An open letter to US State Secretary Hillary Clinton
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2009-11-12

Dear Secretary Clinton:

Welcome to the Philippines.

The Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime announced that they’ll assure you and the United States that there will be a smooth turnover of power here in 2010. Many Filipinos are indeed hoping that the US will fulfill President Barack Obama’s inaugural pledge to promote democracy and fight those who will suppress it.

We are cognizant that the US under the Obama administration has been consistently supporting democracy here with specific reference to the 2010 presidential elections. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was reassuring when he was here and he said that he did not foresee any deterrents to our having a successful democratic process in 2010. CIA Chief Leon Panetta was also reassuring during his Manila visit with regards the 2010 turnover of power. You have been consistent yourself with this US posture.

You must not blame some Filipinos though for maintaining certain reservations about US sincerity in ensuring a smooth turnover of power here in 2010. That is a natural consequence of US support for the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1986. A US Vice President even offered a toast to the dictator for his supposed “adherence to democratic principles” during that dark chapter of our history.

Many Filipinos also noted that the Marcos dictatorship was imposed during a period when the US was associated with several dictatorships all over the world. Even Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos was quoted by a reliable first hand source that his dictatorship was in keeping with US policy at the time which was prompted by the fear of the spread of Communism. If Marcos is to be believed, then he merely rode on US policy instead of the popularly propagated story that the US just turned a blind eye on Marcos.

Many Filipinos also fear that the US current interest in the Philippines owes more to serving the US geopolitical agenda in Mindanao vis-à-vis the projected conflict with China. The US NIC (National Intelligence Council) Global Trends 2025 Report acknowledges the decline of the US and the emergence of China. We realize that the current alliance between China, Russia and Iran can be very unsettling for the US.

Necessities of modern warfare, the US Forward Operating Sites (FOS) and Cooperative Security Locations (CSL) based in Mindanao and Southern Palawan facilitate US military capability in the South China Sea. Without these, the US is a mere Pacific power and cannot effectively engage China.

Then there is the interest in the oil and gas in the South China Sea which many Asian countries are claiming amidst the fast dwindling supply of energy in the world. A superpower like the US that is very much reliant now on imported energy cannot afford to be without a lion’s share of an energy source that is said to be equal to the reserves of Iraq or Iran.

The geopolitical and energy considerations lead many Filipinos to worry that the US may be forced to subordinate its avowed role of being the champion and promoter of democracy and enter into compromises that will jeopardize Filipino interests. Combining the geopolitical and energy considerations, we cannot be blamed for doubting if US principles will prevail over what are clearly pivotal survival and supremacy factors.

After all, from the US standpoint, it is a patriotic act for an American to promote US interests — especially when these are key to preserving the US hegemony and superpower status — even if it will prove detrimental to 90 million Filipinos. That has happened in the past and so why shouldn’t we think that it can happen again?

Be that as it may, we hope that the US will consider the following factors which could impact negatively on US plans here:

1. The failed attempt to establish the BJE (Bangsamoro Juridical Entity) indicates serious problems with the affected communities, cultural minorities and Christian Filipinos. Even the military will find it extremely difficult to accept that aborted US formula.

2. China will not accept this US play without reacting. Any conflict emanating from resisting affected Filipinos could allow China to make a counter play by supporting and funding the resistance. The US has yet to beat China in any Asian conflict since World War II. Can the declining US defeat an emerging China?

3. The credibility problem of the Arroyo regime is a major factor that makes any deal impossible to sell to the affected parties. The Arroyo regime is the classic case of not being able to get there from here.

Filipinos would not want to be the pawns in a clash of Titans where our country becomes Ground Zero. Most of all, we want to be fully informed and consulted before such decisions that will greatly affect us are made.

The US should consider a more honest and transparent approach in Mindanao which involves all resisting parties — including China.

The US agenda is best transacted with a credible and popularly supported administration which will succeed the Arroyo regime. A distrusted Arroyo regime promotes Filipino suspicion of an onerous US-sponsored deal. Distrust of the messenger fuels distrust of the deal.

Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully yours,

William M. Esposo

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