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.
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.
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.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.