BOTH former President Fidel Ramos and Senior Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio scored the Duterte administration’s anti-American foreign and military policy and urged President Rodrigo Duterte to stand for real independence and defend the country’s territorial integrity.
But Duterte himself questioned whether the United States or the country’s traditional allies would actually go to war over the West Philippine Sea issue, reiterating his belief that the President of the United States was not legally obliged to come to the aid of the Philippines.
However, Ramos, an alumni of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, said Duterte must learn to reach beyond his personal biases and think of his duties as being a responsibility to future Filipino generations.
“I hope he shows more leadership in our lives. Not only in drugs,” Ramos said in an interview over the ABS-CBN News Channel.
“Although removing the drug menace is one of [the country’s biggest problems], it is not the whole thing,” said the 88-year-old Ramos, who was president from 1992 to 1998.
“I am sorry to say this, President Duterte, my President, our President. That is 20th century thinking. We are now in the 21st century,” Ramos said, apparently referring to Duterte’s references to US atrocities in the Philippines in the early 20th century.
Ramos, whom Duterte tapped to become special presidential envoy to China over the West Philippine Sea issue, was supposed to meet with Chinese officials last month but the meeting was canceled because, diplomatic sources said, Beijing refused to talk about the matter.
Carpio, on the other hand, urged Duterte to understand the importance of holding patrols within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone during a speech at the closing of amphibious exercises with the United States on Tuesday.
Ramos, whom Duterte credited for convincing him to run for president, said looking to the aspirations of the young and not the historical past should be the mindset of a leader.
“That must not be the mentality of leaders these days,” Ramos said, suggesting that if Duterte can show pictures of Moros killed by Americans, future Filipinos can also pictures of Filipinos and Filipinos, like the Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre of November 2009.
“You should have also shown that pictures of people killed in Maguindanao,” Ramos said, referring to the Ampatuan massacre that killed journalists.
Although he thinks the country “lost badly” because of Duterte’s often sharp, unnecessary tirades in his first 100 days in office, Ramos also believes Duterte can deal with the learning curve of being president.
Speaking at the closing of the Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex) 2016, Carpio reiterated that cooperating with the country’s allies was the best way of protecting the nation’s territory, a duty entrusted to the President of the Philippines by the Constitution.
“The Philippines must protect its EEZ. That’s the mandate of the Constitution and the only way to protect that is to send patrol ships there because if a foreign fishing vessel will poach on our waters in the EEZ, the only way we can stop them is to patrol there,” he said.
“The Constitution says the Armed Forces is responsible for protecting the national territory. Who is the head of the Armed Forces? The President,” Carpio said. “I think if you will explain properly he will understand.”
Carpio, who is also from Davao City, urged Duterte not to discard the country’s traditional allies because only one country can help the country in dealing with the West Philippine Sea issue.
“There is only one power on earth that can stop the Chinese from poaching in our EEZ. That is the US,” he said.
But Duterte himself, speaking before officers of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Malacañang, questioned whether the United States would actually go to war for the Philippines.
“I do not mean to cancel or abrogate military alliances. But let me ask you, do you really think we need it? If there is a war, do you think we really need America? And do you think we need China and Russia for that matter? Or do we need somebody?” Duterte asked.
Duterte noted that China and Russia do what they please and the United States has not done anything about it over the past decades.
“Look at [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. He wanted Crimea. He just went there and occupied it. America could do nothing,” he said.
However, Duterte said he would still like to enter into deals with America, particularly in education and health.
“So let us go for alliances that would contribute to the health, to the education.”