Towards an independent foreign policy

Beyond the policy of restraint, President Duterte later declared the need for an independent foreign policy – which to my understanding is not for or against anybody but equidistant to everyone.

Of course, this was preceded by Duterte’s colorful language in reaction to a reporter’s query on human rights, which President Obama, during the Laos ASEAN + Summit, deftly handled, truly worthy of a great leader.

While recognizing President Duterte as a colorful person, he nevertheless cancelled their scheduled one-on-one meeting because – according to President Obama – no positive outcome may come out of it given the strained circumstances.

President Duterte deliberately omitted mention of the arbitral ruling during the ASEAN + Summit in Laos but made clear in earlier statements that when the time comes to negotiate with China, he will not go out of the four corners of the ruling.

Only time can tell which approach will better serve the nation’s interests: the hardline approach of former President Benigno Aquino III or Duterte’s soft landing.

Anti-drug campaign

Let us not forget the reality that our domestic situation is tightly linked to foreign policy which is only as strong as the people it represents.

The Duterte government has been in office for barely 3 months but it is already beleaguered because of the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in its anti-drug campaign. To date more than 3,000 have been killed but more than 700,000 have surrendered, indicating the gravity of the nation’s drug problem.

While I agree with the government’s anti-drug campaign, we have to accept that since everyone cannot be killed, we should avoid creating conditions where, over time, justice will be defined by vengeance.

Making of an enabling environment

But beyond our legitimate concern about EJKs, the Duterte government has initiated a national reform program which promises to create an enabling environment that will provide the context for the nation to become rich, prosperous, and strong.

If successful, it will make this nation and the national leadership that made it possible great.

If successful, it would lay the foundation for making the shaping impulse of the Filipino in terms of: who he/she is, what he/she can be, what he/she can do, and what he/she can give. These will embody the formation of a new Filipino personality, a new identity of an empowered Filipino enabled to build a strong and respected nation.

We can become wealthy and strong, capable of building an independent foreign policy – a nation that is dependable and worthy as a partner rather than an unhelpful and dependent ally.

      The enabling environment consists of:

But if all this fails, the judgment may be harsh and primarily in terms of the EJKs committed in the anti-drug campaign. This would be a terrible loss of opportunity because it will negate what could be bigger and bolder gains for the country. –

A retired military general, the author is the former national security adviser of the Ramos administration.