President Duterte arrived at the house of anti-imperialist Philippine national hero Emilio Aguinaldo amid a torrential rainstorm to deliver an address on Philippine Independence Day. After greeting well wishers, Duterte proceeded to deliver his drenched speech from the balcony of the Aguinaldo shrine. But while most independence day celebrations throughout the post-colonial world are days of unity and national solidarity, a small group of protesters shouted at Duterte during his speech in what can only be described as the kind of vulgar display of poor taste that has come to typify Duterte’s unhinged opponents.
Duterte responded with warmth and compassion stating,
“Let it be. It is freedom of speech, you can have it. I will understand….Never mind, it’s not everyone.
Our Constitution guarantees freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and free expression. I will just advise the law enforcement to just deal with them peacefully and (with) maximum tolerance. We cannot agree at all times for all seasons. We may not understand each other, but at least there is a common denominator: We love our country”.
Duterte’s peaceful reply to hysterical protesters belies a deeper reality either clumsily or wilfully lost on many of his opponents, including those who started shouting in the rain during the Philippine President’s independence day speech.
Philippine independence has been betrayed over and over again from the time that the United States ignored Aguinaldo’s declaration and substituted a Spanish imperial master for an American one to the constant US meddling in the nation’s affairs even after the country technically gained independence at long last in 1946.
While President Ferdinand Marcos helped to develop many internal policies that were independent of previous ways of thinking, he too was at times compromised through his necessarily close relationship with the United States. Ironically, it was Macros’ aim to become more independent that led elements of the US government, notably the CIA to switch sides in 1986 and back the Aquino led insurgency. So much for Marco’s loyalty to the United States. When he needed a strong ally the most, the US cast Marcos aside in favour of his opponents.
Today, President Duterte has steered The Philippines towards ever more independence by embracing the multipolar spirit of the modern world. His friendships with fellow ASEAN states, China, Russia, India and beyond have helped to foster a much needed spirit of global partnerships for the country that are already paying higher dividends than a one-sided US alliance.
What then are Duterte’s opponents shouting for? Are they shouting for the shame of subservience? Are they shouting for betrayal? Are they shouting for weakness rather than strength – a colonial mentality rather than stalwart sovereignty? It would appear that whether they know it or not they are shouting for these very things and in some cases, many of these opponents of Duterte are actually paid by foreign actors whose own interests are not those of a strongly independent Republic of The Philippines.
On the other side of south east Asia, the current US President met with DPRK leader Kim Jong-un to promote peace in the win-win format that will hopefully allow old wounds to heal on the Korean peninsula. While many in the liberal western media continue to hurl insults at Kim, he has proved that the path to peace is through strength and dignity rather than through shame and capitulation.
Duterte is theoretically in a far easier position to open The Philippines to new possibilities than Kim has been. After all, unlike North Korea, The Philippines has long been open to the world. But what good are open doors if those shouting in the street want to push and shove their way into a single open door at the expense of all of the other corridors to peace and prosperity that Duterte has created?
While the world watched in awe as the leader of Asia’s most isolated state shook hands with America’s most unique leader in recent history, a few people in the streets outside of the Aguinaldo Shrine demanded a return to the past at a time when the rest of the world was focused on the future.
It cannot be said enough that the key for The Philippines is neither chaotic presidential democracy nor dictatorship but for a strong Singapore style parliamentary system within a wider federalised Philippines. This way the myopic and the foolish can continue to shout, but without actually being able to accomplish anything.