MANILA, Philippines – The victory of Donald Trump as the next US president gives the Philippines and its oldest ally a chance to start on a "clean slate," Senate President Aquilino PImentel III said on Wednesday, November 9.
Pimentel said in an interview with reporters that the incoming US administration has not yet criticized the Duterte intensified war on drugs, which is supposedly at the root of the Philippine leader's anti-US rants.
“Since this is a new administration or a new leader, we could always start with a clean slate. We have a new US president who was not yet negatively commented on a program of the Philippine government so clean slate,” the Senate leader said.
Duterte’s partymate added: “This is no longer Obama who commented on the program of our President – 'yun lang naman 'yun eh (it was just that)— in a negative way. There is a new US ambassador. It’s no longer Goldberg.”
President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly slammed US President Barack Obama for calling him on out reported human rights abuses. Duterte had also attacked former US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg after the US envoy commented on his rape joke involving a slain Australian missionary during the campaign.
For Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto, Trump’s win threatens to open an “unchartered territory” in the two nations’ relations if the Duterte administration fails to plan ahead.
Aside from sending a congratulatory letter, Recto suggested that the Philippine leader – who has grabbed headlines for cursing prominent personalities including Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – “declare a moratorium on cursing.”
Recto said Duterte should tap Vice President Leni Robredo as the country’s representative to Trump’s inaugural as anyone with a lower rank would convey the message that the country is prioritizing China over the US.
He also urged Duterte to consult advisers on how to reboot the relations of the two countries.
“Whether Duterte will have a bromance with Trump is up to both of them, for as long as the defined national interest is served, and comes ahead of conjoining personal interests,” Recto said.
Hillary Clinton, better for PH?
While senators respect the results, some said it would have been better for the Philippines if former secretary of state Hillary Clinton were elected to the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III expressed concern over Trump’s pronouncements on immigrants, as there are many Filipinos who live in the US. (READ: Trump bashes Clinton as far too soft on immigrants)
“I really can't tell right now but judging by the statement that were uttered by Mr Donald Trump, hindi siya mahilig sa immigrants kaya medyo tingnan natin ano magiging national policy ng Amerika (he is not fond of immigrants so let us see what America's new national policy will be),” Sotto said hours before Trump won the election.
Sotto said if Clinton had won, there would be a status quo on national policies affecting the Philippines.
“Much better if Clinton. Kung si (If it were) Clinton, the policies that are in place as far as the Philippines is concerned will stay. Nakakasiguro tayo walang basta magbabago doon (We can be sure it would not be changed)," he said.
Asked if a Trump presidency would put the nation at a disadvantage, Sotto said: “I think so.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson shared the same sentiment, saying Clinton has the expertise in terms of foreign policy.
“I’m a member of the Philippine Senate but I’m only expressing my personal opinion. I think it would be better for the PH, for PH-US relations, if Secretary Clinton would win. But that’s me,” Lacson said.
“May expertise siya unang-una sa foreign policy. Kasi exposed na siya, being a former secretary of state, dating senator, dating first lady. Tingin ko, she can handle better 'yung foreign policy ng US with allies like, siyempre, national interest natin inuuna natin,” Lacson added.
(She has expertise first of all on foreign policy. Because she's exposed to it, being a former secretary of state, former senator, and former first lady. I think she can better handle the US' foreign policy with allies like us, of course we are prioritizing our national interest.)
The US is the Philippines' oldest and most powerful ally. The two have generally maintained good ties until Duterte lashed at Obama and his administration, and made pronouncements that he wanted to cut the Philippines' military and economic alliance with the US.
‘Misogynist, erratic’ Trump
Senator Leila de Lima, who earlier criticized the possible rise of Trump to the White House, said she was disappointed over the results. (READ: De Lima: 2016 year of 'misogynist, dictatorial sociopaths')
“I don’t think that with the status now in the world, with conflict-ridden areas also, that we can afford a global leader, the leader of the most powerful nation to be that kind of a personality – unpredictable, erratic, and misogynist. I would have more confidence if it’s Hillary Clinton," De Lima said.
On Philippines-US ties, De Lima said Trump has yet to divulge his plans on the two nations’ relations, considering Duterte’s pivot to China and his bid to forge closer ties with Russia.
“It remains to be seen because we have not heard much from Trump as to the Philippines-US relations, so we cannot as yet gauge how we will handle it, especially with the kind of President we have who has said as much already – that he is leaning towards China and Russia instead of the US,” she said.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org