Noynoy and Tito Sam

In a move that actually took many interested observers by surprise, recently-installed US Ambassador Harry Thomas and a coterie of Embassy officials paid a courtesy call to presumptive President Noynoy Aquino last Friday, prompted this bit of nausea-inducing “analysis” from his personal press agency, the Philippine Daily Inquirer:

“The new US ambassador to the Philippines, Harry Thomas Jr., emphatically stamped Washington’s recognition of the legitimacy of results of the May elections with his Friday visit to the home of presumptive president-elect Benigno Aquino III on Times Street, Quezon City….

“Thomas left no room for doubt that, in congratulating the Filipinos for conducting an election that overwhelmingly reflected their popular will, the Obama White House had recognized the primacy of the electoral process as the cornerstone of a democratic republic.

“Flowing from this fundamental premise, Thomas’ visit implicitly recognized the result of this credible electoral exercise—that Aquino had won an overwhelming mandate, in fact, a landslide victory, in the first automated election count system in this country’s history.

“The fact that Thomas’ call on Aquino came in the midst of the congressional inquiry into the allegations made by the “koala bear” witness in a videotape and ahead of the official canvass beginning on Tuesday, sent the unstated and powerful message: Don’t delay the proclamation and tamper with the results reflected by the results of the automated system.

“Or, to those with intentions to disrupt the successful process: Don’t mess up the results that have already won widespread domestic and international applause as a credible election, a result that has lifted the Philippines from the ranks of basket-case democracies in developing societies.

“Diplomatic recognition is an essential element in endowing legitimacy to a new regime, in addition to its winning an incontrovertible mandate in a relatively free and honest election.”

Good grief. Is that why Noynoy looks like he’s trying to cover a boner in that picture?

ABS-CBN, which is ordinarily another none-too-thinly disguised part of the Yellow Propaganda machine, to their credit reported on the visit in cautiously objective terms, quoting Thomas as saying that “the visit should not be seen as an indication that the US is already recognizing Aquino as the next president of the Philippines” and that “Thomas said they respect the election process and would wait until the official canvassing by Congress and the formal proclamation of the winners in the presidential and vice-presidential elections before issuing any statement.”

To be fair to the PDI, their sense that there was more to Thomas’ visit than mere diplomatic courtesy is not mistaken, but the gushing assessment that the visit was made for Aquino’s benefit comes across like a schoolgirl’s crush and totally misses the point. Despite Thomas’ careful, pro forma remarks that the visit did not amount to an official recognition of Aquino by the US, that is essentially what it was – in a sense, a signal of intent. Noynoy Aquino is, at least in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, the obvious winner of the election. The general assessment of US observers at this point is that while the elections were apparently seriously flawed, the irregularities appeared to be mainly directed at lower offices, and probably did not materially affect the outcome of the presidential contest. In other words, the degree of Noy’s win might not be what it appears, but not the fact that he won. The ongoing ‘crisis’ over the election results is pretty much par for the course – it’s taking a slightly different form this time because of the poll automation, but is basically an expected part of the Philippine election routine. The mild qualification that the “official” endorsement is still forthcoming will allow the US to drop Aquino in the unlikely event that becomes necessary, but in the meantime the stronger probability is already covered.

What is obvious to everyone except, apparently, the PDI and Noynoy Aquino, is that Ambassador Thomas’ visit was done for the benefit of US interests and not Aquino’s. US policymakers are keenly aware that Aquino is a weak leader — he’s a minority president, the degree of his so-called “overwhelming mandate” might be questionable, and he will be facing an opposing legislature. His policy goals are long on sentiment and entirely bereft of specifics, and he clearly believes his own press about “his parents’ legacy” and his Mom being “the icon of democracy”. That would be “the icon of democracy” who presided over a chaotic period in the country’s history that most people remember for its occasional coup attempts and regular brown-outs – far from being a “stamp of approval”, then, the unusual early endorsement reveals a serious US concern of further instability in the Philippines under another Aquino’s watch. That the PDI would make an “analytical” statement like Diplomatic recognition is an essential element in endowing legitimacy to a new regime,” shows that the powers-to-be obviously have the same sorts of doubts.

The irony is that a more paternal relationship between the US and the leadership of the Philippines is a step backwards, from the American point of view, in long-term policy objectives. Despite what critics who adopt the fashionable argument against US “neocolonialism” might believe, US interests are not best served by greater involvement in Philippine domestic policy. The institutional and economic stability that would make the Philippines what the US wants it to be – a strong political and economic partner in the Southeast Asian region – are not things that can be imposed from outside the country. Yet Aquino – still more than a month from even starting the job – seems content to behave like the office lackey who can’t get anything done unless he invokes the name of his more influential higher-up. Were it not for the fact that the Philippines is a key part of this much larger picture, US interest might not be so keen; on its own, the Philippines is a marginal import source, a complete zero as an export market, is rapidly pricing itself out of and degrading the quality of its outsourcing potential, and slavishly adheres to laws and social conventions that discourage innovation and outside investment. But since the state of the Philippines affects US relationships with the rest of the region, the US will do what it needs to do. Unfortunately for both sides, that might be quite a lot – but the country’s having elected a president that does not understand that the highest ‘endorsement’ of any sort should be through sovereign initiatives and not derived from external interests leaves the US little choice.


About bkritz

I'm a writer, and I do things my own way. That might sound cool to you, unless you're one of the people who actually knows me, in which case you're probably shaking your head in exasperation at the depth of that understatement.
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22 Responses to Noynoy and Tito Sam

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Noynoy and Tito Sam | Anti-Pinoy :) --

  2. Morga says:

    This brings to mind Tito Sam’s intervention in the first Aquino administration. There is an old belief that when the failed military coup of General Ramos and Defense Minister Enrile set off the People Power uprising, it was Tito Sam who decided that Cory Aquino, not Ramos or Enrile, would take over as President to give Marcos’s ouster the appearance of a civilian revolt rather than the military junta that it was. There were many documented incidents of violence and irregularity in the 1986 elections, but strictly speaking, Aquino never proved that the irregularities were enough to skew the results of the elections, since she never filed an electoral protest. (To this day, many people in the provinces still say People Power 1 reflected the will of imperial Manila, not necessarily the sentiments of majority of the country.) It was Tito Sam who legitimized Aquino’s takeover by whisking the Marcoses away and recognizing her as the new President in a congratulatory phone call. Her declaration of a revolutionary government then wiped the slate clean.

    During Cory’s administration, it was also Tito Sam’s intervention that enabled her to survive numerous coup attempts. American fighter planes were deployed each time there was a rebellion.

    Tito Sam had more at stake in the Philippines back then, with the Clark and Subic military bases still in the country. Times are different now with the new Aquino.

    One thing that hasn’t changed, however, which the emos fail to realize and which BenK explains so eloquently here, is that the US does these things for the benefit of US interests and not the Aquinos or the Philippines. Ambassador Thomas had to give Noynoy an early leg up because he is expected to be a weak leader, and that simply won’t do for the advancement of American interests in the Philippines. Tito Sam needs to take care of his investments. That includes NA.

    It would do the Filipinos a lot of good if the media points out these things instead of getting all star struck and excited. It is the tit-for-tat with Tito Sam that Filipinos need to understand so they stop being so naive. It is, after all, perfectly normal for Tito Sam or any other country to have selfish interests, so long as Filipinos do not get the short end of the stick.

    Step One to not being screwed is to stop twitching with excitement over an ambassador’s visit.

    • BenK says:

      That’s exactly right. It just so happens that the US’ current policy goals are mutually beneficial, and that practically everything the US could wish for can be achieved by the Philippines pulling itself together and making progress with sound democratic institutions. But that’s a happy coincidence. And it might not always be that way; administrations and points of view change in America as well as anywhere else, and the only way the Philippines can be assured that it will continue to enjoy sovereign respect and be viewed as a worthwhile fellow-country is to stand on its own collective feet and take care of business.

    • ChinoF says:

      Hey, welcome aboard Morga. Maybe some guys other than us are getting to the idea that the US visit is a symptom of the Aquino administration’s weakness. The Yellow Camp sure is quick to make a feast of it. Smoke and mirrors.

      To me it’s ironic that Filipinos love it when Americans support them in matters of pride like this, but when it comes to investment and business, Filipinos would rather keep them out.

  3. Morga says:

    Something for the yellow kool aide drinkers to think about while they’re hailing Tito Sam’s visit:

    Suppose in Thailand, Abhisit agreed to snap elections then came out the unofficial winner. If the US ambassador paid him a visit to say congratulations, would the Bangkok Post trip all over itself to publish a mealy-mouthed editorial the way the Philippine Daily Inquirer did over the US ambassador’s visit to Aquino? Would the Thais look to a foreign power (a foreign colonial power in the case of the Philippines) to validate the legitimacy of its leader?

  4. benign0 says:

    For a society infested with lawyers, it seems that we consistently fail to astutely read into the euphemisms, double entendres, and other small print that underlie public gestures and signals sent out by the Philippines’ powerful stakeholders.

    Worse really is a comfiness with deferring to external powers for accountability for our future fortunes. America is one and the Spanish colonial legacy is another, but we are renowned for also putting ourselves in a lower rung in the pecking order of “forces” that determine our destiny, to us and to our politicians and “expert” pundits, it is always about us being subject to “God’s will”, the “people’s will”, or one’s illustrious parents’ legacy. The new President-Elect expertly embodies the latter three. So much for our prospects for evolving a truly mindset characterised by an ethic of self reliance over the next six years!

    • BenK says:

      I hadn’t thought of that, but that’s exactly right as well. It’s not just a diplomatic issue but a through-and-through lack of self-esteem. Compare the reaction to the US delegation to the points in BongV’s recent article about assertiveness, or the lack thereof — it’s a personal dysfunction on a national scale.

      Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Noynoy should have dissed the ambassador, or should not put forth the effort on his end to have a friendly relationship with the US. But he would have done his own authority a lot of good, and he would have more than likely earned himself the approving respect of the US government if he could have dug deep and simply said, “Thank you, but our election process is not yet quite completed, so it would be appropriate for us to wait until it is, and I will entertain your call at that time.” That’s what a guy who really believes he’s supposed to be in charge would say.

    • benign0 says:

      @ BenK, indeed. Instead of receiving the ambassador’s handshake with dignity, he received it like a chump. Quite true to form, actually. He’s all “Laban” true and through. Always that passive-aggressive stance that he seems unable to shake off and which seemingly he will take right into Malacanang as well. He’ll probably protest his own government sooner or later. 😀

  5. Morga says:

    There must be a deeper malaise lurking behind the Pinoy’s dependence on foreign validation. This trait is prevalent not only in affairs of state but also in show business. Very often celebrities become popular only after gaining recognition on foreign soil (Charice Pempengco, Ariel Pineda, Lea Salonga, Regine Velasquez, Lani Misalucha).

    There is a kind of insecurity, a lack of faith in one’s own tastes, a lack of conviction in one’s own decisions. This is sorely evident in PDI’s statement that “Diplomatic recognition is an essential element in endowing legitimacy to a new regime”, as highlighted by BenK. PDI was obviously gloating over the US ambassador’s visit to its pet Noynoy Aquino, but behind the braggadocio is a rather pitiful need to be affirmed.

    In a revolutionary environment, such a statement would not have stuck out, but in a routine presidential election, where no serious challenge has been posed against the results–as BenK pointed out, whatever fraud was committed will most likely only reduce the winner’s margin, not the fact that he won–a statement like this is comically out-of-place. I believe the appropriate word is “O.A.” 🙂 It seems the Inquirer has bought its own fairy story that 2010 is a repeat of 1986. Now it doesn’t know how to switch the emo off.

    • benign0 says:

      Switching the emo off and becoming a President is something Noynoy needs to work on as soon as he takes his seat in Malacanang. That’s gonna be an interesting effort to watch — that, and how the Media responds to it.

  6. J.B. says:

    PDI opinion writers I think should have reflected on other Asian neighbours what it means to be approved by US rather than sang praises to the recently paid visit.

    To them being an associate of US is a kiss of death to a political career.

  7. GabbyD says:

    “Good grief. Is that why Noynoy looks like he’s trying to cover a boner in that picture?”

    is the american ambassador covering his own boner?

    • HalleluyahHymen says:

      Wow GabbyD!!! Never thought that your mind can be so creative on profanities and things other than things related to that subject is a no brainer for you. Hope UC offers a course on Masters of Science in Profanities. So you are now concluding that the pic of Noynoy and the US Ambassador shows that both are BLOODY WANKERS… Halleluyah!!! Hymen!!! @ GabbyD

      • GabbyD says:

        actually, thats not my idea. its benk’s. if noynoy is hiding his boner, the us ambassador is too.

      • BenK says:

        Gabby, do you have an actual point for a change, or do you just want to share your boner fixation with everyone?

      • GabbyD says:

        my point is: if u wanna joke (or were u serious?) about noynoy’s boner, then it appears that the US ambassador also has a boner.

        i dont have a boner fixation. it was YOU who brought it up. i’m just following ur logic (or joke).

    • ChinoF says:

      A better question would be, which one of them is hiding his own “impotence.” 😉

      The answer is obvious.

      And the visitor is helping him hide his “impotence”.

    • BenK says:

      Luckily, my e-mail doesn’t censor for bad language, so I got the right link there. That’s a damned good article, if you don’t mind me saying.

  8. J says:

    PDI is like some Yellow IR “analyst” I met during the campaign:

  9. Pingback: Filipinos are not the best things in the world | Anti-Pinoy :)

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