Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rodrigo Duterte, an Enemy Worse than Islamic State?

Look at how the "Significant Digits" FiveThirtyEight daily newsletter summarizes the Islamic State of Lanao's attack in Marawi City on Mindanao, the southernmost major island in the Philippines:
60 days 
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared a 60-day period of martial law for the entirety of Mindanao island because of clashes between armed groups and the government. [ABS CBN]
No reference to the fact that these innocuous "armed groups" are loyal to the Islamic State, nor that the article hyperlinked mentions that "2 soldiers and one police officer were killed, while 12 others were wounded in ongoing clashes in Marawi City." In other words, a deadly assault by the Islamic State in former U.S. territory is not being reported as such, but as another example of authoritarian overreach by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte.

Even worse than FiveThirtyEight is Foreign Policy's Situation Report. Writers Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnsley don't even mention the ongoing battle in Marawi City; rather they choose to lede their morning news summary with Trump's boast to Duterte about sending nuclear subs to the Korean Peninsula:
Nukes. President Donald Trump disclosed to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last month that he recently sent “two nuclear submarines” to the area around the Korean peninsula to deal with the threat of North Korea, and the U.S. “a lot of firepower over there,” though “we don’t want to use it.”
A transcript of the April 29 call between the two leaders made by the Philippines government was obtained by the Washington Post on Tuesday. Duterte told Trump that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “might go crazy one moment,” leading Trump to point out that “we can’t let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20.”
The disclosure to Duterte over the location of American submarines comes as the Philippines leader has pushed for closer relations with both China and Russia, and slammed American policies in the region. It also reflects the White House’s willingness to ignore Duterte’s angry comments about U.S. policy in an effort to keep up relations with a critical Asian ally.
Since taking office in June, Duterte has overseen a bloody campaign of murder against drug users and dealers that has been roundly criticized by the international community. The Trump administration has remained quiet over the campaign, but in the call Trump praised Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”
The idea here is that Duterte is the enemy, and the Islamic State of Lanao, also known as the Maute group, doesn't even merit mention.

Duterte was in Moscow meeting with Putin when the attack in Mindanao happened, prompting him to cut short his trip. The meeting is referenced on the President of Russia website:
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, I am happy to see you in Moscow. We met in Lima before and recently in Beijing. Last year, we marked 40 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. 
Regrettably, our trade has been modest, but it started growing early this year and has already increased by 25 percent. There are many promising areas of bilateral cooperation, such as power machine building, transport infrastructure, energy and possibly military technical cooperation. 
I would like to begin our meeting by expressing condolences on the loss of Filipino lives in a terrorist attack. My colleagues and I understand that you need to get back home as soon as possible. I hope that the conflict you have mentioned will be settled without delay with minimal losses.
You and I know that our staff and colleagues worked hard to prepare a package of documents. Your ministers will stay in Russia for a while, and I know that these documents aimed at promoting bilateral ties will be signed tomorrow.
As you may know, I was not in Moscow but in one of Russia’s regions today. However, I certainly had to use this opportunity to meet with you personally and to thank you for accepting our invitation to visit Russia. I hope we will use the little time we have before your departure to have a personal discussion of bilateral relations and the situation in the region. 
Back in March The New York Times ran a lengthy piece on Duterte written by Richard Paddock, "Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman," the sole goal of which, of all those column inches, was to publish a few choice morsels from the psychological assessment that Duterte had to complete in order to have his marriage annulled:
Years later, a psychological assessment of Mr. Duterte, prepared in 1998 for the annulment of his marriage, concluded that he had “narcissistic personality disorder” and a “pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights.”
Once again the message is clear: U.S. subjects are not allowed to pursue their own interests and seek rapprochement with China and Russia, to do so is to be considered an enemy, one more worthy of mention than that foil of convenience, the Islamic State.

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