Measuring success

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Manila is turning out to be a huge success for President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippines, the host country. I make this assessment based purely on the insignificance of the criticism hurled against Duterte and his government by the usual opposition suspects so far.

It’s perfectly possible that some terrible snafu could still take place between now and the formal closing of the summit – something the people who don’t like Duterte must be praying really hard for still. But how can the hosting job be less than an unqualified success when all the critics can cluck about is a spelling error in some tarpaulins, some lighthearted singing by Duterte at a welcome dinner, the way the President wears his tie, rolls up his barong sleeves and his penchant for going sock-less?

I profess that I can’t understand why some of our own countrymen would wish for something embarrassing to happen during the Philippines’ fulfillment of its hosting duties, as if they themselves would not suffer humiliation as a result. They may not declare that they want this to happen, but the gusto with which they’ve been griping about the non-essentials I’ve already mentioned betrays them; imagine the noise and intensity of their anger if something really disastrous happens while the summit is going on.

But that’s just the way we roll as a nation, I guess. My hope is that, to paraphrase US President Donald Trump, everything eventually turns out well for us as a country, despite our propensity to put partisan politics above everything else, including the nation itself.

Of course, there are also those among Duterte’s most vocal critics who have decided to take a low profile and stay conveniently out of the way while the President does his hosting duties. I admire these people because they have shown that their usual and constant expressions of hatred for Duterte can wait until after the foreign visitors have left.

But those who didn’t have that kind of self-restraint went to town with the non-issues. And these included stuff that did not even involve Duterte himself, like Presidential Assistant Bong Go’s selfies with visiting heads of state acting as photo-bombers and blogger Sass Rogando Sasot’s discussion with a reporter from the British Broadcasting Corp., both of which elicited gasps of fake outrage from nitpicky and scandal-starved critics that were more appropriate if something like a terrorist attack or a building collapse had taken place.

Even the usual protesters from the remains of the Left were unable to cause the havoc they are known to cause. This may be because the police did a fine job of keeping protesters away from official summit venues, whether or not they used high-tech noise-makers together with their usual shields and firetruck hoses; the important thing is those who joined the rallies were not harmed despite their efforts to provoke the police, typified by that protester who executed a picture-perfect “flying kick” on a cop who was behind his shield.

But like I said, something really bad and embarrassing can still happen. And I can only ask all Filipinos, regardless of their political affiliation, to unite as a nation to prevent it, if they can.

I don’t believe that Duterte will host such an event at any other time during his term. I understand that some may take that as an incentive to cause trouble; it’s up to the rest of us to stop them.

* * *

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blew into town like a public relations house on fire, I was among those who wasn’t impressed. What business does a Canadian politician have visiting a Jollibee restaurant, kissing and carrying random Filipino babies and gleefully accepting offers for selfies, after all, if he was not up to some skulduggery?

I remembered an article in The Guardian this year that called Trudeau a social media savant, “the political equivalent of a YouTube puppy video, [who] overwhelm[s] with shots of the adorable young statesman cuddling pandas and hugging refugees and getting accidentally photographed in the wild with his top off, twice.” And then I read reports about his press conference yesterday and understood why he was doing what he was doing in Manila, where there were not enough Canadian votes to get him elected to a barangay councilman’s post.

Trudeau declared that he “impressed” on Duterte the need to look into alleged human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, the only visiting head of state to say so. Then he admitted that he still had no way of repatriating the 50 containers of Canadian garbage that his country sent here back in 2013.

The last time Trudeau was in Manila, during the Apec summit in 2015, he said that he would look into the matter of bringing back the Canadian trash sent to the Philippines. And now, in 2017, he could only say that the garbage can only be “theoretically” returned, but still wouldn’t because of legal issues.

Trudeau may look like a movie star, smile a lot, pick up babies, join you in selfies and go for chicken at Jollibee. But he is also a lying, good-for-nothing politician who knew he had to perform a song-and-dance routine here, in order to distract starry-eyed Filipinos who may remember that he promised to bring back his country’s garbage with him when he returned.

Topics: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit
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