December 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

trump-siberian-candidate-2President-elect Donald J. Trump won the U.S. presidency by virtue of the electoral vote. This is what the U.S. Constitution prescribes upon whom the presidency is given to. However, he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.9 million votes.

More than half of the American voters believe that Trump’s come-from-behind victory happened because the Russians hacked the electoral votes in his favor. There were many indicators that support the findings of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that Russia had indeed interfered in the U.S. elections.

And the fact that Trump considers Russian President Valdimir Putin his friend, adds fuel to speculations that once Trump takes over the presidency, he would not stop Putin if he invades Europe.

How can one forget that Putin, on several occasions, declared that if Clinton wins the election, World War III is inevitable? His threat might sound innocuous but it would lead the American people to wonder: Why is Putin rooting for Trump? Or, to be more precise, why is Putin “blackmailing” the American people into voting for Trump lest Russia and the U.S. will go to war?

Ghosts of Yalta

Yalta Conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin.

Yalta Conference: Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Josef Stalin.

From a geopolitical perspective, one might ask: Would Putin and Trump be able to synchronize the security and economic interests of their countries so as to avoid any conflict, particularly those of territorial nature? Does it call for Trump and Putin to meet just like when Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin met in 1945 at the Yalta conference for the purpose of discussing Europe’s post-World War II reorganization, which was how to divide Europe between the U.S., United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union? Well, the big winner then was the Soviet Union who ended up snaring Central and Eastern Europe into her political orbit. The big losers were the U.S. and U.K. who managed to keep Western Europe in their sphere of influence.

Seventy-one years after the historic Yalta conference, Europe is once again on the geopolitical chopping block. This time around, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is threatened by a resurgent Russia led by a megalomaniac dictator who dreams of regaining Mother Russia’s once-powerful empire. NATO, which is also known as the Western Alliance, was founded in 1949 to repel Soviet expansionism during the Cold War.

Western Alliance

North Atlantic Treaty Organization map.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization map.

After Putin grabbed Crimea in 2014 — without firing a shot — using what is now known as the “little green men,” Eastern Europe was thrown into a cauldron of fear and hysteria when Putin threatened to retake the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These countries joined NATO in 2004 together with other former Soviet client states Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. As members of the Western Alliance, they can invoke NATO’s Article 5, which says that an armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all and each is obliged to assist the member attacked.

nato-spending-chartBut here is the stinger: On July 20, 2016, during the presidential campaign, Trump shocked the Western Alliance when he told The New York Times that the U.S. would protect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, from a Russian attack only if they have “fulfilled their obligations to us,” which is to allocate 2% of their GDP on military spending as required by NATO guidelines. Of the 28 NATO members, only five – U.S., Greece, Poland, Estonia, and U.K. — are fulfilling their obligations. Of the Baltics, only Estonia meets this requirement.

Needless to say, the Central and Eastern Europeans would not be able to defend their territories in the event of Russian invasion. And if the U.S. wouldn’t come to their aid, Putin would gobble them up… like chicken in a coop.

Pax Americana

pax-americana-4Obviously, without the U.S.’s intervention to defend her NATO allies, Trump might as well kiss the Western Alliance goodbye, which begs the question: Is Trump serious about abandoning her NATO allies who have served as a buffer zone between the U.S. and Russia, thus protecting America’s Eastern Seaboard?

In my opinion, Trump wouldn’t abandon Europe. Sooner or later, he’d come to his senses. For the U.S. to survive in a shrinking world he has to protect America’s Atlantic and Pacific flanks. The consequences of non-intervention would spell the end of Pax Americana and usher in a new world order – Pax Russica. And if Trump really lives up to his threat to dismantle NATO altogether, it wouldn’t take long for Russia to dominate the Atlantic Ocean where she’d be able to strike at any part of the continental U.S. from her submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles.

Putin’s “nice letter”

trump-and-putin-laughingRecently, Trump disclosed a letter dated December 15, 2016 that he received from Putin. Putin offered his “warmest Christmas and New year greetings” and urged him “to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation.”

Putin continued, “I hope that after you assume the position of the President of the United States of America, we will be able — by acting in a constructive and pragmatic manner — to take real steps to restore the framework of bilateral cooperation in different areas as well as bring our level of collaboration on the international scene to a qualitatively new level.”

Trump’s reaction was contained in a statement he released to the media, saying: “A very nice letter from Vladimir Putin; his thoughts are so correct. I hope both sides are able to live up to these thoughts, and we do not have to travel an alternate path,” which makes one wonder: Why did Putin write a “nice letter,” which in the Russian psyche is a sign of weakness?

Arms race

trump-nuclear-explosionAt his annual year-end news conference last December 22, Putin said that the US and Russia “need to discuss ways to normalize our relations. During his election campaign, Trump said it would be proper to normalize and it can’t be worse, and I agree with him.” While it seemed like Putin was offering an olive branch, there was an underlying attempt to soft pedal Trump into relaxing his TrumpTweet, which said: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” He also told MSNBC, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

vladimir-putin-and-nuclear-bombIt must have scared the daylight out of Putin, who responded at the news conference, saying: “If anyone is unleashing an arms race, it’s not us… We will never spend resources on an arms race that we can’t afford.” Hmm… Could it be that it is still vivid in his mind that what caused the Soviet Empire’s disintegration was when the USSR tried to compete with the U.S.’s development of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), commonly known as “Star Wars”? Certainly, Putin should have known it because he was embedded deeply into the KGB apparatus, which fell prey to CIA “disinformation” campaign about the “Star Wars” program. In 1984, the Pentagon rigged a test to show that a U.S. missile had brought down a target missile over the Pacific. The truth is: SDI was a hoax intended to fool the Soviet Union into wasting hundreds of billions of dollars in military spending to catch up with Star Wars.

During the presidential campaign, the American media had suggested that Trump was the “Siberian Candidate” whom Putin helped in winning the presidency by orchestrating the hacking of the U.S. elections. While he seemed to be Putin’s man in the U.S. elections, it’s turning out now that Trump may have deceived – or tricked — Putin all along to help him win the election.  And this begs the question: Was Trump the “Siberian Candidate” or an American patriot?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

President Rodrigo Duterte tells about his migraine and back pain during a press conference.

President Rodrigo Duterte tells about his migraine and back pain during a press conference.

When President Rodrigo Duterte revealed last December 12 that he’s suffering from several health problems, it sent a shock wave across the country. To his supporters he was healthier and stronger than a carabao. “He must be joking again,” his ardent supporters would say, knowing that what he says usually cannot be taken seriously. They’re used to his “clowning” – including the use of profanity — and some people would jokingly call him, “Comedian-in-Chief.” At one time, he admitted that he is bipolar. But again, people thought he was just trying to be funny. But as it turned out, his sickness is no joking matter; it’s very… very real! And this brings to fore the question: Is he capable of governing 100 million Filipinos with a clear mind and cognitive ability to discern what is good and right for the people? Some people believe otherwise. Read on…

Medical condition

Duterte in pain during the presidential campaign.

Duterte in pain during the presidential campaign.

Last December 12, at the Wallace Business Forum held in Malacañang, Duterte admitted that he’s taking Fentanyl patches – sometimes two at a time — to relieve severe migraine and chronic pain on his spinal cord. He said his doctor advised him to stop taking more than what’s needed because he’d lose his cognitive abilities, which are brain-based skills a person needs to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex.

Duterte also revealed that he has Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the esophagus changes. He said he also has Buerger’s disease (caused mainly by smoking), a rare disease of the arteries and veins in the arms and legs. But he made it a point to say that he has no cancer. However, according to an article written by Philip Lustre Jr., a free-lance journalist, Duterte has cancer.

Duterte prays over with priests presumably at the Cardinal Santos Hospital at Wilson Street in Greenhills.

Duterte prays over with priests presumably at the Cardinal Santos Hospital at Wilson Street in Greenhills.

Last September 11, 2015, Lustre posted on his Facebook account the following: “DUTERTE HAS CANCER. Just yesterday, somebody leaked the information to me that Davao City Rodrigo Duterte has cancer of the throat. He was not playing close-open type of politics when he said he could not decide to run for the presidency in 2016. In fact, he was dead-sure he would not run for any post in 2016, but instead retire.

“His family is strongly against any presidential run for him because the nationwide political campaign would exacerbate his throat cancer. His health condition could cascade to terminal stage. The info was given to me by a reliable source, who was not authorized to speak about his illness. Duterte likewise indicated his current physical state in an open forum he had with ABC-5 very recently. Somebody in the audience asked Duterte why he was frequently holding the left side of his jaw and neck. Duterte made reference to his health situation cascading from Stage One to Stage Four without categorically saying that he has the Big C.

Duterte with cardiologist Dr. Joann Gonzalez.

Duterte with cardiologist Dr. Joann Gonzalez.

“In that open forum, he also gave reference to his family’s insistence for him not to run for president. He likewise referred to the unhealthy situation of his spine. Since he is 70 years ago, those health issues could cascade to bigger issues and proportions. I was also told that Duterte admitted to a vice presidential candidate that he indeed has cancer of the throat. He told the vice presidential candidate that their camp had to wait for his decision because of health issues, which he had to confront.

“This is the reason he could not decide despite the frequent encouragement by his fans for him to run for president. No, he was not playing coy; no, he was not making fun of the country. But let it be said that Duterte has the moral obligation to make clear to the country his current health situation. Since he is frequently described as a potential presidential candidate, it is his duty to make a full disclosure of every single detail of his health situation.”

Mental health

Duterte visits ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman in Cebu to celebrate her 68th birthday.

Duterte visits ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman in Cebu to celebrate her 68th birthday.

But his medical problems don’t seem to be “physical” only. There was documentation of his mental state that goes back two decades. In her column, “This is a national problem” (Inquirer, Dec. 10, 2016), columnist Solita Collas-Monsod said that in 1998, a psychological evaluation was performed on Duterte, which was required in the annulment proceeding brought by his ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman against him. Collas-Monsod said that Dr. Natividad Dayan, the former president of the International Council of Psychologists, who did the evaluation, was quoted extensively in the media, as follows:

“Dr. Dayan found that Mr. Duterte was suffering from ‘Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder,’ a condition characterized by ‘gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness,’ ‘grandiose sense of self-entitlement and manipulative behaviors,’ and ‘pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings.’

“She found him to be a ‘highly impulsive individual who has difficulty controlling his urges and emotions.’ And she described him as having a ‘pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings,’ and was ‘unable to reflect on the consequences of his actions.’

“There’s more. He was found to readily engage in ‘unhealthy and destructive behaviors’ and had ‘poor capacity for objective judgment,’ failing to ‘see things in the light of facts.’

Collas-Monsod then editorialized, to wit: “Read the past three paragraphs again, Reader, and apply them to his behavior as President, including the recent cases involving the Vice President and the murder of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa. You will surely have an ‘Aha!’ moment, as I did.

“Now we understand why Malacañang is always scrambling to explain that he didn’t really say, or mean, what we had all heard him say, or mean.

“This is a national problem, not only Mr. Duterte’s. It is said that recognizing the problem is halfway toward its solution. The other half has to involve our best doctors (a presidential medical advisers panel?), Cabinet members, and all Filipinos of goodwill.”

 Duterte in an angry mood.

Duterte in an angry mood.

Indeed, with what Mr. Lustre and Ms. Collas-Monsod illustrated about President Duterte’s physical condition and mental health, the country and its people are put in a risky situation. And this begs the question: Did Duterte compromise the presidency when he ran for president? And would it be in the best interest of the country, if he recognizes his inability to perform the duties of the president and therefore step down from the presidency?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Christmas Truce 1914

Christmas Truce 1914

In 1914, during the Great War — or World War I as we call it today — the British and French armies were manning the 27-mile Western Front fiercely defending French territory from the advancing German Army. Across the British and French trenches, as near as 200 feet away, the Germans were dug in. What separated the opposing armies was a place called “No Man’s Land.”

On Christmas Eve, one of the most incredible — and unusual — events in human history took place: the Germans started placing candles on trees on “No Man’s Land.” Lit with candles, the “Christmas” trees looked awesome. The Germans began singing Christmas songs and the British and French troops responded by singing too. Soon the entire “No Man’s Land” turned into a symphonic Christmas celebration. The Germans proposed a “Christmas truce” and the French and British troops accepted.

The memorable event was detailed in a book, titled “Silent Night,” written by Stanley Weintraub. He wrote: “Signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or — from the Germans — in fractured English. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units impoverished ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”

By Christmas morning, “No Man’s Land” was filled with fraternizing soldiers, sharing rations and gifts, singing and more solemnly burying their dead. Soon they were even playing soccer, mostly with impoverished balls. According to one account, “proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned together and paid their respect.”

When the generals heard about the “Christmas truce,” they were aghast and ordered their soldiers to start shooting at each other. The soldiers resumed shooting but most of them — for several days — aimed their rifles at the sky and the stars. In some sectors, the truce continued until New Year’s Day. After all, how can “friends” shoot at each other?

What was ironic was that earlier in the autumn of 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for an official truce between the warring governments. The Papal plea was ignored. After the “Christmas Truce,” the embarrassed British commanders vowed that a truce should not happen again. However, in 1916, an “Easter Truce” happened on the Eastern Front.

Christmas Truce memorial ceremony in 2008

Christmas Truce memorial ceremony in 2008

On November 21, 2005, Alfred Anderson, aged 109, the last veteran of that “Christmas Truce,” died at his home in Angus, Scotland. Anderson was 18 years old on December 25, 1914, when British, French, and German troops climbed out of their trenches along the dreaded Western Front and walked across the blood-soaked “No Man’s Land” to shake hands. Anderson decorated with France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, never forgot that moment in his life when he celebrated Christmas with his enemies in “No Man’s Land.” Indeed, it was a singular moment in history that has yet to be repeated.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, we reflect on conflicting situations around the world where “truce” — or peace — is needed. But most importantly, we need a truce in our own backyard with the communist insurgents and Muslim separatists.

Last December 21, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral truce with the New People’s Army (NPA) for Christmas. “It’s time for the cessation of hostilities. You can come down, be with your family, enjoy the celebrations and we will pray together,” he said during an address to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Manila. The truce will be observed between December 23-27 and December 31- January 2. But the NPA has not responded yet. However, they are expected to honor the ceasefire as they had since it was founded in 1968. As to why the ceasefire will be lifted between December 28 – January 1, no explanation was given. Duterte also extended the invitation to other rebel groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Prospects for a lasting peace

NPA rebels

NPA rebels

Although the “Christmas truce” provides limited time for peace for Filipinos during the Christmas season, wouldn’t it be nice for the feuding forces to extend the “ceasefire” for an indefinite period where all the parties could work together to achieve a lasting peace?

It happened in Korean peninsula in 1953 when China and North Korea signed the Korean War Truce with the United Nations and South Korea, why can’t it happen in the Philippines today? What is so difficult that we Filipinos cannot settle our own differences?

The Filipinos have suffered too long. Let’s give truce a chance.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

leni-robredo-3When Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo entered politics 2013, little did she know that within four years she’d be propelled to the second highest position in the country – the vice presidency. Some people call it “fast track” ascension; some call it luck; and a few call it destiny. But as the country’s vice-president since June 30, 2016 – just a little over five months in office – many people now believe that Leni is destined to assume what the country needs: a servant-leader whose compassion for the poor transcends policy.

Before entering public life four years ago, Leni led a simple and down-to-earth lifestyle. She graduated from the University of the Philippines with a degree in Economics in 1986. That was the year the People Power Revolution erupted. Inspired by the revolution, Leni deferred her law studies and went to work as a researcher for the Bicol River Basin Development Program, a government agency that was responsible for planning the development in the three provinces of the Bicol region. It was here where she met her future husband, Jesse Robredo, who was then the agency’s Program Director. They got married the following year.

A few years later, Leni obtained her Master’s Degree in Business Administration at San Beda College. After getting her MBA, she went to law school at the University of Nueva Caceres where she earned her law degree in 1992. She passed the bar exam in 1996 and went to work in the Public Attorney’s Office, where she took up the defense for cases pursued by her husband, who was then the Mayor of Naga City.

Fate and destiny

leni-robredo-and-jess-robredo-imageWith 26 years of experience in serving the people – mostly poor – in the Bicol region, Leni sharply honed her “people skill,” which prepared her for a life of public service. However, she didn’t realize that fate – and destiny – would catapult her in a trajectory that would lead her to the vice presidency… a heartbeat away from the presidency.

With the untimely and sudden death of her husband Jesse from a plane crash in 2012, who was then the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) under the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III, Leni was encouraged by Liberal Party stalwarts including President Aquino to run for a congressional seat to represent Camarines Sur’s third district.

Her first foray into politics was one of the most – if not the most – watched contests during the 2013 mid-term elections. Pitted against Nelly Favis-Villafuerte, a member of the powerful Villafuerte dynasty, conventional wisdom dictated that Leni didn’t stand a chance of beating Favis-Villafuerte. The odds were just too great. But she won! She occupied her district’s congressional seat in Metro Manila and commuted by bus to and from Naga City once a week. She could have availed of a government-paid chauffeur-driven sedan but she didn’t.

Underdog wins

Leni and Bongbong

Leni and Bongbong

In 2015, Aquino prodded her to run for vice-president when the LP couldn’t find a strong candidate to field against several seasoned and nationally recognized senators. With no track record of winning in nationwide elections, Leni didn’t stand a chance of beating them.

When Leni began her vice-presidential election campaign, she was the underdog with only 1% approval rating in the surveys versus the 44% of Chiz Escudero, who wan then the front-runner. By April 2016, just two weeks before the elections, Leni climbed to the top of the leader board at 26% and tied statistically with Bongbong Marcos’ 25%. Leni won the vice-presidency by a razor-thin margin over Bongbong, which led Bongbong to file for recount.

But Bongbong wants the recount the precincts in which he got zero votes. However, he doesn’t want the recount of Leni’s zero-vote precincts, which she claims was four to five times as many as his.

Marcos burial

marcos-burial-lnmbNewly elected President Rodrigo Duterte who won in a landslide due mainly to his populist appeal to the common people and a promise to end illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption in three to six months, appointed Leni as Chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). However, the appointment did not dwell too well with Bongbong whom Duterte is openly supporting in his electoral protest against Leni. The case is now pending before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which consists of members of the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the Supreme Court, by a 9-4 vote, recently ruled to allow the burial of Bongbong’s father and namesake, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to be buried in the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). Does their vote indicate that PET would likely declare Bongbong the winner of the vice-presidential election; thus, replacing Leni as Vice President?

Déjà vu

Past: Prime Minister Cesar Virata and President Ferdinand E. Marcos

Past: Prime Minister Cesar Virata and President Ferdinand E. Marcos

With the political currents shifting erratically, speculation is rife that there is an insidious plot for Bongbong to replace Leni. The obvious one is for Bongbong to win the recount, which many believe would be done by hook or by crook. As to how they’d do it hookedly or crookedly, depends on many factors, including an attempt of Duterte to amend the Constitution to convert the government system to a federal system. Or, perhaps, into a parliamentary system where Duterte would remain President as the head of state and Bongbong who would be Prime Minister as head of government?

Future?: Duterte and Bongbong

Future?: Duterte and Bongbong

This reminds me when the elder Marcos changed the Constitution to a parliamentary system with him as President and Cesar Virata as Prime Minister. With a large majority of congressmen – many of them were LP turncoats – serving as rubber stamp for a Duterte-Marcos alliance, there wouldn’t be a need for Bongbong to run for President in a national ticket. All Duterte has to do is to convince the turncoats to make Bongbong the Prime Minister. And with the LP reduced to about 30 congressmen and a handful of senators, they could hardly function as an opposition party. There won’t be any opposition party! Does that remind you of the dark era of the Marcos dictatorship? Yes, it’s déjà vu all over again.

The battle begins

Leni Robredo VS. Duterte-Marcos

Leni Robredo VS. Duterte-Marcos

Last December 4, Leni resigned from the Duterte Cabinet after she received a text message from Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco to “desist” from attending Cabinet meetings. In her letter, Leni said: “I had been warned of a plot to steal the Vice Presidency. I have chosen to ignore this and focus on the job at hand. But the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion.

“From the very beginning, the President and I had major differences in principles and values. Since I assumed office, I have been consistent in my opposition to issues such as the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, extra-judicial killings, reinstating death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability, and sexual attacks against women.”

In a press conference following her resignation, Leni declared her readiness to lead the political opposition to a Duterte-Marcos conspiracy to steal the vice-presidency. “This is not a time for fear. This is a time for conviction and courage.” She concluded, saying: “We have fought this battle before and won. We will never let anyone revise our history and twist it to turn evil into good. What is at stake here is our collective future.”

And now, the battle begins. Quo vadis, Leni?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Nawaz Sharif and Donald Trump

Nawaz Sharif and Donald Trump

For President-elect Donald J. Trump, there is nothing wrong in calling Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to introduce himself or establish personal contacts, after all Trump would soon be the next leader of the Free World. A few words exchanged between the two leaders would probably have been within the bounds of diplomatic civility. But Trump, whose unorthodox ways and style have at times been viewed as uncivil and undiplomatic, had reportedly violated diplomatic protocol during his conversation with Sharif.

As reported, Trump was quoted as telling Sharif: “You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work, which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon. As I am talking to you, Prime Minister, I feel I am talking to a person I have known for long.” For Trump to flatter Sharif as a “terrific guy” and praise him to high heaven for his “amazing work,” it’s considered a diplomatic faux pas, which could cause big problems in dealing with other countries that are not on friendly terms with Pakistan, such as India.

Pakistan alliance

Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi: Friends or Foes?

Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi: Friends or Foes?

With the U.S. trying very hard to attract India to her side in the rivalry between the U.S. and China for dominance over the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific, Pakistan – although still considered technically as an American “ally” – has been veering towards China and Russia. While Pakistan is helping the U.S. in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, Pakistan has been cozying up to Russia who happens to be India’s major arms supplier.

If you think that geopolitics in South Asia (oftentimes referred to as the Indian subcontinent or the “subcontinent”) is complicated enough, the Asia-Pacific – which is a subset of Indo-Asia-Pacific – is today’s most volatile region. There are so many players whose political and economic agendas differ from – or in conflict with — one another. The major players are the U.S. vs. China and Russia. But what is at stake here is the South China Sea (SCS), which is one of the busiest – if not the busiest — maritime trade routes, in which $5 trillion in trade passes through every year. These sea-lanes are vital to China, Japan, and South Korea where most of the goods shipped from the Middle East and Africa are destined to, including 80% of China’s foreign oil imports.

Malacca Dilemma

Major crude oil trade routes in the South China Sea (2011)

Major crude oil trade routes in the South China Sea (2011)

China’s biggest fear is if the Strait of Malacca is blocked. China’s oil imports account for 60% of her total oil consumption, 80% of which passes through the Strait of Malacca. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the chokepoint at the Strait of Malacca were blocked, China’s economic engine and war machine would come to a halt in a couple of weeks, or perhaps just a matter of days. This is called the “Malacca Dilemma,” which China is trying to solve by bringing oil to China from the Middle East and Africa without going through the Strait of Malacca. And this is where Pakistan plays a key role by providing an oil pipeline that runs from Gwadar on the Indian Ocean to Western China; thus, bypassing the Strait of Malacca. Another pipeline runs from the Bay of Bengal in Myanmar to Kunming in Southern China. While these two pipelines would not totally eliminate the imported oil that passes through Strait of Malacca, it would decrease the volume; thus, mitigating the threat to China’s economy and national security.

For as along as the Strait of Malacca is kept open, and with the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal under China’s control, China could create a “strategic strait” between these three island groups; thus, converting the SCS into a “Beijing Lake” and controlling the maritime traffic.

“One China” policy

strategic-strait-scsBut China has an Achilles heel. It’s Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province. In 1979, the U.S. acknowledged China’s claim that Taiwan was part of China. They also established a set of protocols known as “One China” policy, which governed U.S.-China relation vis-à-vis Taiwan. Henceforth, the U.S. broke diplomatic relations with Taiwan. But notwithstanding the “One China” policy, the U.S. continues to maintain military ties with Taiwan by supplying her with military armaments and material needed to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion as required by the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979. TRA has defined “substantial but non-diplomatic relations” between the people of the two nations. It requires the U.S. to intervene militarily if China attacks or invades Taiwan. However, the U.S. formulated a policy called “strategic ambiguity” that is designed to dissuade Taiwan from a unilateral declaration of independence, and to dissuade China from unilaterally unifying Taiwan with China.

Then on December 2, 2016, that diplomatic protocol was shattered! The Taiwanese government arranged a call and Trump picked up the call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. It was a congratulatory call. Nothing spectacular was discussed. And Trump did not express or utter inflammatory words that could have rattled Beijing. But nevertheless he was criticized simply for taking the call. He responded on Twitter, saying: “It was “interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.” Good point.

“Two China” policy

Tsai Ing-wen and Donald Trump

Tsai Ing-wen and Donald Trump

The “call” symbolizes the breaking of an unwritten rule that had kept the peace across the Taiwan Strait and maintains cross-strait relations between China and Taiwan. This was what kept peace between the two Chinas for three decades.

With one phone call, the “One China” policy was shattered. However, it didn’t do away with the “One China” policy nor did it bring to the table the notion of a “Two China” policy, which China would most likely declare as a “red line.” Does it mean then that China would go to war over Taiwan? At this moment, there is a Sword of Damocles hanging over Taiwan that would unleash one thousand missiles on the island if war breaks out. The question is: Would Trump go to war over Taiwan?

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon M. Huntsman, who is considered one of the top China experts, opined: “Taiwan is about to become a more prominent feature of the overall U.S.-China relationship. As a businessman, Donald Trump is used to looking for leverage in any relationship. A President Trump is likely to see Taiwan as a useful leverage point.”

Trump Doctrine

peace-through-strengthIndeed, Trump has rattled the entire Indo-Asia-Pacific region from Japan down to Australia and from India all the way to Hawaii. It is said that whoever controls the region controls the world. All China has to do is to break out of the First Island Chain – which is formed from Japan, through Taiwan, the Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Vietnam – and establish her presence and eventually control the Western Pacific… and beyond.

Right now, the First Island Chain is impenetrable. However, if China goes to war over Taiwan and regains her, that would break the island chain; thus, establishing a strategic base to penetrate the Western Pacific and challenge American primacy in the entire Indo-Asia-Pacific.

During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to increase the size of the army from 475,000 to 540,000 troops, build more aircraft, and more warships.

Clearly, Trump has no plans to follow Obama’s disarmament plan. On the contrary, he is going for a defense spending that comes close to Ronald Reagan’s defense plans including Star Wars. As one think tank analyst said, Trump’s doctrine is summed up as: “Peace through strength.” Which makes one wonder: is Trump treading in uncharted waters? But as someone said, “No guts, no glory.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

imelda-kisses-coffin-of-marcos-2For twenty-one years that he was in power, the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos had it his way regardless of what people said. He ruled with an iron hand and exercised his authority like the Greek gods did. He was Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades all rolled into one. As Zeus, Marcos was omnipotent. His word was the law of the land. He demanded loyalty and subservience under the severest conditions. His second self, Poseidon, the “God of the Sea,” was also called the “Earth-Shaker” due to his role in causing earthquakes. As Poseidon, Marcos shook his enemies with the intensity of an earth-shattering earthquake. And if that didn’t suffice to force them to submit to his authority, his third self, Hades, the “God of the Dead” and the “King of the Underworld,” salvaged and sent them to the Underworld.

But with all the power he had at his command, Marcos lacked something that everyone who aspired to be a God wished for: he was not immortal. Marcos was a mortal being. And the best that he could have hoped for was to be immortalized in history as a hero. Yes, a hero! And buried at the Heroes’ Cemetery or Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (LNMB). Why not? After all, he had all those medals he claimed to have received for all his derring-do during World War II.

But while Marcos’s life was replete with controversy from birth to death… and long after his death, his journey into the Underworld had taken a long and circuitous route.

Burial in Ilocos

Marcos burial in Hawaii in 1989.

Marcos burial in Hawaii in 1989.

He died on September 28, 1989 at age 72 while he was in exile in Hawaii. For the next 27 years, his wife Imelda Marcos refused to bury him. Instead his remains were first put in a crypt in Honolulu, Hawaii. The family was hoping that the powers-that-be in Manila would eventually allow them to bury their patriarch in the Philippines.

Then the day Imelda had been waiting for had arrived four years after Marcos’ death. On September 3, 1993, Marcos’s remains were flown to the Philippines aboard a chartered plane from Guam. This was made possible when then President Fidel V. Ramos — a cousin of Marcos and the hero of the People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship — allowed it to happen. However, there were three conditions, to wit: (1) Marcos’ remains will not stop over in Manila but flown directly to Ilocos Norte; (2) During Marcos’ burial in Ilocos Norte, he would be given the honors befitting a major of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which the Marcoses had effectively agreed that Marcos would be denied “state honors” and no 21-gun salute for him; and (3) Marcos’ burial would be quick.

While the Marcos family agreed to these three conditions, only the first condition was met. The Marcos family reneged on the second and third conditions: no honors befitting a major were given and there was no quick burial. By the time Ramos realized that Marcos’ body wasn’t buried, there wasn’t much he could have done to force the family to bury him.

Years later, Ramos talked about the third condition. “My third condition was that he be buried in the meantime in Ilocos Norte, [pending] on the decision of the family as to the place [for his final burial]. But that was not fulfilled because he was not buried,” he said. Instead, the family put his remains in a glass encasement placed atop a platform inside an air-conditioned mausoleum with a piped-in music playing endlessly.

Marcos wax mannequin?

Marcos wax mannequin?

For the next two decades, the Marcos mausoleum became the most visited “tourist” attraction in Ilocos Norte. Yes, tourists would go see his preserved body to satisfy their curiosity as to whether it was real or – as had been rumored – just a wax mannequin.

Solomonic solution

Marcos Museum (left) and Mausoleum (right) in Marcos' birthplace, Batac, Ilocos Norte.

Marcos Museum (left) and Mausoleum (right) in Marcos’ birthplace, Batac, Ilocos Norte.

In 2011, the question of Marcos’ burial at the LNMB became a national issue, which had divided the nation. When the Marcos family asked then President Benigno Aquino III to allow Marcos to be buried at the LNMB, Aquino passed the buck to Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay to determine whether Marcos should or shouldn’t be buried at the LNMB.

In my article, “Great job Jojo” (June 3, 2011), I wrote: “Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay’s recommendation to bury the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos with ‘full military honors’ in his home province of Ilocos Norte, not at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery), is the best solution to President Benigno ‘P-Noy’ Aquino III’s dilemma. It’s an equitable compromise considering that it has divided the people in half between those who opposed his burial at the Libingan and those who believed that he deserved to be buried in a place reserved for heroes.

“Given that one half of those who responded to an SWS survey believed that he was a hero and the other half believed that he was not a hero, it would have been a no-win situation for Binay. However, if Binay were King Solomon, he would have done something similar to what King Solomon had done to resolve the issue of the two mothers claiming the same baby: ‘Cut the body in half and bury one part at the Libingan and the other part in Ilocos Norte.’ ”

Well, it’s easier said than done. However, the idea of burying him with “full military honors” in Ilocos Norte, while it wouldn’t make everybody happy, would have given the Marcoses a face-saving solution and would have put an honorable closure to a dishonorable dark era in Philippine history.

A week later, in a follow-up article, “Solomonic solution to Marcos burial issue” (June 9, 2011). I wrote: “In reaction to Binay’s recommendation, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin – who served under the Cory Aquino administration — and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that Marcos ‘deserves to be given military honors and to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani under military regulations.’

“One might ask if Marcos was deemed a ‘hero’ by virtue of him receiving the country’s highest military recognition, shouldn’t he be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani? Not necessarily. In my opinion, burial at the Libingan is a privilege, not a right. There are overriding criteria that constitute the basis for denial. The atrocities committed during the Marcos martial law regime would negate that one criterion which some people say justifies a hero’s burial for Marcos at the Libingan. To that end, I must say, ‘You can make a villain out of a hero but you cannot make a hero out of a villain.’ And to many Filipinos, Marcos was a villain, not a hero.”

Marcos buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.

Marcos buried at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.

At the end of the day, Binay’s “Solomonic” solution to bury Marcos with “full military honors” in Ilocos Norte might just be the right thing to do to put to rest not only Marcos’ body but also to quell the unrest that has been rocking the body politic of the nation. And besides, didn’t Marcos make a wish that he be buried next to his mother? Perhaps, his body should then be exhumed from the LNMB — as some people had suggested – and re-interred in Ilocos Norte with the pomp and circumstance befitting a distinguished son of Ilocandia.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)