The increasing complexity of U.S-Philippine relations


Luke Dalessandro, Politics Editor

The complication of diplomatic and military relations between the U.S and The Philippines upon the election of incumbent President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has only been further convoluted due to the active U.S response to the ongoing siege of Marawi City, The Philippines largest city on the island of Mindanao. The Marawi City siege, also referred to as the Marawi crisis, denotes the seemingly perpetual siege of Marawi City, an attack allegedly perpetrated by insurgents affiliated with ISIL. The armed conflict stemmed from the Philippine governments launched offensive against to detain Isnilon Hapilon, proclaimed leader of the Abu Sayyaf, a Philippines based offshoot of ISIL. With attempts to recapture Mindanao still ongoing, attempts have been complicated and halted by the positioning of Maute snipers ostensibly landlocking Marawi City. Henceforth the presence of sniper positions has provoked bombing raids targeting partially residential areas of Mindanao, with the result being an increasing number of civilian casualties as a result of the siege. Inability to completely reclaim Mindanao, in spite of a 60 day period of martial law being declared in the Mindanao region, and government forces allegedly having secured 90% of Marawi City as of May 31st, made contentious the question of whether some manifestation of foreign aid will assist in The Philippines military initiative to reclaim Mindanao. In spite of the complexity of military and trade relations of The United States and The Philippines under Duterte, the U.S largely surprised The Philippines by committing technical assistance to the fight. While the U.S has not committed any ground forces to the recapture of Mindanao, Duterte has previously threatened to eject U.S military trainers and advisers from the nation, appearing to be part of a larger initiative to disentangle relations between the U.S and Philippines. Subsequently when pressed on the U.S support in Marawi City, Duterte said he was “not aware of that until they arrived.” He went on to say that he, “never approached America” for any capacity of assistance. In spite of this, Dutertes remarks have reflected a lessening of contempt for U.S Philippine relations since the election of President Trump, referring to Trump upon his election proclaiming, “We are both making curses. Even with trivial matters we curse. I was supposed to stop because Trump is there. I don’t want to quarrel anymore, because Trump has won.” Regarding President Duterte, Trump has expressed positive sentiment on the prospect of repairing relations between the U.S and the Philippines, reporting to Bloomberg News in May, “The Philippines is very important to me strategically and militarily.” Furthermore according to a leaked transcript of a phone call President Trump shared with President Duterte,  Trump proclaimed and praised Duterte for his, “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” going on to tell Duterte, “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

The ongoing war on drugs initiated and funded under Duterte has been under contention for its potential human rights violations, potential nearing of genocide, and manner of extrajudicial execution, with the war on drugs largely resulting in at least the appearance of removal of protection under the law for drug users and sellers. Amidst Dutertes war on drugs, the death toll has long since surpassed 7,000 killed extrajudicially, according to a statement from The Philippine National Police. Included among the dead are  2,503 people suspected of using and selling drugs killed by police, and 3,603 by unidentified gunmen. As to the extrajudicial nature of Dutertes drug war, it does have the strong appearance of being subsequent to Dutertes proposed solution on the Philippines issues with moderately widespread drug use, with Duterte proposing the extirpation and massacre of drug users and dealers. As incumbent President Duterte encouraged the killing of drug users by his nations unemployed population claiming, “If you lose your job, I’ll give you one. Kill all the drug addicts.” Duterte went on to say, “Help me kill addicts. Let’s kill addicts everyday.” Furthermore in response to the potential human rights violation of such an extermination, Duterte said to “Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold up men and do nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you.” In spite of the large potential of violations of human rights and possible genocide, Duterte remains generally popular with the majority of his constituents, maintaining an approval rating of approximately 78%, yet still down from a peak 86% approval rating in October.