Daily Archives: January 1, 2017

PINOY FILES ( Blowing in the wind)

December 31, 2016

PINOY FILES ( Blowing in the wind)

By Rodney Jalecodigong-gunggong

(My column in the Jan 1-15 issue of the Manila Mail DC that hits the stands this New Year’s eve — the last for the year or the 1st for 2017 depending on how you want to see it)

WASHINGTON DC–It looks like the Duterte administration’s penchant for “urong-sulong” is spreading like a germ even to Washington. The new United States Ambassador Sung Kim is making quite a splash as he acclimatizes to Manila and threads the delicate diplomatic disposition of his host nation’s mercurial leader.

After announcing last August that Marciano “Jun” Paynor Jr., then Philippine Ambassador to Tel Aviv, was succeeding Jose L. Cuisia Jr. in Washington, Padre Faura changed its mind. In October, the Palace announced that businessman and Philippine Star columnist Jose Manuel “Babes” Romualdez would serve as “special envoy” to the US; late in November, he was apparently promoted to be the new ambassador.

Meanwhile, Paynor has been replaced by former journalist Robert Borje in Tel Aviv and according to reports Romualdez has set a time frame for his tenure in Washington – one year only because he reportedly preferred the business universe over DC’s cocktail circuit – even if the posting positioned him in the capital of the world’s biggest economy.

Pres. Duterte also appointed millionaire Jose E. B. Antonio last October as “special economic envoy” to the US. For those who still don’t know, Antonio is Pres. Donald Trump’s partner in the $150 million Trump Tower in Makati – what the New York Times described as a “57-storey symbol of affluence and capitalism”. After the November elections, he reportedly flew to New York for a private meeting with Trump’s children to discuss, among others, purported Trump-branded resorts in the Philippines.

Between a chief envoy who can’t wait to get out of office and another who’s apparently more concerned with tapping into expanded investment opportunities with America’s new leader, how would relations between the US and Philippines fare over the next four to six years? Saan kaya ito pupulutin?

Mr. Duterte, almost like clockwork, lashed out at the US after the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) revealed it was setting aside a new multimillion-dollar aid package because of concerns over extrajudicial killings in the country. The State Department had already previously blocked the delivery of automatic rifles to the Philippine National Police (PNP), an otherwise routine transaction, on widespread perceptions they are involved in the killings – an estimated 5,000 dead since the new administration took over last June 30.

The burden could fall on the Philippine Embassy’s Charge d’affaires Patrick Chuasoto. A career diplomat and certified bachelor, he’s held the post at the Embassy for the same length of time as Duterte has been president.

And unfortunately for the soft-spoken, amiable shotgun aficionado he’s taken much of the brunt of his boss’s improprieties – and there’s been a flood of those – including a couple of tongue lashings at Foggy Bottom.

Don’t worry, we know he’s a pro but it just feels like a huge waste of talent when he could be busier building on the gains of former Ambassador Cuisia, including the US-Philippine Society, than defending the increasingly indefensible Pres. Duterte.

Chuasoto could have been a perfect mix for Amb. Paynor, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 71 who’s found a niche in Philippine diplomatic service but who likely had the good sense to beg out of the Washington assignment.

Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. has reportedly telegraphed his desire for no extraordinary measures to keep him at his post beyond this coming July. The BSP charter allows only two terms for the governor and Congress has to amend it for Tetangco to serve another term.

Duterte has asked Tetangco – named as one of the world’s best central bankers by the Global Finance Magazine – to stay but also proceeded to disparage both the BSP and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that he’s headed for over a decade. “You’re also a part of the garbage which I resent to this day,” he said of the AMLC.

And yet insiders say, the President is eager to keep Tetangco to soothe investors’ confidence shaken by his behavior and declarations.

Urong-sulong. Ano ba talaga, Digong?

Over six months in, Pres. Duterte has yet to build clarity and credibility for the policies he’s working to put in place, including where he wants to take Philippine-US relations.