CUTTING EAGLE'S CLAWS

WHEN does the country’s best interest come?

Is it when being subservient to a foreign power or when it decides to adopt an independent foreign policy stance?

These are the posers that former President Noynoy Aquino failed to contemplate on before taking a dig on incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte’s current stand on foreign policy.

During an interview in Thailand, where he visited the wake of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Aquino claimed that his administration’s foreign policy had been an “independent” one, guided by what could be in the best interest of the country.

As expected, the former leader has earned the ire of progressive groups enumerating one by one mistakes he committed during his term in his pursuit of ‘foreign policy’.

Militant youth group Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) particularly cited the approval of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as an example.

As a result of the deal, the United States has been allowed to enhance the presence of its military personnel in various areas of the country.

This prompted SPARK to lambast Aquino calling him “one of the most subservient of all the past presidents, probably second only to Ferdinand Marcos or Ramon Magsaysay.” 

 

FREE FROM BONDAGE

The militants are thankful that President Duterte has come to power and is the first among the lines of leaders to stand up and make us realize that the Filipino race is not equal if not better than the other races.

He was also the first to take head on the bullying tactics being employed to us by the Americans for the longest time who have been treating as their little brown brothers (read: slaves).

The indoctrination was so deep in our collective psyche that we were made to believe that we cannot live and survive as a nation without the help and assistance from our big white brothers (read: masters) from the West.

After a long history of subservience we now have someone who has the balls to force the United States to face the Philippines on equal terms.

These progressive groups believe that the Philippines under Duterte should throw away the shackles of “US imperialism and instead pave the way to a broader foreign policy that would – and should – benefit the Filipino people.

After all, they argue, the history of US-Philippine relations have been one that had only worked to further the US’s imperialistic scheming to the detriment of Filipinos and the Philippine economy.

 

LIKE A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING

While it had come late in the imperialistic “power games” that had dominated the West during the 19th and 20th centuries, the United States has since pursued an aggressive policy of political, economic and military domination.

The US during the late 19th century, buoyed by an economic boom, was in an expansionist move and saw an opportunity on Spain’s colonies then under revolt: Cuba and the Philippines.

Sensing an opportunity in furthering the US’s economic influence in Southeast Asia, the United States sent a military flotilla in Hong Kong, ostensibly to protect the vital sea commerce routes. 

After the US declared war on Spain in April 1898, Commodore George Dewey, then stationed in Hong Kong, immediately set sail for the Philippines, then on the throes of the Philippine Revolution against Spain.

Emilio Aguinaldo was then under the impression that the Americans would help the Filipino revolutionaries gain their independence from Spain, immediately welcomed the American presence in the Philippines. 

Like a wolf in a sheep’s cloth, E. Spencer Pratt, the US consul in the Philippines, assured Aguinaldo that America will recognize Philippine independence under and American naval protectorate. 

However, the Americans’ real intentions were exposed by the Treaty of Paris (1899), where Spain ceded its colonies – Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines – to the United States. 

President William McKinley tried to disguise the fact of American annexation through his “Benevolent Assimilation” proclamation, which stated that the US has “come, not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and religious rights.”

The Filipino revolutionaries were not fooled by the Benevolent Assimilation. 

Realizing the US’s full intention to occupy the Philippines, Aguinaldo decided to continue his struggle for freedom, this time against the Americans. 

After Aguinaldo was captured by the Americans in March 1901, several revolutionaries such as Miguel Malvar and Macario Sakay continued the struggle for Philippine independence until the Americans established a civil government in the Philippines in 1901.

 

LOPSIDED TREATIES

While the US granted titular independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946, most of us know that it was a sham freedom.

The Americans continued to keep us under the yoke of bondage through a number of economic and military treaties that are so lopsided in their favor that they kept us in perpetual control.

Among these treaties is the Philippine Trade Act of 1946, which was in effect a bribe of sorts. 

The Philippines was offered $800 million for the rehabilitation of the war-devastated country in exchange for “parity rights” – granting U.S. citizens and corporations rights to Philippine natural resources equal to (in parity with) those of Philippine citizens. 

The Bell Act (as the Philippine Trade Act was known), particularly the parity clause, was seen by critics as an inexcusable surrender of national sovereignty.

And even after the Subic and Clark air and naval bases were closed down in 1991, the US through the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the EDCA have managed to maintain the presence of American troops in the Philippines. 

Critics of the VFA and the EDCA point out that several clauses in the VFA and the EDCA, granting extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen in the country, is inimical to the country’s sovereignty. 

In their October press release, SPARK cited two cases in particular: the murder of transgender Jennifer Laude, who was killed by Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton in 2014.

They also cited the alleged “intrusion” of US security forces in the botched operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January 2015, which claimed the lives of forty-four police commandos and twenty-four Moro victims.

 

SOLID GROUNDS

Given these arguments, President Duterte’s beef against the United States certainly is standing on solid and verifiable grounds. 

Discounting the petty reasons he has given for his anti-US stance – such as being once refused a US visa – there’s no doubt that the Philippines for the longest time has been at the lower end of the bargain in its relations with the US. 

Duterte’s actions must therefore be viewed on the aspect of taking a stand and asserting our equal rights and sovereignty in the community of nations.

The US after all did not come in the Philippines as friends but an imperialist that is determined to control and colonize us until kingdom come.

Sorry for them, Duterte came into power and decided to clip their wings and cut their claws.  

 

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