Diplomacy’s raison d’etre is to build bridges of understanding and cooperation among nations based on reciprocity. Before an ambassador is accepted by the host country, he must first secure an agreement from the receiving state If accepted, the ambassador-designate then presents to the host country his letter of credence signed by the president of the sending state. I went through this protocular process when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed me ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Hungary with concurrent jurisdiction over Poland, Bosnia-Herzogovina and the former Republic of Yugoslavia now known solely as Serbia.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, however, it seems has a different concept of diplomatic relations among nations. His confrontational and abrasive style instead is destroying diplomatic bridges that have been built and nurtured over the years. In a ranting speech on the occasion of the Malacanag press room relaunching, Duterte went on a bashing binge of the European Union. He recited a history of Europe’s colonization and oppression of less developed countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
In his signature expletive laced speech, Duterte told the ambassadors of the EU here to pack up and go within 24 hours because he would not allow the Philippines to be dictated on by their governments. It was a reaction to the visit of an obscure European group that criticized the administration’s alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.
Mr. Duterte obviously does not know that expelling the foreign ambassadors from the country would have serious repercussions of reciprocal action. Based on reciprocity, the 28-member countries of the European Union can also kick out our own ambassadors and shut down our embassies abroad. Can you imagine the difficulty for Filipinos to secure tourist or working visas from these countries? Duterte will be reaping a storm of protests from our nationals working in EU countries If deported, these displaced overseas Filipino workers would then vent their ire on the President.
We wish this President would consult the Department of Foreign Affairs first before he opens his mouth on issues he does not have any inkling of. The EU with 28 affiliated countries has a total population of 510 million and its combined economies makes it a potent global force.
But wait , the European group was mistakenly labeled by the local media as an EU parliamentary group, which it was not. It is the responsibility of Martin Andanar’s communications office to verify the visitors status—but he did not. The visitors were actually the International Delegates of the Progressive Alliance which the EU clarified was not an EU mission.
Having realized Duterte’s gaffe that led to his scorched-bridge “leave within 24 hours” statement, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella scrambled to explain and clarify what the President said in context. Abella, in his signature deep and somber tone, as usual sounded like the lone, solitary voice of reason in this government as he explained President’s outbursts. But the damage has been done. The problem is exacerbated when Duterte discards a prepared speech and goes into a no holds-barred mode. Perhaps anger management is in order. Someone close to the President has to tell him the political campaign is over. It’s time for him to moderate his language and practice civility even with those who criticize him and his official policy.
There was no immediate reaction by the EU embassies in Manila but we can be sure the ambassadors have already sent their reports to respective home offices on President Duterte’s undiplomatic and belligerent remarks.
Duterte even instructed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez not to accept any more foreign aid money from the European Union. He said the Philippines can always trade with member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
He cited China and Russia which recently donated weapons without any conditions in the Philippine military’s fight against foreign terrorists.
What is it about Digong’s diplomacy of alienation? The President wishes to pursue an independent foreign policy. But as anyone with an iota of international relations knows, there is no such thing. Nations are interdependent on each other, be it in the field of global politics, economy, tourism and culture.
In another disturbing statement, President Duterte threatened to set up a revolutionary government and have detractors and those allegedly destabilizing his government under arrest.
The civil liberty group Tindig Pilipinas reacted strongly to Duterte’s revolutionary plan saying it is a sign of a man afraid of losing power and that the move would weaken democratic institutions.