Insult reveals cracks in US-Philippine ties

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/6 23:03:39

"Son of a bitch." This is how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte referred to US President Barack Obama on Monday. This has set a dilemma for Washington. When Obama was asked to respond to the remarks, he said the Philippine president was a "colorful" person, showing a generous response. However, the White House still expressed its anger through diplomatic means by canceling Obama's meeting with Duterte that had been scheduled during the ASEAN summit in Laos.

Although Duterte's spokesperson said he regretted his sharp words, they have spread all over the world. He meant it when he said the Philippines has long ceased to be a colony and that "I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody." The hostility between the US and the Philippines can hardly be settled easily.

During his election campaign, Duterte was dubbed the Philippines' Donald Trump. Still, his big mouth as president has shocked the world, especially the West. The Western media listed the figures he has referred to as "sons of bitches," which included Pope Francis and the US ambassador to the Philippines. Duterte cursed these people when they pointed their fingers at the domestic politics of Manila. After he assumed power, he dealt a heavy blow to drug dealers, while the West accused him of violating human rights.

But Duterte's actions have been welcomed in his country. Although his dirty words have tarnished his international image to some extent, he apparently attaches more importance to domestic support. He is clear which side matters more to him. The latest friction between Washington and Manila seems accidental, but conflicts between Western values and developing countries are common. Duterte, on behalf of developing countries, only showed that he had had enough.

Many people believe it is time for Manila to seek support from the US as the maritime disputes between Manila and Beijing highlighted the importance of the US-Philippines alliance to the latter. But why did Duterte slap Obama in the face? The reason is that the Philippines does not feel insecure even faced with China's "threat." Beijing and Manila do have territorial disputes. But despite US support and a favorable arbitration award to the Philippines, the Philippines gained no real benefits. The alliance with the US is not the only consideration for Manila. The Philippines has shifted the focus back to internal governance. The US needs the Philippines more as it sees this Southeast Asian country as a pawn to counter China.

Chinese netizens applauded Duterte's words about Obama. But the US-Philippine alliance will remain solid. China should not hold too many illusions. From a long-term perspective, it will not necessarily be easy to deal with the Philippines under his rule.

The human rights issue has brought enmity between the US and its two allies of Turkey and the Philippines. We can judge the role of human rights in US diplomacy. The dispute between China and the US over the issue is worth our observation.

Posted in: Editorial

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