“Anti-imperialist”? Or just right-wing?

Submitted by Matthew on 10 November, 2016 - 11:11 Author: Colin Foster

The Philippines’ new president, Rodrigo Duterte, announced in Beijing on 21 October: “I announce my separation from the United States, both in military but economics also”.

“America has lost it... I realigned myself in your [China’s] ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia”.

The Philippines, constituted as a political unit by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century, were ceded to the USA as a colony after the Spanish-American war of 1898, and then won independence in 1946. The country was ruled by a more-or-less pro-US dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, from the 1960s to 1986. Marcos was overthrown by “People Power” and Cory Aquino became president in 1986.

Aquino and her successors were broadly pro-US, but also negotiated the removal of the huge US military bases established in the Philippines during the Vietnam war. By the criteria of many on the left, Duterte’s declarations in Beijing qualify him as “anti-imperialist” and “progressive”. In fact, however, he is a right-wing populist who prides himself on his support for vigilante groups killing drug users, petty criminals and street children.

In a presidential election speech to business leaders, he said his presidency would be “a bloody one”. He would issue “a thousand pardons a day” to police and soldiers accused of human rights abuses, and a presidential pardon to himself for mass murder at the end of his term. He threatened trade unions with “annihilation” if they disturbed “industrial peace”.