US military support aids Duterte’s tyrannical regime


Recent pronouncements by the Duterte regime’s officials that the earlier declared plan to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) will no longer push through came as no surprise. At the outset, it was clear that Duterte’s “threat” to scrap it was only meant to demand additional military aid for his tyranny.

Duterte himself said, “if you want the VFA, then pay for it.” This is in line with his principle “its all about money” that underpins his foreign policy. To Duterte, national sovereignty and freedom is measured by how much. Duterte took back the VFA termination and allowed the US to hold its biggest war exercise (Balikatan) after he was promised sales worth $2.4 billion of military hardware.

Negotiations lasted more than a year and was overtaken by the pandemic and the change of government in the US. In the end, the Biden government approved additional military aid to the Duterte regime despite the strong clamor of a number of US senators and representatives, as well as by the democratic forces in the Philippines and Fil-Am organizations in the US, to suspend this because of rampant cases of killings and human rights violations by police and military forces.

In reality, providing military aid also favors US imperialism since it will strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its US-designed counterinsurgency war. In fact, the war being waged by the US through the AFP aims to defend the economic and geopolitical interests of the US. The AFP serves as the principal pillar of US rule in the Philippines. The US has been training, advising, arming and funding the AFP. These are carried out under the 70-year old Mutual Defense Treaty and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

The US gave Duterte his demand for more military aid, even if this meant supporting a regime that has paved the way for the increasing military presence in the West Philippine Sea by China, the US archrival in terms of the economy and hegemony.

As head of the semicolonial puppet state, Duterte bows to the policy-dictates of the US, especially in pursuing neoliberal economic policies, counterinsurgency and “anti-terrorism.” However, he also kowtows to China and has given up Philippine exclusive rights to its seas in exchange for the promise of loans and grants worth several tens of billions of dollars, as well as control of the illegal drug trade from China.

US imperialism has frowned over Duterte’s two-timing. Especially in the face of intensifying US-China economic and trade conflicts, the US disfavors its Philippine puppet playing around with its rival. By providing more military aid in exchange for expanding its military presence in the Philippines and its surrounding seas, the US calculates that Duterte will ease on his pro-China posturing.

The US also hopes to tighten its control of the Duterte regime especially with the possibility that the fascist clique will remain in power beyond 2022. By doing so, the US role behind the tyrannical and terrorist Duterte regime becomes clearer, and its human rights avowals are exposed as a sham.

But even as US imperialism continues to support Duterte, it also strengthens its links and support for other anti-Duterte factions of the ruling classes who are all pro-US to serve as reserve cards that it can play once the ruling tyranny starts to flounder. This is like how in the 1980s the US supported both Marcos and the then anti-Marcos factions in the face of widespread and sustained people’s protests against the dictatorship.

What is distinct in the current situation is the similarly active intervention of China and its challenge to the previously exclusive field of domination of US imperialism in Philippine reactionary politics. Some reactionary politicians, such as the ruling Duterte clique, seek bigger payment for their puppetry, even as they surrender the country’s sovereignty. In the coming 2022 elections, we will likely see the real price and loyalty of Duterte’s and unprecedented levels of foreign interference.

Duterte is like a barnacle holding on to power for his morbid fear of being made to account for his crimes against humanity and war crimes. He has unleashed all out brutality to suppress and paralyze all forces opposed to his tyranny and his scheme to remain in power beyond 2022. To demonstrate to US imperialism that he deserves continued support, Duterte is waging a full-scale “war on terror.” Behind this veil, it has mounted an intensified campaign of extrajudicial kil­lings and suppression against pa­triotic and democratic forces, using the weapons and military aid from the US.

The Filipino people must intensify their resistance and stand against the Duterte regime’s puppetry to US imperialism and for allowing the US to increase its military presence in the Philippines as part of its maneuverings against China. The Filipino people must intensify exposure of Duterte’s fascist crimes and hold the Biden government to account for supporting the regime’s tyranny and terrorism.

All democratic forces and those opposed to Duterte’s tyranny must be brought together into the broadest front of the Filipino people to resist Duterte’s evil scheme to remain in power.

US military support aids Duterte's tyrannical regime