With US President Donald Trump still reeling from the effects of his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and amid the most recent terror incident, this time in Barcelona, he once again entered himself to controversy when he tweeted on a long-debunked urban legend that dates back to the early years of American rule in the Philippines.
He talked about this particular story while he was campaigning, it was where General Pershing was said to have bullets dipped on pig’s blood, ostensibly to “fight” against “radical Islamic terrorism”.
It was immediately fact-checked by mainstream media, saying it never happened. But there must be another fact check, this time by us Filipinos.
At a time where our country is still reeling from the effects of the Marawi crisis which broke out on May 23, amid our long-standing efforts at rectifying the historic wrongs committed against the Moro people, this should be an outrage, as it is insensitive.
This is not about what Donald Trump says is about “radical Islamic terrorism”. This is about the Moro people’s efforts to resist American rule, at a time when the Americans came when Christian Filipinos have already declared independence from Spain and are already at the first steps of nation-building. When the Americans have mostly pacified the rest of the archipelago by 1901, the Moro people have continued their resistance until 1913.
We are at a time where we are correcting this historic injustice by arriving at constitutional reform, shifting from a unitary to a federal form of government. At a time we are trying to build a lasting peace, we are also encouraging economic development in Mindanao after decades-long conflict, to discourage people from resorting to extremist ideology espoused by groups such as ISIS.
Donald Trump should have been circumspect before speaking, as he would risk alienating an ally, as he has offered support for the Philippines to combat the Maute group in Marawi.
The Philippines has already been at odds with the United States since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 2016, over the controversial war on drugs which Trump has praised. In his 2017 State of the Nation Address, Duterte asked for the return of the Balangiga bells stolen since the 1899 Philippine-American War. This would further complicate efforts to resolve long-standing issues haunting US-Philippines relations.
In light of these historical backgrounds on what has transpired, Donald Trump has once again opened himself to controversy with these remarks. At a time when both the Philippines and the United States having populist leaders known for controversial statements, this may risk a diplomatic incident, or a war on words.
Sidenotes: With the terror attacks in Spain and the events in Charlottesville, may we stand united together against hate.