Much ado about nothing

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Management by pique or hurt feelings or bruised ego is exacting a heavy political price on Du30. It has placed his administration in many embarrassing situations and forced it to swallow its pride on many occasions. Du30’s decision based on emotional outbursts also put his fanatics in quandary, forcing them to swing their position from one extreme to the opposite extreme and compelled them to love/hate the same people or entity depending on the mood-swing of their cult-god.

The decision of Du30 to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States (US) made on a spur-of-the-moment anger over the US visa cancellation of the chief implementer of his pet project, the war on drugs is once again demonstrating how such action is making his administration looks like a fool.

Senior defense and foreign affairs officials of the administration are not only unhappy but are opposed to the decision to terminate the VFA. His allies in the Senate are vocal in their objection to the move. The Senate passed a resolution asking the Supreme Court to rule on the matter. Even Du30’s minions in the Senate including Bato de la Rosa whose visa cancellation prompted Du30 to end the VFA merely abstained from the resolution instead of giving it a firm negative vote.

The Senate decision to bring the matter to the High Court caused Bato de la Rosa to bitterly complain that they are the majority yet they are the minority when it comes to making an important decision in the Senate. His outburst drew strong reactions from his colleagues forcing Bato to apologize for crying, “Sorry, I am only a senator, not a statesman.” The whole matter is taking a bizarre turn when Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez revealed that the Philippines and the US are in talks for a new VFA.  “We are now in the process of trying to find ways and means to be able to see how we can either come out with something similar perhaps,” he told this week’s forum organized by Stratbase ADR Institute. “My responsibility,” he said, “is to continue to assure our friends in Washington that this is something that we have to face, the decision of the President. So we have to start moving forward and continue our relationship. It is not an end-all and be-all.”

Among the options being explored according to Romualdez is an agreement similar to the US-Japanese Status of Forces Agreement of 1960 and Philippines-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) in 2007. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. seconded the move. He cryptically tweeted, “A rose by another name smells as sweet and the same fist in an iron glove—be it bronze or steel—hits & hurts just as bad.”

If the Philippines will end up with a rose, albeit another variety, what is the point of terminating the VFA? For Du30 to abrogate the VFA only for his administration to negotiate with the US another VFA-like arrangement is crazy and stupid, a hilarious self-flagellation. This is a case of much ado about nothing.

To appease and assuage Du30’s hurting feeling, the VFA was ended. Then his officials will undergo a torturous process of negotiating a similar agreement.  This is done for the bruised ego of Du30, to satisfy his tantrum. This only makes the Philippines the laughingstock of the world. Du30 severely if not irreparably damaged the diplomatic standing of the Philippines. The respectability of the Philippines is greatly diminished before the international community and countries would think twice before dealing with the country. Who would want to deal with a country that whimsically tore up an agreement based on the personal hurt of its leader?

In a related issue, the Du30 through his executive secretary this week ordered the resumption of negotiations for aid and loans with countries that voted on the resolution in the UN Human Rights Council calling for a probe on Du30’s war on drugs. Outraged by the adoption of the resolution last July 11, 2019, Du30 ordered the government not to negotiate with Iceland (the sponsor) and 17 other countries mostly from Europe for loans and grants.  Again the decision was based on Du30’s anger.

“That was made because of what these countries did when they passed a resolution condemning the war on drugs in this country. It was more of an outrage reaction,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said explaining the decision to cut off aid and loans from these countries. “Having already expressed our stand on that, perhaps there is now a reason to change it,” he said.

Less than a year later, Du30 rescinded the order. Now, the Philippines will start accepting aids and negotiate loans with Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, UK, and Uruguay. Du30 even made silly remarks about Iceland, claiming all that people do there is eating ice.  Now, who is eating his word?

Again, the cancellation of aid and loan was much ado about nothing.  In the end, the country resumed accepting aids and loans from these countries. In the interval months that the Philippines refused aid from these countries, Filipinos who are victims of calamities were deprived of support as Du30 nurses his bruised ego. Here again, the personal feeling of Du30 is more important than the welfare of needy Filipinos.

This is how Du30 conducts the affairs of the state, foreign affairs in particular. He bases it on who hurt or appease his feelings. Du30 is easily manipulated by countries like China with evil designs on the Philippines. China pleased the man-child Du30 by being silent on his favorite past time – slaughtering thousands of Filipinos in the gory and bloody war against illegal drugs. European countries that are uncompromising on human rights earned Du30’s ire. But in the end, Du30 would reverse himself and eat his words. He is now more of a clown than a fearsome fascist warlord.