PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte finally met yesterday with United States President Donald Trump on the sideline of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Metro Manila. The conversation was closed door, so there was no way to ascertain what the two leaders actually talked about. The talks sparked interest considering what transpired since Duterte took over the presidency last year. He announced a “pivot to China” policy and attacked the US often.
Two issues concern the US as far as the Philippines is concerned. The first is the country’s territorial dispute with China and the other is the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. Of the two, the potentially controversial one is the latter, especially in the context of human rights.
A CNN report quoted White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders as saying that the two leaders briefly talked about human rights. “The conversation focused on ISIS, illegal drugs and trade. Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs,” she said. But Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told CNN the topic was not brought up. There’s a conflict there, but no matter. State policies don’t change during bilateral meetings.
What was obvious is that Trump was more showbiz than diplomatic. He tried to win over Duterte and the Filipino people on the personal level. Which is his leadership style. The more substantial matters he usually left to his subalterns to tackle.
I thought anti-US protesters would not catch attention during the Asean Summit, but they did yesterday morning. The militants clashed with anti-riot policemen when they attempted to breach the barricade set up in one street corner in Metro Manila. As usual in incidents like this, firemen backing up the anti-riot cops hosed the rallyists with water to cool tempers down. The strategy succeeded.
The militants described their protest action against US President Donald Trump was the biggest. It probably was because the police didn’t ignore them. When rallies are small, they are, more often than not, ignored. This just shows that rallies are getting more adherents. Or that the parliament of the streets is simmering again. That’s an interesting development, if you ask me.
One thing was observable in that action, though. It was too focused on Trump that Chinese Premier Xi Jinping was overlooked. I say Chinese designs on the West Philippine Sea is as much as a concern as US interference in the affairs of the Philippines.
DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporter) blogger Sass Rogando Sasot confronted a British Broadcasting Corp. reporter Jonathan Head, who was covering an Asean Summit activity at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, in front of Asec Margaux Uson.
“Can you tell me how is it possible that Jover Laurio, a very minor blogger in the Philippines was featured by the BBC in order to defend herself…but not someone like me whose social media following is way way higher than her, whose Facebook engagement is way way higher than her and who you had even interacted on Facebook?” Sasot said.
But why was Sasot there?