There is simply no doubt in my mind that the United States is using the Philippines as its laboratory in testing how far its hegemonic tentacles might reach. The rider which President Donald Trump signed instructs the US State department to cancel travel visas of alleged officials of the Duterte administration involved in the incarceration of Senator Leila de Lima, whom many of the US congress believes to be just a victim of political or even personal vendetta.
It is believed that the acrimony between Philippine president Duterte and De Lima goes way back to the times when De Lima, as chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) conducted probes on how Duterte handles the human rights of the people of Davao. Those De Lima reports cast a very humiliating picture of Duterte and show how oppressive the former Mayor and now President conducted his affairs with his own constituents.
The rider is the first time the US tries to “punish” officials of another state for alleged crimes committed by these officials in their own country. I don’t know what “harm” these officials of Duterte had thought of a rider.
What actual harm does a cancellation of a US visa entails? Does it deprive one of life, liberty or property? For top public personalities, yes, because most of them maintain properties in the United States. And yes, some even keep dollar accounts in several banks in the states. Others, well, might just be doing some business in the States and frequently visit the mainland.
Maybe it is not the cancellation per se that created chills down the spines of Duterte’s bloody anti-drugs campaign and his closest allies—it is the expectation that something more serious might actually be forthcoming and might hit them post-Duterte or anytime before the end of the President’s term.
Despite the staunch stance of the Duterte administration—that it is not within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court—in private, officials especially Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo knows pretty well that the possibility of the US state department using the ICC in the future as part of its “payback time,” looms.
Remember—the Americans have long memories. They give their enemies their just desserts. Google what happened to the Serbian generals who committed genocide several decades ago.
How about Panama? US forces brought down a dictator once there. Of course, such a scenario is entirely far-fetched since a large scale or full invasion force is not entirely needed when we talk about the Philippines.
The rider is a clear message that the “perception” created by the Duterte administration of its close-ness with the Trump administration is just a PR stunt. IN the eyes of Trump, Duterte is not a strong ally, but possibly now considered a serious obstruction in the Pan Pacific plans of the US.
Many sees that the minute the ICC dispenses a decision which proves the existence of evidence which show those charges of extra judicial killings to be true, this begins the countdown for this administration. Such a decision may actually be used as a last resort by the US or any of Duterte’s enemies to cause his eventual arrest. Will this spark a civil war? I doubt it. Yes, it may actually justify a helluva rebellion by Duterte’s serious supporters but by and large, this will surely not lead to a serious revolution because the “Big Boys” are expected to spend their monies just to manage a fall-out the way they handled the Marcos forces after EDSA One.
It may just be that the US and the ICC are creating the very environment for which to justify a move and make an example out of Duterte. The risks involved is not entirely big that will cause a destabilization even of the economy of the Philippines. Of course, at the onset that may yet be condemned even by other powers, such as China and Russia.
The question is—is China ready to go to war with the United States over the Philippines or even, say Russia? I seriously doubt it.