LISBON, PORTUGAL: The Philippines may be in for another rough ride in 2017.
Not only did former United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg leave the Philippines with a legacy of fractured relations between the two countries, he allegedly left behind a “blueprint to undermine Duterte,” a strategic recommendation ostensibly to the State Department for the ultimate removal of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte from office, according to a highly placed source. It is not clear, however, if the State Department in Washington DC had given its imprimatur to the recommendation by its former ambassador to the Philippines.
A document received over the weekend by The Manila Times from that source said Goldberg had outlined a list of “strategies” to undermine President Duterte and called for his eventual ouster. The blueprint gave a timetable of one-and-a-half years.
Quoting Goldberg, it said the “political actors (the opposition) would need all the political weapons in their arsenal to replace the Duterte administration and replace it with something more to the opposition’s liking.” He noted, however, “that (deposing Duterte) would be a challenge for the opposition.”
Analyzing the President’s weakness, Goldberg said that Mr. Duterte “has no real friends” outside of his region for his propensity to mock and ridicule people close to him. He also said that the President’s “views are shaped not by ideology or personal ambitions, but by old-fashioned nationalism where he holds the United States accountable for the Philippines’ current state of poverty and dependency.”
To bring down Duterte, the Goldberg plan calls for stoking public dissatisfaction with the President over unfulfilled election promises, isolating the Philippines from the rest of the Asean by extending military assistance to member countries except the Philippines, and/or through economic “blackmail” that aims to limit trade by some Asean member countries with the Philippines.
Goldberg also encourages support for the opposition through aids and grants, sowing discontent among the Duterte supporters and cultivating the cleavage between the congressmen and the senators over the Charter Change issue.
In brief, the plan calls on the US government to employ a combination of socio-economic-political-diplomatic moves against Duterte “to bring him to his knees and eventually remove him from office.”
The paper outlined the Ambassador’s “strategies to be employed” such as:
Political and economic isolation of the Philippines in the region by engaging the leaders of Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and by “highlighting the basic question of the risk of doing business in the Philippines.”
Enhanced US military relationship with members of the Asean community except the Philippines.
Blackmail neighboring countries so they would turn against Duterte by reducing trade with the Philippines in favor of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Deepen ties with Philippine officials (the opposition), the police/military and leaders in the region who share the US concerns over Duterte.
Track corruption cases and highlight the failures of Duterte.
“Focus on the needs of the people at the grassroots and assist the opposition groups in delivering those failed promises through USAID – such as alleviation of poverty, housing and education – to name a few.”
Utilize the media to expose the truth about Duterte – “his false vision for the Filipino people and his dangerous international relationships with China and Russia.”
Goldberg also recommends, “change the political landscape by dividing the core leadership of Duterte” by “sowing discontent among (his) partymates.” He observed that some of the President’s allies are privately becoming concerned over his shift in foreign policy and the twist in the character of his economic and social agenda that veers closely toward the Left.
The former US Ambassador underscores the need to stoke the fire between the “defenders of the rule of law and Duterte’s Leftist group” by highlighting the demands of the Left to free all political prisoners in the country even before a formal peace agreement could be signed between the government and the CPP/NDF/NPA, and an end to US military presence in the Philippines.
It is not clear from what the source said how Goldberg would go about weakening the Philippine currency, but it states that such a scenario would lead to inflation (and would raise prices of food and other commodities). (Author’s note: He was wrong, though, in predicting that a weak peso would make our agriculture less competitive. On the contrary, a weak peso would help strengthen our exports and make our products more competitive in the global market.)
The paper also quoted Goldberg’s recommendation to “capitalize on a possible stalemate” as a possible course of action if and when the Lower House marginalizes the Senate on the voting on Charter Change. The Lower House has already publicly declared that both the House and the Senate should vote as one and not separately, as espoused by the Senators. Voting as one would, as some senators say, disenfranchise them given the sheer number of the congressmen – 240 representatives versus 24 Senators.
There will be fallout as a result of the Charter Change stalemate. Many legislators will break away from the administration as a consequence, Goldberg predicts.
In his observation, the US former envoy to the Philippines said that while President Duterte has been successful in earning the support of the people for his campaign against drugs, his political and economic program has failed to deliver the desired results. The US government, he said, should try “to understand how Duterte thinks” and what his next moves would be.
“With growing concern about the country’s security situation and economic discontent, the pressure is on Duterte to deliver concrete results,” the paper wrote, quoting Goldberg. “In this increasingly sensitive environment – a country susceptible to favor political disruption, our approach must be measured. Opposition actors across the political spectrum look at us (US) for cues, and our (US) influence is much greater than our footprint.”
Goldberg also advises “restraint in expressing public support for former President Fidel Valdez Ramos and Vice President Leni Robredo, as well as other opposition leaders “so as not to alarm the Duterte administration of an impending “destabilization or a coup.” He admits, however, that the “operation (coup) is obscured with difficulties.”
Two other options were presented by Goldberg, according to the paper: The rift among the Duterte supporters should be exploited, or assist the “Robredo-led opposition groups (to include the Catholic Church and other religious groups, business sectors, civil society groups and the youth) in addressing the international community regarding the shift in foreign policy issue, restoration of democracy and the protection of human rights through constitutional means.”
Goldberg predicts a worsening of the US-Philippine relations, more so on the issue of the US military presence in the Philippines, more particularly during the last two years of the Duterte administration.
The paper also wrote that the former US ambassador to the Philippines wanted to “know the views of Sen. Bongbong Marcos on a variety of issues such as: the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), China, Human Rights and the US-PH relations.”