With the exception of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad who continues to face a multi-front war against militants backed by a variety of foreign nations, no world leader is currently under as many sustained, multi-layered hybrid attacks as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The following factions are currently at war with Duterte in one way or another.
–New People’s Army
After negotiations with communist insurgents failed, Duterte declared the heavily armed New People’s Army to be a terrorist organisation that would have to be destroyed. Since the 1960s, all Presidents of The Philippines have had to face down this group which Duterte intends to eliminate.
–Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
This Salafist jihadist group broke away from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the early 2000s. BIFF rejects the ceasefire adhered to by MILF and continues to wage an extremist war in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. BIFF is designated as a terrorist organisation.
After a pitched battle beginning in May of 2017, the Daesh aligned Maute group was eradicated by the armed forces of The Philippines in October of 2017 during the Battle of Marawi. However, other jihadists aligned with Daesh remain active in other parts of Mindanao, posing a danger to both wider regional security and local populations.
–Organised Narco Gangs
For decades, drug traffickers, dealers and the armed bandits surrounding the narco-trade haunted the Filipino people. Throughout this period, many political officials seemed to be frightened of or otherwise intimidated by these groups. President Duterte has taken on the drug trade head on and as a result he has made enemies of those who have long profited from the illegal sale and distribution of narcotics.
–Corrupt business oligarchs
President Duterte has recently threatened to jail the business oligarchs responsible for the environmental disaster on Boracay Island. His presidency has been defined by a willingness to stand up to corruption throughout the corporate sphere, as part of a wider pledge for a clean government. This has naturally meant that many corrupt oligarchs used to bribing or threatening local and national politicians are deeply unhappy with Duterte’s anti-corruption drive in all levels of the private sector.
–The United Nations Human Rights Commission
The Jordanian UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein recently suggested that President Duterte should undergo a “psychiatric evaluation” after Duterte exposed a UN official for having ties to the New People’s Army terrorist group. While the UN officially condemns the international narcotics trade, rather than laud Duterte for doing something to help end it, the UN has instead seen fit to repeatedly condemn Duterte’s effective war on drugs, thereby implicitly taking the side of criminal narcotics traffickers. It beggars belief that when Duterte is helping ordinary Filipinos to live in a safer, more healthy country, that this same man is condemned by the UN for helping to make this happen.
–The International Criminal Court
The International Criminal Court (ICC), which all three global superpowers (China, USA, Russia) do not take part in, has begun early steps in investigating President Duterte for “crimes against humanity” relating to his war on drugs. While Duterte has himself stated that the openly anti-Duterte Filipino-American business woman Loida Nicolas Lewis is behind the recent move by the ICC, it is clear that many trans-national political forces are attempting to use the ICC for overtly political purposes as part of a wider campaign to try and not only discredit the popular President of The Philippines but to remove him from office.
–The CIA and US Deep State
A group of US intelligence agencies, including the CIA released a document calling President Duterte a “threat to democracy”. In spite of remaining incredibly popular in The Philippines after winning a democratic, multi-candidate Presidential election in 2016, the CIA continues to lambaste Duterte, almost certainly because of his foreign policy pivot towards multipolarity and his domestic policies against narco-trafficking which the CIA has long had a hand in.
–The US Congress
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress has been one of the key places where American politicians issue provocative statements against Duterte, due to his opposition to drugs on the streets of his country. While Donald Trump has spoken of his admiration for Duterte’s anti-drug policies and recently suggested executing drug dealers in the US, the Congress in Washington has adopted a full-scale anti-Duterte agenda.
–The European Union
EU officials have also joined the chorus of criticism against President Duterte. This has led Duterte to refuse an invitation to the bloc, while threatening to bar EU officials from the country.
–The Liberal Party of The Philippines and yellow media
The Liberal opposition has become little more than a mouthpiece for international condemnation of Duterte. Far from being a constructive and patriotic opposition, the Liberals along with their allies in the yellow media, are little more than the voice of the US Congress, CIA, European Union and other corrupt international officials within the Philippines. The Liberals are less of a genuine political movement than they are a corrupt fifth column within the country.
What it all means
When taken in totality, it is clear that a set of geopolitical actors with similar financial interests and a similar agenda used to advance those interests have conspired against the Presidency of Rodrigo Duterte in what can only be described as a deeply layered hybrid war. Far from merely being sympathetic to the drug culture that Duterte is working to stamp out, the primary motivating factor behind this open conspiracy against Duterte, is due to the fact that under his leadership, The Philippines has gone from a country that could be easily pushed around by the US, EU and the wider western corporate sphere, to a fully independent state engaging in new economic and security partnerships with a diverse group of countries including former rivals within ASEAN, China, Russia, India and beyond.
It is Duterte’s 21st century model of non-alignment that genuinely threatens the global hegemony of major western states and institutions and this is why the world has been so slow to condemn terrorist insurgencies, including Daesh lead violence, against The Philippines, while being quick to attach themselves to opposition against Duterte’s war on drugs.
How to fight it
Thus far, Duterte has remained steadfast in his duty as President and has pledged to continue his war on terrorism and the drug trade that funds it. He has also exercised his role as a head of state to reject the authority of the International Criminal Court, just as the US, China and Russia have done. The majority of ASEAN states also do not subscribe to the ICC’s jurisdiction.
Beyond this, Duterte needs to continue his anti-corruption drive and use it to purge the state of individuals actively working against the interests of the Filipino people. I previously wrote the following blueprint for taking the Duterte revolution further and in so doing, creating a safer, more prosperous and more proud Philippine nation for future generations.
The Philippines as a federal republic, is the flagship policy of President Duterte. In order to achieve this, he must combine his federalist proposals with sweeping anti-corruption laws which will give his increasingly aggressive opponents a taste of their own foul medicine.
Ever since 2003, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been the leading figure in Turkish politics, first as Prime Minister and after 2014, as a powerful President. Erdogan and Duterte are very different men as the Turkish leader is an incredibly shrewd political and geopolitical mover who has been able to solidify his power more thoroughly than any Turkish leader since Ataturk. Duterte, by contrast, is a leader who strives not for power or glory but instead, labours to achieve the best possible life for his people. That being said, there are areas where Erdogan has done much to improve the lives of Turks, while inversely, Duterte’s own proposals could stand a better chance of being turned into a new reality for The Philippines if Duterte took a page out of Erdogan’s own reformist playbook.
Erdogan’s most lasting legacy to the Turkish republic has been a wholesale reform of governance, combined with a clearing out of old political, judicial, civil service and military elites. Both have been equally necessary in respect of Erdogan achieving his goals. For Duterte, corrupt Senators, party leaders, corporate oligarchs, judicial oligarchs and to a degree some military leadership have proved themselves to be far too close to foreign interests, particularly the United States. How are Duterte’s opponents a “democratic opposition” when they get their money, orders, speeches and agendas from a foreign superpower? By contrast, while Duterte has worked to achieve better relations with Russia and China, he remains very much his own man – true to his humble roots in Davao, in spite of his national leadership position.
Duterte must open up investigations into every politician, judge, corporate oligarch and military officer whose ties to the US stand in the way of the will of the Filipino people. Those whose foreign ties are too deep should be forced to resign from their positions. In cases of extreme corruption, prison should also be considered as a means of rectifying a gross injustice against the Filipino nation.
Some of Duterte’s most loyal supporters, as is the case with Erdogan, have been young activists who previously had no inclination towards politics. In the case of Duterte, his inspiring message of reform, equality, federal realism, clean and safe streets and progressive geopolitical relations have made Duterte appear as a political saviour in a sea of previous leaders who have consistently failed in their duty to the people.
It is this generation of Duterte supporters who hold the key to the future of The Philippines and it is they whose hard work should be rewarded with positions in government and the civil service that had previously been reserved for a small cosmopolitan elite who have served only themselves or in the worst cases, a foreign power.
Finally, Duterte should make a use of referenda in order to secure genuine democratic support for his proposals. In respect of federalism for example, there is no reason that a region-by-region vote shouldn’t take place in order to determine how Filipinos themselves want to be governed. Federalism is too important an issue to be left to politicians who stand much to gain by preserving an ineffective status quo.
Duterte has consistently stated that he does not seek to amend existing laws limiting a Filipino President to a single six year term. While these reforms could require more than six years to get through, he should nevertheless begin such initiatives as soon as possible. Furthermore, while some have openly suggested that Duterte revive Proclamation No. 3, a legal device used by Corazon Aquino in 1986 to create a Revolutionary Government, Duterte could use people power to achieve something more long lasting, just as the Turkish President has done.
If the Filipino people want to amend the law so that a President can stand for more than one term, they should have the opportunity to say so through a referendum. If the people want to lift existing term limits, Duterte can simply run in a new Presidential election after his current term is over. If the people would prefer to keep the law on term limits as it is, then things can stay as they are.
President Duterte retains incredibly high approval ratings, thus making him de-facto far more democratic than his opponents who chant about democracy but who ironically have little meaningful support among the people. The best way for Duterte to expand his democratic base would be to tackle the corruption holding the country back while giving the people a direct opportunity to express their feelings about their country’s future through referenda on key issues. This is the way forward for Duterte and for future generations of Filipinos who look to the future Duterte seeks rather than the past which Duterte has already departed from.
While Turkey and The Philippines are two very different countries, with different histories and different political systems, both countries were long time US “allies” who under reformist leaders find themselves increasingly at odds with a hegemonic Washington. Erdogan has made Turkey far more independent than it was previously due to his uniquely bold leadership. Duterte could do something similar with his nation, not least because Duterte’s reformist agenda is vastly less controversial than the one Erdogan has pursued in Turkey.
If Duterte’s will is the people’s will, which most Filipinos believe it is, the people should not only speak but vote in favour of Duterte’s messages, thus silencing his abrasive critics forever.
President Rodrigo Duterte is hated for a reason, he is changing the nature of his country from one that serves into one that leads. Because the direction of this leadership is towards an independent, multipolar nation, those who are losing control over The Philippines are trying to do everything to stop this, including being soft on terrorism and taking the side of drug lords.
Duterte requires a solid strategy to stem this tide of hybrid war against his country. While no state has officially declared war on The Philippines, it is clear enough who is at war with The Philippines in all but name.