EVEN 100 days after Rodrigo Duterte was elected President, the new government has no roadmap for its plan to pursue an independent foreign policy, a Foreign Affairs insider told the Manila Standard.
In an interview, the source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Duterte has not articulated any policy agenda, not only on foreign policy, but also on the economy, poverty reduction, peace, employment and job creation, defense modernization, and even the President’s bloody war on drugs.
“As to the independent foreign policy, the question is, how independent would it be given the current global political and economic architecture,” the source said.
“The problem is that so far, President Duterte’s administration has not articulated its policy agenda on the different fronts of governance. There are many actions, but no clear map,” the administration insider lamented.
One example of this, the source said, was that the Philippine Embassy in Moscow was being told to craft a foreign policy toward Russia just two days before Duterte’s 100th day in office.
“In light of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s recent media pronouncements on opening new alliances with Russia and China in pursuit of an independent foreign policy, OEA [Office of the European Affairs] is of the view that there is a need to craft a Philippine foreign policy insofar as the Russian Federation is concerned,” the OEA told the Philippine Embassy in Moscow.
“In view of the above, OEA respectfully requests post to draft a concept note on ways to move forward PH-Russia relations,” the order added.
The order was issued more than a week after the Russian embassy announced that the Philippines plans to acquire military equipment and technology from Russia.
In China, on the other hand, it was only on Wednesday when Malacañang announced the appointment of former journalist and China expert Chito Sta. Romana as Philippine Ambassador to Beijing.
Asked if he has also been instructed him to craft a concept note, Sta. Romana, who is still awaiting confirmation for the Commission on Appointments before he flies to Beijing, said no.
“I haven’t been asked to craft a concept note. But I do hope to provide inputs,” he said.
The source also said that the Duterte administration even lacks concrete objectives in pursuing independent policy and even road maps of governance.
The insider also claimed that even though Duterte declared war against drugs, there is no concrete guideline on how to handle this policy from arresting the alleged drug users and dealers to penalizing them.
The source also said the Duterte government did not appear to have a clear legal basis or even rules of engagement when arresting alleged drug users and dealers.
“People need to start asking: what is this war of yours? Let’s dissect it. Is it merely to kill drug users and pushers? What is your legal basis?” the source asked.
Instead of focusing on governance, the President has been busy cursing at the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.
The source said, there were no deep reasons behind the President’s swearing against the United States, it’s just that he is not articulate enough to send his message across well.
He said Duterte lost interest in dealing with the US when Ambassador Philip Goldberg told him the US would come to the aid of the Philippines only if it were attacked.
“Unfortunately, Goldberg was not prepared for that question,” the source said.
The source also said that Duterte could not focus on governing because he was “afraid and parnoid” that someone would try to kill him.
Another problem, the source said, was that Duterte was surrounded by advisers who also think like him.
“He needs an adviser who can calm his temper. That can only happen if you have a good pool of people not only competent, but with diverse opinions,” the source said.
The source added that Duterte keeps talking about the war on drugs because “that’s his comfort zone.”
Also on Thursday, University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea director and Prof. Jay Batongbacal said Duterte has managed to introduce major uncertainties in Philippine foreign policy in just 100 days.
In an interview, Batongbacal also said Duterte has not “demonstrated the diplomatic finesse and dignity” expected of heads of state.
“Long-standing relationships are being strained unnecessarily, and the government accumulates a deficit in credibility every time he says something that his secretaries later have to explain or contradict,” Batongbacal said.
While pursing an independent foreign policy is a worthy goal, the effort must be credible, institutionalized, strategic and longterm, he said.