US controls PH politics: Let us count the ways

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THERE are many demonstrations of the amazing United States domination of Philippine politics and how our “nationalist experts” echo in lockstep the US agenda of escalating issues against China and provoking division and conflict when the world needs more understanding and cooperation.

To name a few examples: The use of Chinese contractors linked to our disputes is the latest issue that former Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio has raised as “looking bad” for the Philippines. Looking bad and doing well are better than looking good and doing badly. Do other countries consider that it “looks bad” to benefit from potential speedy and cost-efficient construction to assist in the infrastructure development of one’s country? If we had a reasonable alternative, why not look for another partner then?

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Note that the US nuclear, biotech and stem-cell programs essentially used Nazi scientists fresh out of World War 2; the Philippines used Malaysia, a funder and trainer of Mindanao rebels, to negotiate the Bangsamoro deal; former US ambassador Joseph Kennedy proudly used to broker deals with Chicago mafia bosses to win elections for his clan; Vietnam made use of massive investments from China in spite of having ongoing disputes; and the country uses diplomacy to deal strongly with Vietnam even though it occupied Southwest Cay, which was previously possessed by the Philippines. Did not the US contest the Philippine concept of territoriality in order that their warships and submarines could pass without notification? Why are mutually productive, multidimensional relations acceptable with every country except China? The Philippines should position itself as best as it can, but it should be a practical and productive position.

Technological spying is another charge that needs perspective. It is true that the presence of foreign equipment may allow collection and dissemination of information and digital instructions. But it has been shown that the US has been spying on countries, including the Philippines, and regularly recording conversations of national leaders in the European Union and all over the world. China’s Huawei has not been proven to have done this and, in fact, has even offered US and EU companies free examination, use and licensing of its technologies and even invited them to compete against Huawei itself.  US companies have neither accepted this offer nor offered reciprocal free access to the inner workings of software developed in America and Europe.

The US company, Google, gives people access to pictures of local streets and homes, maps national movements, listens to citizen’s conversations and processes consumer preferences. Facebook and YouTube record every comment, interaction and interest users have.  The US military has mapped all Philippine seas and trenches, resources and features and named the nation’s eastern sea after the American Admiral Benham.

Note that the Dito Telecommunity Corp. setups are to be done by Filipino engineers and managed by Filipinos. Sen. Ralph Recto and others who criticise may have some basis to say that it may be safer to set up away from military camps, but lawmakers must also give credit to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the rest of the military intelligence community for doing their jobs and exercising due diligence on matters of national security.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, a pillar of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), said he was quite sure that the US Central Intelligence Agency has, for a long time, been reporting everything that has been happening in Malaysia and China.

He said of Huawei, “We try to make use of their technology as much as possible. Yes, there may be some spying, but what is there to spy [for] in Malaysia,” asked Mahathir, pointing out that Huawei is much more advanced and economical in some areas than other technological companies, including those in the US and EU.

And what about the curious case of Joseph Scott Pemberton? While many quarters in the Philippines may not agree with the recent release of the convicted killer, the merits of the legal proceedings, at this point, belong to the courts.

What is more fundamentally at issue here is not the release of the US Marine itself  but that much of US laws have been upheld the whole time at the expense of Philippine laws on Philippine soil. During and after Pemberton’s  trial, Filipinos never had sole physical custody of the American soldier, and trial processes required US consent. This was for a US Marine corporal, who after engaging sexual services, “acting in self-defense” against a transgender, brutalized, asphyxiated and dunked her head in a toilet, killing her. Now, he walks free. One might say it is symbolic, and some tears may fall for the Philippines.
Sadly, such things do happen, and the marine was young. But how would a Filipino military person be treated in an equivalent case in the US? Singaporeans and Japanese governments have shown they will not give US or other citizens special treatment whether the sentence is caning, jailing or execution. To compare, the US physically dragged out Julian Paul Assange of Wikileaks all the way from the United Kingdom’s Ecuadorian embassy to throw him into US detention. Other military detainees of the US in Guantanamo and elsewhere are tortured and killed, and pictures are taken as trophies.

Regarding Confucius Institutes (CIs), why does Justice Carpio attack the language and culture school around the same time that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a similar action in the US? Has Carpio or his friends spent time attending some of the CI classes, or did they merely accept the US line? Confucius Institutes help teach the language, philosophy, calligraphy, herbal medicine, life and art of China. The CI teachers help the Filipino professionals, businessmen and government personnel to become more effective teachers, negotiators, diplomats and social-relations builders just as learning English or the language of any large-economy, developed country helps the learner become better equipped to capitalise on globalization.  The US Government Accountability Office has investigated and cited “US university employees [reporting] that they - not China - had full control” and even found “90 agreements included language specifically protecting academic freedom [of the host universities].”

Many people have grown up and enjoyed learning from the resources, lectures and entertainment at the Thomas Jefferson Center of the US, the Goethe Institut of Germany, the Instituto Cervantes of Spain and the Alliance Francaise of France. They all generally present their home countries, obviously, in a positive light; after all, there are other venues for darker histories. We may comment on but we don’t demand the US cultural organizations in the Philippines to close down if they don’t create programs to open inquiries on US invasions, on the US government’s treatment of minorities or on major US corruption. Did our good ex-justice Carpio, Vice President Leni Robredo, former Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario or Sen. Risa Hontiverors publicly object when the US recently reaffirmed its position that Sabah, long claimed by the Philippines, belongs to Malaysia? There did not seem to be a squeak raised at all by such “nationalist experts.”

Those who would be vocal critics should first critically observe and compare wider empirical benchmarks with the source of criticism before condemning and making pronouncements.

The Philippines cannot afford to be a proxy for actual hostilities between powerful countries. The Filipino leaders and people should be looking for points of common development and benefit rather than be constantly demonizing. Yes, there are disputes, but there are many benefits as well for all parties, including being proximate to a growth area with Asean and India as well. Markets are likely to double right at our doorstep in approximately a dozen years.

Filipinos should focus on preparing to benefit and learning from those who know how to achieve this rather than miss the boat again by following the advice of critics, who may have achieved something for the country in some ways, but have hardly built any enterprise or employment and have never learned to read, navigate or operate real-world complexities to consistently successful results.

Progressive people choose to learn and, even amid imperfections, to keep moving forward.

Mario Ferdinand Pasion is a political analyst, director of economic alliance Phil-Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Strategic Studies, and the chairman of Nat-Fil (Nationalist Filipinos Against Foreign Intervention).

New Worlds by IDSI (Integrated Development Studies Institute) aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities and attempt for the common good, culture and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (idsicenter@gmail.com).

**Also published in: https://www.manilatimes.net/2020/09/13/opinion/columnists/us-controls-ph-politics-let-us-count-the-ways/767599/

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