U.S. President Donald Trump’s invitation for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the White House was immediately met with strong disapproval from beltway politicians and mainstream media outlets. Concerned about maintaining the U.S. head of state’s dubious role and threadbare image as a human rights leader, they argued that the invitation would dignify the “strongman” and his brutal war on drugs.
“The president doesn’t appear to have used this opportunity to raise any concerns about the manner in which Duterte is running his own country, violating the human rights of his own citizens or treating his best ally, the United States,” said former State and Defense department spokesman John Kirby. The former Obama spokesman also claimed that the former reality TV personality risked raising Duterte “to the level of a statesman … (a) level he doesn’t merit.”
However, within the Southeast Asian country itself, progressive youth had the opposite reaction, challenging Duterte to snub the Trump invitation and begin charting a course free from the dictates of Washington, the Pentagon and U.S. ruling elites. For the anti-imperialists of new democratic youth organization Anakbayan, Trump’s deceptive sweet talk is only meant to maintain the two countries’ unequal and neo-colonial relations amid the precipitous decline of U.S. hegemony.
“Take a step towards actualizing an independent foreign policy. Dump the Trump invite,” said Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo in a statement Wednesday.
Duterte has expressed reservations about the invitation, saying that he “cannot make any definite promise” due to his busy schedule. The Philippine president blasted U.S. presence in the country last year, announcing a “break up with America” and telling then-President Barack Obama, “you can go to hell,” in moves that upset landlord clans and families whose interests are tied up with U.S. capitalist interests.
Mass movements and new democratic forces in the country have long resisted what it calls “bungling ruling elites and oligarchs (who) hang on the coattails of Uncle Sam.” To Anakbayan and other groups, the country’s elites are simply appendages of U.S. and international capitalism or “comprador bourgeois” who consistently attempt to burden the restive masses of the country with a pro-U.S. mentality. These groups also claim elites suppress national self-determination in a bid to maintain feudal and semi-feudal exploitation and the dominance of foreign capital in the country.
The former reality TV personality spoke in a flattering tone to Duterte, attempting to woo him by complimenting his anti-drug campaign and promising to fix “bad relations” between the two countries. Trump said this in a bid to recruit him to Washington’s belligerent campaign against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, DPRK.
“We call on Duterte to refuse Trump war mongering bandwagon which seeks to drag the country into armed conflict with North Korea,” Crisostomo said, nothing that such a war “only furthers U.S. imperialist designs and counters our national interests.”
The U.S. Armed Forces still maintain several outposts in and around the archipelago nation, as well as facilities within Philippine military bases. Critics have blasted the bilateral Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA, as a threat to Philippine sovereignty that transforms the nation into a forward operating base for imperialist campaigns in the Asia Pacific region. The country will never forge its own path, they claim, as long as the Southeast Asian country is littered with U.S. military infrastructure, U.S. troops and the U.S. grip on the Armed Forces of the Philippines top brass.
“Talk is cheap,” the Anakbayan chair noted. “Duterte must concretize his independent foreign policy by junking EDCA, VFA, and other lopsided agreements. Implement genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization to break (the) U.S. imperialist stranglehold over our economy,” he added.
Anakbayan added in the statement that Trump’s attempts to kiss up to Duterte should be viewed in light of “the steady decline of U.S. politico-economic power and clout and the rise of an increasingly multi-polar world with the emergence of China and Russia as rival imperialist powers.”
Plans are already underway for “massive protest actions” in response to a planned Trump visit to the Philippines in November for a planned East Asia Summit.