When one mentions the Middle East, does one think of tranquillity, peace, human rights and stability? It is highly likely one thinks the opposite. Between Shi’a Muslims and Sunni Muslims engaged in combat, Takfiris killing Christians, Israelis killing Palestinians, Hamas launching rockets at Israel, Saudis boycotting Qataris and threatening them with war, Iraq once again on the verge of civil war, Lebanese politicians boycotting each other, Libya being a failed state built on top of terrorist training camps complete with slave auctions, it is safe to say that when it comes to peace and functional government, the Middle East is not a regional role model that most would seek to emulate.
It is therefore highly significant that as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is visiting Israel and Jordan, two nations that have in the past been at war with one another and whose internal record on human rights has been questioned many times, that Duterte should effectively revoke the ill-gotten amnesty that Noynoy Aquino bestowed upon his political ally Antonio Trillanes in 2010. Had Duterte been in a region less known for war and political turbulence, the over all effect of the prudent move would not have been so captivating and geopolitically relevant as it was. It is for this reason that one can suspect that the timing of the Presidential administration’s choice to make its announcement was a calculated act of diplomatic genius.
The fact that Duterte has vastly expanded human rights in The Philippines cannot be stated enough but nor can it be ignored that the mythical narrative of Duterte as some sort of craven killer still holds sway not only in the US and Europe but in much of the Middle East including both in Israel and in Arab states. I have personally spoken with Arabs and Zionists who both know nothing about The Philippines but are prepared to condemn Duterte from a position of ignorance.
Thus, it was appropriate for Duterte to do what he obviously knew would be picked up by his ignorant critics as “an assault on the human rights” against a man who happens to be a vile seditious threat to peace, law and order in The Philippines, while standing in a part of the world that is all to infamous for being home to wars, violence, terror and bloodshed.
It is also significant that the order to arrest the criminal Trillanes came on the same day that Duterte spoke at a Holocaust memorial. There he stated,
“I could not imagine a country obeying an insane leader, and I could not ever fathom the spectacle of a human being going into a killing spree, murdering old men, women and children. I hope this will not happen again. There is always a lesson to learn: that despots and leaders who show insanity, they should be disposed of at the first instance”.
Here, Duterte’s dignified and deeply sincere comments contrast with the infamous photo that members of the Liberal Party of The Philippines including Vice President Leni Robredo took while sitting on and smiling at a Holocaust memorial in Germany.
Furthermore, Duterte’s remarks at the ceremony openly challenged the Liberal narrative that Duterte is a mass killer, something that if true would be there for all to see just as it was in respect of Hitler. In this sense, the double-meaning in Duterte’s speech was a rebuke of his own critics whose irresponsibility could pave the way for the rise of an actual tyrant in The Philippines.
And then one comes to Duterte’s remarks about the need to for “insane despots” to be deposed at the soonest possible moment. This is exactly what Duterte and his administration are doing in respect of Trillanes. When one refuses to apologise for staging a coup and a mutiny against his own nation, when one openly calls for a new military coup against the current democratically elected and overwhelmingly popular president of The Philippines and when one conspires with foreign governments in a criminal manner, what can one call such a person other than a despot whose insane lust for power and ravenous egotism must be stopped before he takes the power that he has lusted at for over a decade?
Thus Duterte was able to accomplish the following during his Middle East visit:
1. Demonstrate how genuine human rights issues and war are daily life in many parts of the Middle East and that while many if not most of these issues are ongoing, ignorant journalists and agenda driven NGOs are throwing stones at The Philippines because the President, with the support of his people is attacking the drug problem which is as much of a threat to society as terrorism and civil war.
2. Contrast his and his daughter’s dinigty at a Holocaust memorial with the shameful act of the Liberal supporters of Trillanes on their visit to Germany.
3. Explain how it is not he who is a would-be despotic killer but that through past deeds, recent conspiracies and current words, Trillanes is the true danger to the safety of The Philippine nation.
Duterte took a calculated risk of bringing Trillanes to justice while abroad but in drawing the rats out of their hole that was once called The Philippine Senate, Duterte’s strategy has already paid off as those who threaten genuine human rights and legal order in The Philippines have exposed themselves as a result.