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Asia's Game of Thrones
Philippine Brass Contradict Duterte (Again)

Another day, another set of mixed messages from Manila. After last week’s announcement that the U.S.-Philippine defense pact signed in 2014 was still on track, President Rodrigo Duterte cast doubt on it once again, claiming that the U.S. was storing up permanent weapons supplies in violation of the agreement. Now, Philippine military brass are walking back that claim.  Reuters reports:

The United States is not creating weapons stores or armories in the Philippines, military officials said on Monday, contradicting President Rodrigo Duterte who has complained of a U.S. breach of a defense pact that could stoke regional tension.

Duterte on Sunday accused the United States of stirring up trouble by building permanent arms depots in his country, including delivering tanks, and threatened to respond by scrapping a security treaty between them. […]

Military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said the president’s concern had been looked into and the U.S. military’s activities were to help the Philippines to better handle natural disasters.

“There was no confirmed incident of this nature,” he told reporters, referring to the accusations that arms were bring brought in.

This sort of back-and-forth has become commonplace under Duterte, whose embrace of China and scorn toward the United States has been at odds with the Philippine military’s longstanding relationship with the Pentagon. So far, that discord has continued into the early days of the Trump administration.

Despite the mixed messages here, though, Duterte and his defense team are not entirely on different pages. In recent days, Trump’s combative approach toward China has unsettled them both. Duterte’s accusations about American weapons come in a context of heightened anxiety that the U.S. could drag the Philippines into a conflict in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, for instance, has warned against being used as a proxy in a conflict with China, and has said that he is waiting for his counterpart, General James Mattis, to clarify the new administration’s policy after early tough talk about denying China access to its artificial islands.

In other words, the Philippine military brass may be defending U.S. forces against Duterte’s unfounded accusations, but they are not unconcerned about Trump’s military posture toward China. So far, Trump and Mattis have had little to say publicly about policy toward the Philippines, which may be contributing to the confusion. Staking out a tough line on China without alienating Manila will be a challenging balancing act for the new administration.

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  • Andrew Allison

    We have have exactly the same (the establishment attempting to frustrate the President’s desires) situation here at home. If I had to hazard a guess, it would be that Duarte will lose and Trump will win.

  • Psalms564

    I feel like I need a 10 paragraph poorly worded essay by Dhako here. I got a good Dr. Dre lyric all ready for him too.

    • Jim__L

      Jabberwocky is my go-to for this sort of thing. 🙂

    • Dhako

      I feel sorry for the lunatic asylum that tried to detained you lest you may endanger public safety. However it seems that you keep on escaping from it, which seems to be adding to their troubles.

      • Psalms564

        You expect me to quote Dr. Dre on a two sentence response? Um, no. That’s not how that works.
        Also, good job writing. Only obvious mistake “is to detained” should be “to detain”. “lest you may endanger” I can do without the word “may”.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Having a loose cannon for a head of state is a pain in the butt.

    • Jim__L

      That’s what checks and balances are for.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Thanks to the voter inclinations of your tribe, we no longer actually have any which are effective or reliable. It’s also arguable whether any remain in the Philippines.

        • Jim__L

          Wait, what? Obama did his level best to eliminate any checks on his power as executive. The D-side tribe wants the Federal government (especially the executive, when they control it) to have near-absolute power in this country. Environmentalists especially have a penchant for authoritarianism to spread their religion.

          Up until a couple of weeks ago, there was *no such thing* as a Constitutionalist Democrat. And even now that there’s a Republican in the White House, Constitutionalist Republicans are still there, fighting the good fight.

          • FriendlyGoat

            There is mostly no such thing as a Constitutionalist Democrat now, because after several decades of trying to make the Constitution reject slavery, several more getting women the vote, several more trying to get rid of blatant and intentional discrimination against all kinds of people, we happen to know that worshipping the Constitution to the exclusion of decency or common sense is stupid. Yes, it’s a founding document. Yes, it is a type of glue which holds a society together in a government with some pre-planned procedures. No, it never was such a “be all and end all” idea that we celebrate the document itself as a desirable ism or call ourselves by it’s noun name as ists. That’s for you guys.

          • Jim__L

            “*Obvious*-now-but-not-then” is so subjective as to override the whole nature of having laws.

            I’m very, very happy that that kind of thinking is getting deprecated with Trump’s picks. =)

          • FriendlyGoat

            What is obvious now but not then is simply a matter of appreciating what humankind as a whole has learned in 200+ years and not pretending that each of 50 states was obligated to craft its own responses to the discovery of (for instance) airplanes, telephones, germs and electronic signals in air. The original federalism was cooked up when “local” was assumed to be sufficient jurisdiction for anything.

          • Jim__L

            Humankind has learned less about humans ourselves in the last 200 years than it has known for the last 2000.

            Airplanes, telephones, germs, and electromagnetic radiation have not changed basic truths about human beings, no matter how much the Left pretends this is so.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Given medical knowledge and biologic knowledge, you do know your first sentence is beyond ridiculous, right?

            Given that we’re talking about the Constitution as it imposes regulatory duties on states which states cannot individually address, that the second sentence is a lead-off from topic, right?

          • Jim__L

            Psychological knowledge has lagged medical knowledge very severely. Aristotle was a more astute observer of the human condition than Freud.

            “Regulatory duties” are not as obvious (or necessary) as you think.

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, of course not. We can have fifty versions of FAA, FDA, NWS, NOAA, FDIC, and all the others——or none. In your alternative universe, nothing of substance actually matters at all.

    • f1b0nacc1

      I agree, but fortunately Obama is gone now, so we can move forward.

    • Anthony

      Excuse interjection but in line with the fragility of American democratic culture, norms and institutions, here’s an interpretation from another viewpoint: http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/1/30/14431544/trump-breitbart-rejection-multicultural-democracy and permit me to add a little historical context: “in the case of late-nineteenth century America, the ‘sourness and paranoia’ bred of economic stagnation in the end prevented the populists from achieving the goals that would have strengthened American democracy and advanced economic fairness.”

      • FriendlyGoat

        As I tried to tell Jim and Tom the other day, evangelism and nationalism are actually opposing world views, but,……..

        • Anthony

          “Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.” https://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/03/how-to-build-an-autocracy/513872/

          • FriendlyGoat

            Probably the first thing to do is block this SCOTUS nominee on the simple grounds that he is improperly announced in advance as not a centrist and therefore will not be confirmed due to inappropriate judicial prejudice. It’s doubtful our Senators will do that, of course, but we in our “finest hour as citizens” should call for it anyway. It’s the most important thing to be doing right now.

          • Anthony

            Pass it on ( 202-225-2365; 202-224-5521; 202-224-6621).

          • FriendlyGoat

            Neil Gorsuch is said to write his opinions in a simplified style intended to be read and understood by average people. So the rationale(s) for not confirming him should be similarly expressed.
            Here are some.

            The fact that a guy is from Colorado does not mean he should be nostalgically confused as “probably somehow like John Denver”.
            Neil was raised on a totally opposite mindset as far as we know from the political history of his mother, and has retained it into adulthood as far as we know.

            As a result of polarization, the usefulness of most legislatures (including Congress) to do anything worthwhile for people has ground to a virtual halt. If you confirm a judge who believes everyone’s hopes stop at the Constitution as written or at the will of the captured deliberative bodies, guess what folks—-“The inclinations from your better angels are not only declared permanently inferior to those of politicians capped at 18th century knowledge, but your capacity to act on any of them is officially toast.”

          • Anthony

            Two things: 1) I wonder how many outside of your expertise know his mother was a Reagan cabinet member; 2) “The larger irony is that while there are careful, reasonable and nonpolitical arguments for certain forms of ‘originalism’,the views of many self proclaimed originalist line up, not with those of We the People in 1789, but with those of the right-wing of the Republican Party in 2017.”

          • FriendlyGoat

            1) I only realize Neil’s relation to Anne Gorsuch because of seeing it in the news within the past 24 hours. Anyone could be reading it. Of those who do, unfortunately half of them will be saying “Oh, goody, let’s get back to good ole Reagan”. (You’re nice for assuming I actually have “expertise”, but nah, not really.)

            2) Your #2 is very important. We the People do not control legislatures in any practical way in 2017.

            3) Here is something relevant on Neil Gorsuch.
            https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/02/01/judge-gorsuchs-dissent-in-case-of-13-year-old-arrested-for-making-fake-burps-in-physical-education-class/?utm_term=.24ea5b1a4c4a

          • Anthony

            Always err on the upside FG (for gracious people) and expertise reveals itself most in modesty. Work, work, work up to 2018 and beyond. Thanks.

          • Anthony
          • FriendlyGoat

            Funny how “traditional values”, when you drill down with people who use those two words in a phrase, don’t amount to much besides disapproval of gay people—-in Russia or here, apparently. I was shocked to speak online recently with a guy who described himself as a Christian actually in ministry who felt that little else was needed in preaching other than to preach against abortion and gay marriage. Meanwhile, for lack of better ideals, people are now following Putin as de facto head of religion in Russia and Trump as de facto head of religion here—-without even knowing that they are, I might add. (You and I most likely did not expect to see this in our lifetimes, but we are seeing it.)

          • Anthony

            Yes, we did not expect to see such a reversal in our lifetimes. But reading some of your exchanges led me to post link (2000 years, tradition, civilization under attack, etc.). You can’t make this stuff up and give credit to Putin for leveraging the opportunity.

          • FriendlyGoat

            It’s quite an irony that Bannon can blather on about what we’ve been “bequeathed” in the last 2,000-2,500 years while being so active in the destruction of what we really received from our nearer ancestors in only the last 100.

          • Anthony

            I was watching Charlie Rose a couple days ago; he interviewed the former British Chancellor of the Exchequer (George Osbourne) and he said these guys ask “what do you have to lose” – you have to lose peace, security, and stability. All three come form your referenced last 100 years (actually 70, but I’m with you).

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