There are three things people are talking about this Friday as one arrives at the gate of the amazing Philippines Airlines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
- Freedom of the Press and the Malacanang attacks on ABS-CBN.
- The COVID-19 virus. (“Be careful,” says Philippines President Duterte.)
- And the Visiting (American) Forces Agreement cancellation.
Quoting Wikipedia which should be a neutral voice, “ABS-CBN, is a Filipino media and entertainment group based in Quezon City, Philippines. It is the Philippines’ largest entertainment and media conglomerate in terms of revenue, operating income, net income, assets, equity, market capitalization, and number of employees.”
My taxi driver tells me that the Philippines is run by dynasties and that “one should not worry about a feud between them,” as he prescribes this fight between Duterte supporters and ABS-CBN.
It’s hard to ignore because as he speaks, there is a huge demonstration in support of the media group for which Duterte says he will cancel their franchise.
Freedom of the Press in the Philippines needs looking into. This worry has people clamouring in the streets; a series of bizarre prosecutions against Rappler’s Maria Ressa that read like a thin-skinned politician demanding praise and not candid commentary; and Duterte threatening to unlicense one of the biggest media conglomerates in the Philippines for “not being fair to the President”. Really? Does this run deeper than that?
But right from the start it should be said that the Manila Times, the ABS-CBN TV and print media, Rappler, and others—“except CNN-Philippines which is utter pablum if not drivel”, comments a Barista—seem to be able to publish heaps of both criticism and praise on the current Duterte administration, just like one finds in any democracy.
Says a Barista who works at Starbucks opposite the US Embassy, (irony?) as she works her way through university, “CNN-Philippines “gets a lot of love, but not as much as ABS-CBN —which Filipinos will tell you is awesome and perhaps the antithesis to state-run TV—because CNN-Philippines is not cable news and nothing more than a Duterte-bell-ringer making a killing on advertising while spewing pablum. There is not a sign of Ted Turner’s better… ahhh… ethics.”
“The New Corona Virus”
“The China Virus [COVID-19] has more people talking than anything,” said the taxi driver as he stared at an impassable truck ahead of us.
He muffled a cough in Manila’s polluted air as he made his statement.
How do you feel about the cancellation of the visiting forces agreement? You can answer here. Send FPMag your feedback.
“Trump can take his smartass words about the Philippines and stick them where the sun [doesn’t] shine,” says the Filipino taxi driver who strongly supports Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. In fact he still has a red Duterte wrist strap from the 2016 election.
A bias should be noted in that Duterte has come down hard on clopped-out, over-flogged, black-smoke-spewing, ancient Jeepney (bus?) vehicles, demanding the older ones be scrapped, which taxi drivers say makes their lives easier. A taxi driver is quite likely to support the President for that “wisdom”.
Trump’s reaction to the VFA dumping was one of arrogance enough to cause Duterte to say he thinks of cancelling all agreements with America.
That may be why the Philippines population is now talking about President Duterte’s Tuesday announcement that he had cancelled the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States.
When asked by reporters on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump dismissed the Philippines. “Well I never minded that very much to be honest. We helped the Philippines very much. We helped them defeat ISIS… I don’t really mind if they would like to do that, it will save a lot of money. My views are different from others.”
Trump also added that he has a good relationship with President Duterte and “we’ll see what happens”.
Fighting Words from a Loyal AFP Veteran
“Our AFP soldiers defeated the ISIS (expletive),” said the taxi driver.
This elderly veteran is angry and he explained why. He believes he “lost a family member who was an AFP soldier due to American meddling,” as he puts it. He and his military family members go back many generations, serving in the Philippines military. He says the “Americans were like any liberating army, they looted our country… for so long…” he stopped himself.
“Our boys. They are the ones [The Armed Forces of the Philippines] who gave their lives doing the dirty work. The only thing the Americans ever did was get our boys killed in the Mamasapano Massacre of January 2015. I lost a cousin in that,” said the AFP veteran with fiery resolve.
“And in the Battle of Marawi,” continued the taxi driver I later learned was a retired Army major, a rank only few obtain in the AFP.
“It was the Americans that started that fight with ISIS because they pushed our brass to go and arrest some fool they wanted killed. That blew up in our faces and set the whole Marawi crisis in motion. The President had to interrupt his visit to Moscow. But it was our President and our soldiers on the ground in Marawi. All the Americans did was blow up the city from the air and leave a horrible mess, as usual.”
Yes. Marawi is still in ruins two years later.
Fewer Pregnant Twelve Year Olds
“The American soldiers love to come here,” says Bruno, a German expatriate, married to a Filipino woman and living in the country for three decades. Bruno was delivering some medical papers and information for his wife and sat in a street-clinic waiting room, munching on a food item he had picked up from a street barbecue vendor outside.
Sitting for a moment in the nurses lounge with Sharon Santiago, one nurse commented on our topic, “there will be fewer pregnant 12-year-olds”. My mouth dropped. They all agreed.
“That’s what I am talking about, said Bruno who was listening to the conversation and wandered in with his wife. These old guys like to have young girls so they made the law of consent, twelve,” he conjectured, “and it backfired,” he added.
“All the Americans wanted was people’s young daughters. That’s why the Philippines threw them out once before. We never let ours go out the door. She is grown up now and works here as a nurse,” the retired German-Filipino dad said.
“I was on the fence about Duterte, but now since he is again kicking out the Americans, and I can’t remember who let them back in, that was done without anyone noticing, I am all for President Duterte,” Bruno added.
The last time the Philippines kicked the Americans out in the early 1990s, they left behind the product of their liaisons with girls in the Philippines, “thousands of infants who would grow up never knowing their American fathers. Many were abandoned by their mothers, who were financially unable or too ashamed to keep them,” Sunshine Lichauco de Leon of Manila wrote in The Guardian in December of 2012.
“All my life, the Americans have just used and abused the Philippines,” said one of the nurses who does not want to be identified but says she was born and raised into a family that believes this fully, and that is what her parents taught their four children. She is a recent graduate from nursing school.
“The Philippines needs to get along with its neighbours in ASEAN, she added. we studied that in St. Louis University. It is a very beautiful thing. President Duterte is very popular in ASEAN and that is what we love, our own communities.”
And that about sums up the political news in the Philippines. “We love our own communities,” from the golden heart of a Filipino caregiver.