules were drawn up in the late 1990s, before social media and online campaigning really existed. This has left the door wide open to disinformation, dodgy donations and foreign interference in elections.

There is a real need to close the loopholes when it comes to the online Wild West.

Yet in this year’s elections, it was legitimate voters who were asked to identify themselves, not those funnelling millions into political campaigns through trusts, or those spreading fake news.

The government trialled mandatory voter ID in five council areas in May. In these five pilot areas alone about 350 people were turned away from polling stations for not having their papers with them — and they didn’t return. In other words, they were denied their vote.

Yet last year, out of more than 45 million votes cast across the country, there were just 28 allegations of personation (pretending to be someone else at the polling station), the type of fraud voter ID is meant to tackle.

Despite the loss of 350 votes, the pilots were branded a success by the government. Yet the 28 allegations of fraud (and just one conviction) are considered such a dire threat that the government is willing to risk disenfranchising many more legitimate voters to try to address it. The numbers simply don’t add up.

Indeed, the fact-checking website FullFact noted that in the Gosport pilot, 0.4 per cent of voters did not vote because of ID issues. That’s a greater percentage than the winning margin in at least 14 constituencies in the last election. Putting up barriers to democratic engagement can have a big impact. In fact, it can swing an election.

In the run-up to the pilots, the Electoral Reform Society and other campaigners warned that the policy risked disenfranchising the most marginalised groups in society.

The Windrush scandal highlights exactly the sort of problems that introducing stricter forms of identity could cause: millions of people lack the required documentation. It’s one of the reasons why organisations such as the Runnymede Trust are concerned about these plans.

The Electoral Commission has now published a report on the ID trials, which concludes that “there is not yet enough evidence to fully address concerns” on this front.

The small number of pilots, and a lack of diversity, meant that sample sizes were too small to conclude anything about how the scheme would affect various demographic groups. Nor can the pilots tell us about the likely impact of voter ID in a general election, where the strain on polling staff would be far greater and a much broader cross-section of electors turns out to vote.

The Electoral Reform Society, alongside 22 organisations, campaigners and academics, has now called on the constitution minister to halt moves to impose this policy. The signatories span a huge cross-section of society, including representatives of groups that could be disproportionately impacted by voter ID, from Age UK to Liberty and from the British Youth Council to the Salvation Army and the LGBT Foundation.

Voters know what our democratic priorities should be: ensuring that elections are free from the influence of big donors. Having a secure electoral register. Providing balanced media coverage. Transparency online.

We may be little wiser as a result of the government’s voter ID trials. Yet we do know where the real dangers lie in our politics.

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Corrupt Robert Mueller’s despicable Paul Manafort trial nears end (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 79.

Alex Christoforou

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Paul Manafort’s legal team rested its case on Tuesday without calling a single witness. This sets the stage for closing arguments before the judge hands the case to jurors for a verdict.

Manafort’s defense opted to call no witnesses, choosing instead to rely on the team’s cross-examination of government witnesses including a very devious Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime deputy, and several accountants, bookkeepers and bankers who had financial dealings with Manafort.

Closing arguments are expected on Wednesday. Jurors may begin deliberating shortly after receiving their final instructions from judge Ellis.

Manafort case has nothing to do with Mueller’s ‘Trump-Russia collusion witch-hunt’ as the former DC lobbyist is accused of defrauding banks to secure loans and hiding overseas bank accounts and income from U.S. tax authorities.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III denied a defense motion to acquit Manafort on the charges because prosecutors hadn’t proved their case.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the circus trial of Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, and how crooked cop Robert Mueller is using all his power to lean on Manafort, so as to conjure up something illegal against US President Donald Trump.

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Via Zerohedge

Prosecutors allege he dodged taxes on millions of dollars made from his work for a Ukrainian political party, then lied to obtain bank loans when cash stopped flowing from the project.

The courtroom was sealed for around two hours Tuesday morning for an unknown reason, reopening around 11:30 a.m. with Manafort arriving around 10 minutes later.

The decision to rest their case without calling any witnesses follows a denial by Judge T.S. Ellis III to acquit Manafort after his lawyers tried to argue that the special counsel had failed to prove its case at the federal trial.

The court session began at approximately 11:45 a.m.:

“Good afternoon,” began defense attorney Richard Westling, who corrected himself and said, “Good morning.”

“I’m as surprised as you are,” Judge Ellis responded.

Ellis then heard brief argument from both sides on the defense’s motion for acquittal, focusing primarily on four counts related to Federal Savings Bank.

Federal Savings Bank was aware of the status of Paul Manafort’s finances,” Westling argued. “They came to the loans with an intent of doing business with Mr. Manafort.”

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye fired back, saying that that even if bank chairman Steve Calk overlooked Manafort’s financial woes, it would still be a crime to submit fraudulent documents to obtain the loans.

“Steve Calk is not the bank,” Asonye argued, adding that while Caulk may have “had a different motive” — a job with the Trump administration — “I’m not really sure there’s evidence he knew the documents were false.”

Ellis sided with prosecutors.

The defense makes a significant argument about materiality, but in the end, I think materiality is an issue for the jury,” he said, adding. “That is true for all the other counts… those are all jury issues.”

Once that exchange was over, Manafort’s team was afforded the opportunity to present their case, to which lead attorney Kevin Downing replied “The defense rests.

Ellis then began to question Manafort to ensure he was aware of the ramifications of that decision, to which the former Trump aide confirmed that he did not wish to take the witness stand.

Manafort, in a dark suit and white shirt, stood at the lectern from which his attorneys have questioned witnesses, staring up at the judge. Ellis told Manafort he had a right to testify, though if he chose not to, the judge would tell jurors to draw no inference from that. – WaPo

Ellis asked Manafort four questions – his amplified voice booming through the courtroom:

Had Manafort discussed the decision with his attorney?

“I have, your honor,” Manafort responded, his voice clear.

Was he satisfied with their advice?

“I am, your honor,” Manafort replied.

Had he decided whether he would testify?

“I have decided,” Manafort said.

“Do you wish to testify?” Ellis finally asked.

“No, sir,” Manafort responded.

And with that, Manafort returned to his seat.

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One more step toward COMPLETE de-dollarization

Over the past several months, sitting here in Moscow, it has become increasingly obvious that while the US Dollar is unquestionably the world’s leading and liquid reserve currency, it comes with an ever increasing high price (of sovereignty and FX) if you are not the USA.

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I have opined and written about the trend towards de-dollarization before, but with the latest US –Turkish spat it has hit the wallets, mattresses and markets of a number of countries, be they aligned with Washington or not. One thing they all have in common was that in this recent era of low cost available money, many happily fed at the US dollar trough.

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This serves as a further albeit loud example to many nations for the need to diversify to an extent away from the greenback, or risk being caught up in its volatile, sudden and unpredictably risky increasingly politicized directions.

The Dollar and the geopolitical winds from Washington are today as never before openly being used as policy, which can be called the “carrot and stick”, a distinctly Pavlovian approach. Sadly, few if any can make out where or what the carrot is in this recent US worldview branding.

Tariffs, sanctions, pressured exchange rates, the Federal Reserve loosening or tightening, trade agreements and laws ignored or simply trashed… there is a lot going on which seems to democratically affect America’s allies as well as those on Washington’s politically popular and dramatic “poo-poo” list.

Just now from a press conference in Turkey, I watched Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov say that through the actions shown by the US, the role of the US dollar as a secure global reserve currency for free trade will diminish as more countries switch to national currencies for international trade.

He clearly spoke for many nations when he said; “It will make more and more countries that are not even affected by US sanctions go away from the dollar and rely on more reliable, contractual partners in terms of currency use.” Putting the situation in a nutshell he went on to say “I have already said this about sanctions: they are illegal, they undermine all principles of global trade and principles approved by UN decisions, under which unilateral measures of economic duress are unlawful.”

Turkey, a long-standing NATO ally and a key line of western defense during the long cold war years fully agreed with his Russian counterpart. The Turkish foreign minister Mr. Cavosoglu openly warned that US sanctions or trade embargoes can and are being unilaterally imposed against any country at any time if they do not toe DC’s political line.

He said at the same press conference; “Today, sanctions are imposed on Turkey, and tomorrow they can be used against any other European state. If the United States wants to maintain respect in the international arena, then it is necessary for it to be respectful of the interests of other countries.”

What is happening in Turkey is symptomatic of the developed and emerging markets globally. When trillions of dollars of newly issued lucre was up for grabs, thanks to several developed country central banks, it was comparatively easy for governments and companies just like Turkey’s to borrow funds denominated in dollars and not their national currencies.

Turkey has relied on foreign-currency debt more than most EM’s. Corporate, financial and other debt denominated mostly in dollars, approximates close to 70% of it’s economy. Therefore as the Turkish lira plunges, it is very costly for those companies to repay their dollar-denominated loans, and even now it is patently clear many will not.

The concern rattling around the underbelly of the global markets is what can be reasonably expected for assets and economies that were inflated by cheap debt, the United States included. All this points not so much to a banking crisis as has happened eight years ago, but a systemic financial market crisis.

This is a new one, and I doubt if any QE, QT, NIRPs, or ZIRPs will make much of a difference, despite the rocket-high equity markets the US has been displaying.

One financial trader I spoke to, whom I have known since the early 1980’s (and I thought him ancient then) muttered to me “we’re gettin’ into the ecstasy stage, nothing but the high matters, everything else including the VIX is seen as boring denial, and not the warning tool it is. Better start loading up on gold.”

Meanwhile, de-dollarization is ongoing in Russia and is carefully studied by a host of countries, especially as the Russian government has not yet finished selling off US debt; it still has just a few billion to go. The Russian Finance Minister A. Siluanov said this past Sunday that Russia would continue decreasing holdings of Treasuries in response to sanctions.

The finance minister went on to say that, Russia is also considering distancing itself from using the US dollar for international trade, calling it an unreliable, conditional and hence risky tool for payments.

Between March and May this year, Russia’s US debt holdings were sold down by $81 billion, which is 84% of its total US debt holdings, and while I don’t know the current figure it is certain to be even less.

The latest round of tightening sanctions screws against Russia were imposed by the State Department under a chemical and biological warfare law and should be going into effect on August 22. This in spite of the fact that no proof was ever shown, not under any established national or international law, or with any of several global biochemical conventions, not even in the ever entertaining court of public opinion.

Whatever Russia may continue to do in its relationship with US debt or the dollar, the fact of the matter is that Russia is not a heavyweight in this particular financial arena, and the direct effects of Russia’s responses are negligible. However, the indirect effects are huge as they reflect what many countries (allied or unallied with the US) see as Washington’s overbearing and more than slightly unipolar trade and geopolitical advantage quests, be they Mexico, Canada, the EU, or anyone else on any hemisphere of this globe.

Some of the potential indirect effects over time may be a similar sell-off or even gradual reduction of US debt exposure from China or any one of several dozens of countries deciding to reduce their exposure to US debt by reducing their purchases and waiting for existing Treasuries to mature. In either case, the trend is there and is not going away anytime soon.

When Russia clears its books of US dollarized debt, then who will be next in actively diversifying their US debt risk? Then what might be the fate of the US Dollar, and what value then will be the international infusions to finance America’s continually growing debt, or fuel the funds needed for further market growth? Value and the energy of money has no politics, it ultimately trends towards areas where there is a secure business dynamic. That being said, looks like we are now and will be living through the most interesting of disruptive times.

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