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Monday, August 26, 2019
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Bzzzzz: Duterte kidding again? US defense treaty terms are stiff

(From left) Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario (File photos)

PEOPLE talk about...

* DUTERTE'S CALL ON U.S. TO ASSAULT CHINA: VARIATION ON JET SKI JOKE? The indicators that the president must be kidding again:

1. He said he'd invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, on television, in Pastor Quiboloy's TV program, an informal interview.

2. He talked about joining the admiral of the US Seventh Fleet that would mass in front of China and pressing "the button" once the admiral would say "we're here."

3. He would take along with him three critics of his foreign policy: Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and former foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario.

Last April 12, 2016, shortly before the presidential elections, at a press con, Duterte said he'd ask the Navy to take him to the nearest point near China, from where he'd jet ski to the mainland and erect a flag and dare the Chinese for a "suntukan o barilan" (fistfight or gunfight). A day later, the Duterte campaign said he was "jet-skidding."

* UNDER TREATY TERMS, NOT EASY TO INVOKE HELP. A number of news media outfits, particularly broadcast stations from Manila, reported the story "straight," without the red flag he could be joking again and the background about a similar teasing before.

And, more crucial, no mention on how the country or the US will invoke military assistance under the treaty.

Under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, there must be:

1. An armed attack by a hostile power on a metropolitan area of either country, island territories, armed forces, public transportation;

2. Each country, the Philippines and the US, must go through its constitutional process.

3. The country attacked must first seek the intercession of the United Nations and avail itself of world body's mechanisms for peace.

Do you see any of those conditions happening or about to happen?

Whether the president was totally serious, partly serious and partly joking, or just re-floating the idea that Senator Ping Lacson proposed, the Seventh Fleet does not come rushing to the China Seas under the terms of the US-PH treaty if those conditions are not met. And surely, it can't be invoked just by talking about it on television.

* SUPPORT UNDER TREATY CAN BE ILLUSORY. The mutual defense treaty has been criticized as a paper tiger because of its stiff terms.

Partly for that reason, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana was instructed by the president last December 28, 2018 to re-study the document and determine if it must be kept, revised or scrapped.

In a pinch, when its own national security and interest will be endangered, the US might help, with a treaty or none.

***

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