On Donald Trump’s comments regarding General Pershing

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.


Trump’s foreign policy, its consistencies, and how it might affect the world

Have you noticed how inconsistent the Trump administration is when it comes to foreign policy? In much of his speeches and policy, Donald Trump has been promoting cooperation with Russia in issues like terrorism (and the war in Syria) and how “he would like to get along with President Vladimir Putin” but at the same time has advocated a hawkish stance on countries where Russia has built up strong relations like Cuba, Iran, China, and others.

Trump has advocated a hawkish stance on the South China Sea at a time when the claimant states like Vietnam and the Philippines has adopted policies setting aside their differences in exchange of economic cooperation.

Trump has threatened to reverse the progress made since the Iran deal was signed and appears to be heading to a position of war, again contradicting Trump’s promises of not heading into another war and instead focus on domestic issues.

In Israel, despite criticisms over its settlement program, Trump as well as Republicans are turning a blind eye.

When it comes to the wall, Trump has proudly stated that Mexico will “pay for the wall” (Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said many times Mexico will not pay for a wall)  when in fact should a import tariff be imposed on Mexican imports American taxpayers will pay for the wall.

Across Europe, there is widespread concern on whatever course Trump might be taking as the continent reels on an economic slowdown, migration crisis, and wave of terror attacks. In the Eastern part of the continent, the Baltic states, Poland, and Ukraine are concerned that Trump’s plans to improve ties with Russia will jeopardize their security interests, especially in Ukraine which has been embroiled in political turmoil and civil war since 2014 and renewed violence in the Donbass. On the other hand, far-right parties are taking cues from Trump’s victory and fears of a domino effect which will put an end to the European Union.

The recent immigration ban in seven countries in the Middle East (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria) has provoked backlash. Interestingly and coincidentally, Middle Eastern countries with Trump businesses were not included (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, etc.).

When it comes to North Korea, which has been quiet for some time and with its southern neighbor embroiled in political crisis, and has stubbornly refused to give up its nuclear ambitions, it is yet to be seen what Trump will do.

With these contradictions and inconsistencies in mind, it appears we’re heading for the worst and possibly head to war. But let us hope we can do something to reverse whatever damage it will bring to the world.


And who would have thought he would become president

Days before the United States presidential elections, people were expecting that Donald Trump will have a very steep chance of winning the elections, as surveys showed his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton leading in most battleground states, and given his rhetoric against Latinos, Muslims, and other minorities he will have a very slim chance.

But the elections on November 8 showed a different path.

Early results showed Donald Trump leading both the popular vote (Clinton eventually took the lead but it’s quite late) and the electoral vote, and with him winning the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, he won as 45th president in a stunning upset.

This shocked many people around the world who were so confident he will have a very slim chance of winning given the controversial statements he has made and taking into consideration his background as a reality TV star and businessman with such a bad record.

So why did he win? He tapped into the frustrations of many Americans who felt the political establishment has failed them over the years and it’s about time for a change. And what people saw in Clinton was she was an embodiment of the very same establishment. (because of her e-mail scandals).

Now that we have to deal with this reality, Donald Trump recently has sounded more conciliatory. He promised to be the president of all Americans and while meeting with Barack Obama he sounded little less than the Trump who spearheaded the birther issue.

Regardless of these however, Trump’s campaign has spearheaded a very hateful campaign which will not go away immediately, as it was also during the campaign period all sorts of racist and sexist attacks spread all over the place.

In foreign policy, at least, Trump would strike a non-interventionist line and try to negotiate with Russia, Iran, Mexico, EU, and others on a wide range of issues. And as for our country, at least Duterte wouldn’t have to deal with someone who will egg him on the human rights issue which is pretty sensitive to him.

On the other hand, the Trump victory could have been avoided should the Democratic Party establishment listened to Bernie Sanders and didn’t try to sabotage his chances of winning the nomination.

And now we have to face this reality, let’s all just hope that the Trump in the White House would be a different one from the Trump during the campaign, otherwise, wish us all the best of luck and may we survive.

An independent foreign policy

In light of the President’s recent visits to the two major Asian powerhouses, China and Japan, we will highlight the Philippines’ intentions to create an entirely new foreign policy and what it means to us and what more should be done.

You are all aware of the President’s severe (and sometimes vulgar) criticisms towards the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations over their concerns about the rising death toll of the ongoing war on drugs.

Prior to his departure to Laos to attend the ASEAN Summit in Laos, his infamous “putang ina, mumurahin talaga kita sa forum na yan” (which was also grossly mistranslated to “son of a bitch”) prompted US President Barack Obama to cancel his bilateral meeting with President Duterte.

Over time, he has also signaled intentions to break away from Washington’s sphere of influence and instead pivot to China (which was his one of his campaign promises) and Russia (he has expressed his intentions to meet with President Vladimir Putin and has talked to Prime Minister Medvedev during the ASEAN Summit.)

He was able to bring home a combined $24 billion worth of loans and investments and the Filipinos’ return to fishing near the Scarborough Shoal which was halted since the 2012 standoff.

After visiting China, he went to Japan, talking to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and also bringing home $19 billion worth of investments.

With these in mind, it seems that we are prioritizing our Asian neighbors and also making efforts to rely less on Washington.

Others have concerns that these developments may result in a drop of US aid, loss of US investments, or even result in a US-orchestrated regime change ops (which heaven forbid does not happen). [Duterte has also highlighted American sins in the PH during the period of 1898-1946, including but not limited to the Bud Dajo and Balanginga massacres.]

Which then leads us to what we should do. Here are some of the proposals we would like to put forward:

  • With the urging of the Russian ambassador, we formulate our wishlist so whatever assistance we may need from Russia, we receive it
  • A pivot to Latin America will also help, despite economic hardships they are also seen as a new wave of superpowers, including Mexico and Brazil
  • Meet with the new US president, be it Trump or Clinton and make clear of his intentions.

We’re not expecting that these will be acted upon (in one way or another), but let’s await of the developments and see where they are taking us.