November 2016

By Perry Diaz

trump-and-hitlerLittle did Donald J. Trump realize that by preaching the gospel of hate, it would bring him to the pinnacle of power in America. Or, could it be that he was aware that hate was what dictators use to achieve power and exercise total control over their people? Take Adolf Hitler for one, who arguably was the most despicable of these tyrants who didn’t see any value on the human lives that he put to death. In a short time, he systematically exterminated more than six million Jews during World War II.

Seven decades after the end of World War II, the specter of another Hitlerian era looms in America, right under the torch held high by Lady Liberty who keeps vigil at the Liberty Island in New York Harbor. But the threat to Americans’ freedom today does not come from without; it comes from within the tarnished soul of America, its purity poisoned by the promises of a snake oil salesman – Donald J. Trump — who lives not too far from where the vigilant Lady Liberty stands.

Hitler’s Germany

adolf-hitlerTwo months from now, Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the U.S. But his ascension to power is fraught with danger. For the fourth time in the history of the U.S., Trump won the electoral vote — and thus the presidency — although he lost the popular vote. It’s a quirk in the U.S. electoral system, which is anachronistic and, in my opinion, should be reformed. But that is not where the danger lies, it’s what Trump promised the American people, which many believe ran eerily in parallel to the pathway that Hitler took to achieve control of the political system of Germany. On that day, January 30, 1933, the German President Paul von Hindenburg named Hitler as Chancellor of Germany (equivalent to Prime Minister).

Hitler’s meteoric rise was spurred by the German people’s dissatisfaction with the economic conditions caused in large part to Germany’s defeat in World War I. Hitler, a fiery and charismatic speaker, took advantage of the German people’s discontent with their government and directed their anger at Germany’s Jewish community whom he blamed for all the malaise and suffering of Germany’s majority “Aryan” race.

Hitler’s emergence as Germany’s undisputed leader marked a pivotal turning point for Germany… and ultimately, the world. He immediately expanded the state police – the Gestapo – and put Hermann Goring in charge over it.

Trump’s America

donald-trump-making-faceWith the succession of Trump to the presidency, it’s déjà vu all over again or so it seems. There are uncanny similarities between Trump and Hitler. Take for instance, Trump’s favorite slogan. On June 14, 2016, Trump greeted America’s Flag Day on his Twitter account with the words “AMERICA FIRST!” And throughout the campaign, Trump repeatedly said, “When I am president, it will always be America first.” But while there is no doubt – and it was an effective campaign slogan—that it was patriotic in every sense, what Trump had in mind was quite different when he said, “America first.”

That same day in Atlanta, Trump told the audience at a rally that his “America first” slogan was different from Ronald Reagan’s. He defined it as the “America” he wants to put “first” by saying those who don’t properly belong in it. “That definition does not include certain people of foreign descent born in the United States, who are to him still foreigners and whom he labels accordingly (in the past few weeks, Trump has referred to native-born Americans as ‘Mexican’ or ‘Afghan’). It does not include Muslim residents, whom he would ‘certainly’ and ‘absolutely’ force to register their presence with the U.S. government (asked how this proposed policy differs from Nazi laws regarding Jews, Trump replied, ‘You tell me’). Trump wants his exclusionary America to cower behind walls. He would erect metaphorical barriers against immigrants and exclude Muslims from entering the United States until they can be ‘properly and perfectly’ screened.” (Washington Post/Reuters)

Trump and Hitler

Entrance to Auschwitz.

Entrance to Auschwitz.

While Trump denied that he didn’t steal the “America First” slogan from Reagan, the provenance of “America First” is traced to the Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s. “During the early 1930s,” the Washington Post article said, “as the Nazis consolidated control over Germany, the U.S. media baron William Randolph Hearst began touting the slogan ‘America First’ against President Franklin Roosevelt, whom he saw as dangerously likely to ‘allow the international bankers and the other big influences that have gambled with your prosperity to gamble with your politics.’ Hearst regarded Roosevelt’s New Deal as ‘un-American to the core’ and ‘more communistic than the communists’ — unlike Nazism, which he believed had won a great victory for ‘liberty-loving people’ everywhere in defeating communism.”

During the 2016 presidential campaign there were many published articles showing similarities between Hitler and Trump. One article posted on the Nairaland Forum’s website shows uncanny similarities between Hitler and Trump, to wit:

Adolf Hitler:                             Donald Trump:

1. Used racism to rise to         1. Uses racism to rise to
power.                                        power.

2. Promised to make               2. Promises to make America
Germany great again.              America great again.

3. Anti-Jew Fascist.                3. Anti-Muslim Fascist.

4. Blamed Jews for                 4. Blames Muslims for the
Germany’s problems.             U.S.’s problems.

5. Forced Jews to wear           5. Wants Muslims to
special IDs.                               register.

6. Proposed mass                    6. Proposes mass
deportation.                              deportation.

Transition period

alt-right-trumpWith the transition period now in progress, Trump’s nominees to his national security team have raised eyebrows and created anxiety among libertarians. With Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser, and Rep. Mike Pompeo as Director of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), there is a lot of apprehension about how they are going to implement Trump’s scary national security agenda.

Sessions as Attorney General will hold a key post in national security. When Reagan nominated him to a federal judge in 1986, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected Sessions “out of concern” based on devastating testimony by former colleagues who accused him of being a racist. The question is: Would the intervening 30 years change his racist past?

Trump’s nominee for National Security Adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn was controversial in so many ways. He was fired as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under the Obama administration. Accused of sexism and harboring anti-Muslim sentiments, Flynn believes that Islamist militancy poses an existential threat to the U.S. The question is: Would his extremist views on Islam become the underlying motivation to require Muslim-Americans to register?

Trump’s nominee for Director of CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo, lacks the experience to head the CIA. He had been accused of being anti-Muslim and had participated in a “racist political campaign,” which makes one wonder if he’d inject racism in safeguarding the nation’s security?

With Trump’s national security team consisting of people with extremist views on race, sex, and national origin, is America going the way of Hitler’s Germany? And is Trump following in Hitler’s footsteps? Are we seeing a pathway from the Auschwitz concentration camps to America’s walled bastion where Americans who don’t fit in Trump’s “America First” don’t belong in America?


By Perry Diaz

The "Wall" at the U.S.-Mexico border proposed by Trump.

The “Wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border proposed by Trump.

The election of Rodrigo R. Duterte and Donald J. Trump — six months apart – as president of the Philippines and United States, respectively, shook the world in a manner that differed from previous presidential elections in both countries. While Duterte was favored to win in large part due to his promise to kill drug pushers and users, Trump was doomed to lose simply because of his controversial stand against a lot of issues and causes that many people consider as “sacred cows.” But as it turned out, the “sacred cows” were as fair game as anything else, which — surprisingly – had attracted the support of many Americans. “I’ll build the wall and tell Mexico to pay for it,” Trump promised, and his supporters went a-gaga!

It’s the same thing with Duterte who told his supporters at a campaign rally: “I’ll kill 100,000 drug pushers and users and throw their bodies into the Manila Bay to fatten the fishes.” And his supporters went bananas!

gates-of-hell-photo-credit-gel-lagascaYes, it’s indeed a world gone crazy! What the hell happened? But the question should be: “What happened in hell?” And hell is what hoi polloi think of the environment they’re living in today, which reminds me of Dan Brown’s book, “Inferno.” A character, Dr. Brooks, who was visiting Manila said, “I’ve run through the gates of hell,” to describe the crime, poverty, and sex trade that she saw.

And for all the hellish situations that the people have to coup with, they can only blame their governments for not doing enough to make their lives worth living. And all the politicians running for office in both countries – two of the freest democracies on earth – know it. Duterte and Trump saw an opportunity to get ahead of the crowded pack of presidential wannabes by inflaming the emotions of the people. While some people laughed them off, a growing number of people began to wonder, “Why not?”

Duterte made “War on Drugs” the cornerstone of his campaign for the presidency. And true enough he delivered. During his first 100 days in office, more than 4,000 drug pushers and users ended up dead on the streets. The police said that the police gunned down 1,200 of them when they resisted arrest. The rest were tagged as “death under investigation” (DUI), a newly coined term for someone killed under mysterious circumstances, mostly by vigilantes.

“Build the wall”

donald-trump-making-faceMeanwhile, as Trump savored his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton who won the popular vote — which doesn’t count — but lost the electoral vote to Trump, a lot of Americans wonder how Trump would craft his domestic programs and foreign policy, after all those nasty things that he said about certain groups of Americans and America’s allies as well.

If there is one scorching issue that has ignited emotional backlash from Trump’s supporters, it’s “illegal immigration.” With an estimated 11 million illegals residing in the U.S., Trump’s solution to this problem is two-fold. First, deport the illegals. And second, build a wall to prevent them from entering the U.S. by way of the porous U.S.-Mexico border. Then he inflamed his supporters’ emotion when he accused the Mexican government of sending criminals, rapists, drug pushers, and other undesirable across the border. He promised that the Mexican government would pay for the wall’s construction. The question is: Is Mexico willing to pay for the wall?

But regardless of whether Mexico would pay for the wall or not, the perceived “danger” of undesirable aliens crossing the border in record numbers has already been ingrained in the minds of his supporters. In other words, Trump stoked xenophobic fear of Mexican illegal immigrants, which he considers as a threat to national security.

Geopolitics is addition

Duterte, Xi, Putin: The new triumvirate?

Duterte, Xi, Putin: The new triumvirate?

If there is one major and critical area of concern among geopolitical experts, it’s foreign policy. Duterte made headlines during his state visit to China last October when he declared that he was pursuing an “independent foreign policy.” He also announced his “separation” from the U.S., which caused a geopolitical tremor of tectonic proportion, which left the Philippines’ allies — particularly the U.S. – trembling. And to drive his point, he said that he would seek economic and military alliance with China and Russia.

Duterte’s flirting with China and Russia is nothing more than “puppy love.” But what truly caused a lot of headaches among America’s allies were Trump’s threats to withdraw American forces from Japan and South Korea unless they pay the cost of their deployment in their countries. He also made similar threats to America’s NATO allies and even suggested that NATO disbands, which made Russian President Vladimir Putin happier than Dr. Strangelove fiddling with the Doomsday Machine.

But in the event that Duterte and Trump find solace to the notion that foreign policy is not zero-sum game but an intricate art of “geopolitics is addition,” they just might play down their rhetoric and do what is best for their people. Let me put it this way: Duterte will need America more than China and Russia combined, while Trump needs NATO as a counterforce to Russian expansion. He also needs America’s treaty allies Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan to contain China and North Korea.

But there is a silver lining to all the gloom and doom that Trump has been trumpeting around; he wants to make the U.S. stronger to maintain the balance of power in a world in turmoil. During the final days of this year’s presidential elections, Trump laid out an ambitious plan to build 350 new warships for the U.S. Navy to match the growing navies of China and Russia.

Ideological shift

Who will Trump nominate to take the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat?

Who will Trump nominate to take the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat?

But the most significant aspect of Duterte and Trump’s elections is that both of them will have the opportunity to change the ideological make-up of their respective country’s Supreme Court. In the case of Duterte, he’d be appointing 11 new Supreme Court Justices to replace justices who will be retiring when they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. With only four justices left from the current bench, Duterte – who is an avowed leftist – would presumably appoint justices in his own image.

In the case of the U.S. Supreme Court where there is no mandatory retirement age, Trump will surely nominate a hard-core conservative to take the seat of the late ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia; thus, maintaining the conservative majority on the High Court. However, Justice Anthony Kennedy, although considered a conservative, had oftentimes held the swing vote in big cases; thus, giving the liberals a tactical edge over the conservatives. Another swing vote is Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in favor of Obamacare to the chagrin of his fellow conservatives.

However, the shaky equilibrium on the High Court might tilt to the conservative side if one or two of the four liberals’ seats were vacated. Among the conservatives, Justice Kennedy at 80 is the oldest. If his seat is vacated, Trump would nominate an ideological conservative to take his seat; thus, solidly strengthening the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court.

duterte-and-trump-bffWith Duterte exiting in six years and Trump in four or eight years, both would leave a lasting legacy that would determine the future of their respective countries. Duterte would leave a left-leaning Supreme Court while Trump would leave the most conservative Supreme Court for the last 50 years, if not the last century.

At the end of the day, what we’re seeing is that unorthodoxy has become an acceptable behavior among our political leaders. Duterte and Trump’s campaign styles have led people to call Duterte the Trump of the Philippines and Trump as the Duterte of the U.S. Their opponents have called them “loose cannons.” But loose cannons or not, they’re now the leaders of their countries, which begs the question: Are Duterte and Trump the new normal?


By Perry Diaz

duterte-and-xi-jinping-2When President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte was sworn in last June 30, 2016, the first person he introduced to the audience was former President Fidel V. Ramos, whom he credited for helping him launch his presidential candidacy. It did not then come as a surprise when Digong appointed Ramos as his special envoy to China.

Immediately, Ramos went to Hong Kong to make contact with a former high-ranking Chinese official and a few other Chinese personalities to “break the ice.” But as Ramos had told reporters upon his return to Manila, “It’s not really a breakthrough in a sense that there is no ice here in Hong Kong to break but the fish we eat… are cooked in delicious recipes.”

After that, Duterte’s people started making arrangements for his China trip. They even had a date set for the visit – October 18-21. But the official invitation did not come until the last minute. With an entourage of more than 400 business people, cabinet members, presidential aides, generals, journalists, and kibitzers, Digong flew into the red dragon’s lair. After four days of bad-mouthing the Americans, he brought home $24 billion in investment pledges and loans, including $13.5 billion in trade deals. The question is: what concession did he give the Chinese?

But no sooner had Digong landed in Manila than he pivoted 180 degrees and reaffirmed U.S.-Philippine ties. Given his avowed dislike – or to be more precise, hatred of the U.S. – why would he make a fool of himself with such diplomatic boo-boos and flip-flops? Or, as Americans love to say, “Are you out of your mind?”`

Dangerous game

us-vs-chinaWell, Duterte is not out of his mind but what appeared to have happened was he was playing China and the U.S. off each other, perhaps hoping to get the best of both worlds. But what he didn’t realize was that he was dealing with pros. China is the second biggest economic power next to the U.S. and for a third-world country to play China against the U.S. – the Philippines’ treaty ally – is something that’s not in the playbook of geopolitics. Nobody has done that and succeeded in getting concessions from both sides. On the contrary, Digong might find himself caught in a vise because China and the U.S. are big trading partners with interlocking economic interests. So, when push comes to shove, the two superpowers could – or would –find ways to amicably settle their differences and throw Digong under the bus.

What China wants

Nine-dash line

Nine-dash line

But ultimately, China would try to get what she had always wanted – sovereignty over the South China Sea (SCS), which includes all the islands, rocks, reefs, and shoals in these waters. And also all the marine resources, and oil and gas deposits, which would provide China with food and energy for her 1.4 billion people. Thus, there is just no way that China would give away any part of the SCS without going to war, which Duterte already conceded when he said, “We cannot win a war with China.” However, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said at the closing ceremony of the 33rd Philippines-U.S. Amphibious Landing Exercise (Phiblex) last October 12, “There is only one power on earth that can stop the Chinese and that’s the U.S.” Digong knows that. And the Chinese know it, too. They also know that the Philippines a geostrategic buffer zone that the U.S. can use to counter China and prevent her from breaking out into the Second Island Chain in the Western Pacific, America’s last line of defense.

With five Philippine military bases that the Americans can use to deploy their forces, it would be too much of a risk for China to start a war in the SCS. However, if war breaks out, the Philippines will be on the front-line, which is just around 100 miles from the Spratly archipelago where China had built seven militarized artificial islands. Then there are the U.S. bases in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore. And with five aircraft carrier battle groups under the joint command of the 3rd Fleet and 7th Fleet and a fleet of nuclear ballistic missile submarines, the U.S. would have more than sufficient forces to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region… and keep China at bay.

Quid pro quo

President Duterte cozying up to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.

President Duterte cozying up to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua.

Although Ramos was credited for “breaking the ice” in China-Philippine relations, what really paved the way for Digong’s celebrated state visit to China were Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s “unpublicized” – or secret – trip to China last June prior to Duterte’s inauguration. U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg revealed this when he was recently interviewed at the ANC talk show, “Headstart.” The question is: Did Cayetano and Tugade strike a “quid pro quo” deal with the Chinese?

Someone who may have played a key role in forging the Chinese-Philippine connection was Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua. The groundwork for this “connection” may have been laid out when Zhao and several Chinese businessmen visited then president-elect Duterte in Davao City. Zhao, who had kept a low profile during former President Aquino’s time, has been a “frequent visitor” to Davao City and Malacanang, conspicuously attired in a silk Kung Fu suit. He’s often pictured with Duterte or Secretary of Foreign Affairs Perfecto Yasay Jr., the two people that matter most to him to advance China’s interests. And if you look at what transpired in the first four months of Digong’s presidency, Zhao was pretty darn successful.

Red flags

Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos gestures as he speaks to journalists during a trip to Hong Kong, China after the Hague court's ruling over the maritime dispute in South China Sea, August 9, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos gestures as he speaks to journalists during a trip to Hong Kong, China after the Hague court’s ruling over the maritime dispute in South China Sea, August 9, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Ramos must have sensed that something was afoot after his ice-breaking “unofficial” trip to Hong Kong. He seems to have been sidelined by Duterte’s “kitchen cabinet,” which is presumably pro-China. About two weeks prior to Digong’s China trip, Yasay informed Ramos that his trip to Beijing was cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation; however, the speculation was that Ramos was an “Amboy” (American Boy), a pejorative for someone who is staunchly pro-American.

A few days before Duterte’s China trip, Ramos informed Malacanang that he would not be part of the president’s delegation. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing, “He did not say why he won’t join but I believe that it is about giving respect to our current President Rodrigo Duterte.” But what else could he have said?

A week after Digong arrived from his China trip, Ramos resigned as special envoy to China. But for whatever official reasons why Ramos quit, it will surprise no one if the real reason for his resignation is that Duterte has become “toxic” – that is, politically hazardous — and has to dissociate and distance himself from him. Ramos, a West Point graduate, a retired Lt. General, hero of the EDSA People Power Revolution, and former president of the Philippines, is undoubtedly pro-American and anti-communist, which would certainly make China’s leaders uneasy in dealing with him.

In an article reported in the Asia Times titled, “Has the Philippines blown its South China Sea win?” (November 2, 2016), it said: “The price the archipelago nation has paid — or will pay — for his China pivot is also enormous. Besides economic and military separation from America, the Philippines’ long-standing and most important ally, which will likely negatively impact his country in the long-term, if it is materialized, he has made substantial maritime and territorial concessions.

“With such lavish deals agreed with China, coupled with Beijing’s claim of its inherent and indisputable sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, its opposition to the arbitration case and Duterte’s alienation of the Philippines’ key international partners and allies, the prospect that China will comply fully or even partly with the ruling has become unthinkable.”

And this raises the question: Did China trick Digong into giving up so much for so little in return? It seems like it.


By Perry Diaz

duterte-walking-behind-xi-jinpingWhen President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte announced his “separation” from the United States during his state visit to China, it shook the world. Not that it would have changed the balance of power in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, but it was because of the abrupt – “strange,” I might say – way of which it was announced. But what is surreally baffling is his retraction the next day. Is it a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome or it’s just plain grandstanding?

One personality wants to maintain the status quo on U.S.-Philippine relations while the other personality wants to sever all ties with the U.S. and align with the “ideological flow” of China and Russia. And in a moment of Napoleonic illusion, he saw himself as part of an alliance – China, Philippines, and Russia — against the world! Why didn’t he include North Korea?

The problem is: Duterte (also known as Du30) seems to live in his own little world totally detached from the geopolitical realities that dictate how nations – and their leaders — interact with one another. He seems to think of the Philippines as an island onto itself that can provide security for her people without help from anybody. And, worst, dismantling the Philippines’ military ties with the U.S. would strip the Philippines of the capability to defend her sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Digong’s brand of geopolitics

Duterte, Xi, and Putin.

Duterte, Xi, and Putin.

Evidently, Duterte’s brand of geopolitics digresses from established norms and conventions in international relations. His handling of the Philippines’ West Philippine Sea/South China Sea claims vis-à-vis the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA) ruling, which is overwhelmingly favorable to the Philippines, has bungled the country’s strong case against China. Had Duterte stayed on course in pursuing the Philippines’ claims, the other claimant-countries could have used the PCA ruling to pursue their own maritime claims against China.

It’s interesting to note that with all the geopolitical mishaps and diplomatic faux pas that Duterte did, he had the temerity to claim that he was a Foreign Service graduate. At a press conference last October 19 during his state visit to China, Filipino journalist Ellen Tordesillas quoted him in her column as saying: “Now that I am the President, by the grace of God, I read a lot; I’m a lawyer and I studied geopolitics and all, and also I am a graduate of the Foreign Service so I get to know how to balance this contending (forces).”

But what Digong did was break one of the rules of geopolitics, which is: “Geopolitics is not a zero-sum game.” Indeed, in today’s globalized economy, the object of geopolitics is to arrive at a win-win situation where players need to compromise. Gone are the days when nations go to war to settle territorial disputes. The Cold War is over and we are now living in a multipolar world order where all nations are interdependent with one another. The world is shrinking too; and everybody is just a “click” away.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, accompanied by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, right, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, left, clap their hands at the end of Japan's coast guard drills in Yokohama, Oct. 27, 2016.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, center, accompanied by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, right, and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, left, clap their hands at the end of Japan’s coast guard drills in Yokohama, Oct. 27, 2016.

Digong’s attempted maneuver to “separate” from the U.S. — militarily and economically — and threatened to form an alliance with China and Russia, did not only fail to materialize but it also made a “village clown” of himself. And while he made all these geopolitical and diplomatic boo-boos, his Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had the thankless job of straightening out the knots and kinks of his “independent foreign policy,” which has been causing a lot of embarrassment for him.

It’s all drama

With all the “Du30 drama” he staged in Beijing, Duterte was able to attract $24 billion in investments and loans from China. It must have made Chinese President Xi Jinping feel triumphant that the Philippines — under Duterte’s leadership – is now in his pocket, totally detached from the U.S. And it would certainly have given him a firm grip on the vast South China Sea. Wrong!

The day Digong returned to the Philippines, he clarified that he’s not cutting ties with the U.S. He said he was just pursuing a “separation of foreign policy” from the U.S., which was quite different in meaning and purpose to what he proclaimed in China, which was “separation from the U.S.” He said that he didn’t want it to affect local jobs in American-owned companies in the Philippines and the large number of Filipinos in the U.S. He also said that it is in the best interest of the Philippines to maintain diplomatic relations with the U.S.

Volte face

duterte-and-xi-jinping-shake-hands-5An article on the Nikkei Asian Review titled, “Duterte’s ‘about-face’ unsettles Xi,” published last October 28, talked about Duterte’s volte face [an act of turning around so as to face in the opposite direction] upon his return to the Philippines. The report said: “The Internet was not slow to react to Duterte’s volte face, and the word ‘fraud’ has gone viral. One social media post read, ‘Duterte changed his face as soon as he returned to the Philippines after securing money from China.’

“The reference was to the traditional Chinese art of ‘face changing,’ where performers go from one character to the next by swapping masks in a Beijing opera or during a banquet. Many feel it was not the mask that was changed so much as a complete change of heart.

“Other online posts put it in less uncertain terms, ‘China got dumped. China was deceived,’ read one. Another said, ‘It is a divorce in disguise [from the U.S.] for the sake of borrowing [from China]. That’s not uncommon in China.’ ”

Damage control

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. informed Romualdez of his appointment yesterday at the Imperial Tower Hotel in Tokyo, on the sidelines of Duterte’s three-day official visit.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. informed Romualdez of his appointment yesterday at the Imperial Tower Hotel in Tokyo, on the sidelines of Duterte’s three-day official visit.

It must have occurred to Duterte that he didn’t have to let go of the U.S. now that he had secured a huge economic package from China. During his subsequent visit to Japan following the China trip, he appointed Philippine Star columnist Babe Romualdez as special envoy to the U.S., reportedly as part of a “rebooting” of relationship with the U.S.

The Philippine Star report said: “Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. informed Romualdez of his appointment yesterday at the Imperial Tower Hotel in Tokyo, on the sidelines of Duterte’s three-day official visit.

“ ‘We are trying on how we can work with the changes… especially with the upcoming elections in the US so we will see how we can (establish)… let’s call it as rebooting our relationship with the US,’ said a member of the President’s official delegation here.

“ ‘We’d like to communicate the message of how we will have a rebooting of our relationship,’ the official, who declined to be named, added. ‘Yes, of course we will continue our relationship with the US.’

“As special envoy, Romualdez’s ‘special mission’ is to put back on track Philippine-US relations,” the report concluded, which begs the question: Can Romualdez fix the damage Digong made?

Geopolitics is addition

Duterte and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Duterte and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Now that Digong has his cake, he wants to eat it, too. But while a zero-sum game might produce intermediate success in the short term, just like what Digong did on his China visit; he should – nay, must! — realize that in the long term, good geopolitics produces better results if it weren’t played as a zero-sum game. It reminds me of the late legendary political leader Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez whose mantra was “Politics is addition.” And so is Geopolitics.

At the end of the day, Digong’s flip-flop diplomacy may have worked in his favor at this time, but he must be careful because it could boomerang the next time he flip-flops.