The U.S. Trump card

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The United States has announced that President Donald Trump will take up human rights issues in the Philippines with President Rodrigo Duterte in their one-on-one meeting sometime during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit this November. It’s hardly likely that the meeting with Trump will result in any immediate change in the state of compliance with human rights standards of the Duterte regime. But Trump’s bringing them up now is a reminder that those issues can be used later when it suits US interests.

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Trump’s Duterte card

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The White House has confirmed that President Donald Trump has invited President Rodrigo Duterte to visit the United States. The invitation has provoked criticism from human rights groups, among them Human Rights Watch (HRW), which has been unrelenting in its condemnation of the toll in lives of Mr. Duterte’s “war” on drugs. It is widely presumed that Mr. Trump supports the Duterte approach, which could be the basis for a meeting of the minds of the two unconventional heads of state.

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Back to the past

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MOST FILIPINOS–85 percent of them, according to a survey by the US-based Pew Research Center–may think the US their lord and savior. But no matter how convinced they are that their devotion to the US is reciprocated, and that the latter will go to war for them in case of a confrontation with the Chinese bully, on the first day of his visit, US President Barack Obama expertly dodged the question of whether his country would defend the Philippines in the same manner that he unequivocally pledged to defend Japan.

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Conduct unbecoming

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THE LAST time US forces occupied several military bases all over the Philippines, among them Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, it took a decades-long campaign against their presence, a volcanic eruption, and over 40 years to get them out.

Anticipating the need to get and keep them out, the 1987 Constitution barred foreign troops and military bases without a treaty ratified by the Senate, which, despite then President Corazon Aquino’s advocacy, refused to renew the US lease in September1991. Not that the US was at the time still seriously interested in keeping the latter, the global projection of US power through its nuclear submarine complex and aircraft carrier tax forces being then seen to be less costly and more effective. The cleanup at Clark because of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in June 1991 would not have been worth the expense and effort anyway. The Senate action wasn’t as disastrous to US strategy as some thought at the time. But it did end a long period of occupation by foreign troops in places where they were the undisputed, non-accountable sovereigns.

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