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Philippines: Is the US looking to change its puppets?

Written by: (Contributed) on 1 June 2021


There is a great deal more to the recent high-level diplomatic stand-off between the Philippines and China than acknowledged by mainstream media releases from the corridors of power in Canberra. The spat has been played up; the reasons, played down.

The main cast in the Philippines are an interesting group along with their cronies: the far-right together with their military cohorts are seeking to position themselves in preparation for presidential elections next year. They are also odds-on favourites in a likely re-run of Cold War history.

Behind the far-right front-men, however, lie the shadowy hidden hands of the puppet-masters and the Marcos oligarchy which seek to replace the Duterte presidential administration and place the Philippines squarely back under US-led tutelage specifically designed for the defence and security of 'US interests'.

In early May an announcement from the Philippines that plans were being made to upgrade military installations on Thitu Island (above) in the South China Seas (known in the Philippines as the West Philippines Sea), about 480 kms west of Puerto Princesa. Commander Cirilito Sobejana, the country's military leader, stated the plans included installation of high-resolution cameras for surveillance of the surrounding areas following a growing dispute with hundreds of Chinese fishing boats. (1)

Foreign Minister, Teddy Locsin, has also entered the diplomatic stand-off with a series of tweets condemning China. It signifies a growing division within the Duterte administration; Duterte, for example, has actively encouraged Chinese investment during his term as president since 2016.

Thitu Island has been administered by the Philippines since 1971, although sovereignty is contested with both China and Vietnam. At 92 acres, it is the largest island in the contested Nansha (Spratly) chain, stretching across the South China Seas. During the 1970s the Philippines built fortified concrete bunkers for defence and security provision; in 2019-20 military facilities on the island, including a run-way and landing strip together with a communications tower were upgraded. No specific reference, however, has been made to drone warfare facilities, intentionally or otherwise. In 2020 a beach ramp was also constructed for cargo and freight, indicating longer-term planning. The island also, interestingly, has a civilian population and a small elementary school for their children.

The announcement from Manila was that the latest plan included converting Thitu Island into a major logistics hub with facilities for re-fuelling and re-supply; and a statement that, 'the Philippines was determined to fortify its position on the ground', appear to have been the outcome of Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana making numerous visits to Thitu Island since 2017. (2)   

A diplomatic statement from China suggested any dispute could be resolved through negotiations and consultation. (3) It was noted, however, the Philippine military see the matter in a rather different light. Recent observations have also concluded that 'the Philippine military is also constituting a source of pressure from within' the political system. (4) While the Duterte presidential administration has played down diplomatic rivalries with China, the military have had a long history of civil involvement in Philippine society. The fact that Commander Cirilito Sobejana is a specialist in Civil-Military affairs, trained at US Army Fort Lee in Virginia and the PACOM Headquarters in Hawaii provides cause for alarm. (5)

The Philippine military would appear to be behind the escalation of diplomatic tensions with China, in the lead-up to forthcoming presidential elections. With the Duterte administration presenting the US with a challenge to traditional hegemonic positions, moves now appear afoot for a return to the former Cold War position for the Philippines.

US-led regional foreign policy, historically, relied upon compliant governments in the Philippines primarily for the defence and security of 'US interests'. The country was regarded as a centrally placed vital strategic asset from the earliest days of the previous Cold War.

Philippines rightists have long association with anti-Communism

It is important, therefore, to study the mechanisms deployed by the US to consolidate their influence through secretive organisations. While strong links have existed for decades between the US and Philippine militaries, other, out-sourced and shadowy bodies, have also taken a leading role in promoting US-led regional foreign policy agendas. Established in 1954, the Asian People's Anti-Communist League (APACL), was created by South Korean intelligence agents and the Taiwanese government. (6) The status of the Philippines within the APACL was easily be noted by the Chair of the organisation being Mariniano G. Abad, representing the country and presiding over agendas and business. (7) It is also highly significant to note all three countries were regarded as nodes in Cold War military planning with Island Chain Theory (ICT), now recently revamped to contain and encircle China.

In 1966 the APACL merged with other groups to become the World Anti-Communist League (WACL) with Ferdinand Marcos the named representative for the Philippines. Studies of the organisation noted 'the Philippines chapter was filled with cronies of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and those drawn from his rubber-stamp National Assembly'. (8)

A former WACL member who divulged critical information about the organisation noted it was composed of a collection of 'oriental fascists, militarists, right-wing terrorists'. (9) Such people, however, have tended to hide behind a mantle of respectability provided by other members in influential positions of affiliate organisations, including the Australian Liberal Party. (10)

In 1990 the WACL underwent a further name change to the World League for Freedom and Democracy (WLFD) and continues to operate to the present day as the main co-ordinating body of far-right global affiliates. They would appear to have retained an active interest in the Philippines, in line with their Washington and Pentagon-based puppet-masters.

Successive presidential administrations in the US have, historically, turned a blind eye toward political problems in the Philippines from a standpoint of expedience. The Biden presidential administration will continue to follow the established pattern.

The three presidential administrations of Ferdinand Marcos, 1965-86, for example, were hallmarked by 'rampant corruption, political repression and human rights abuses', although the US stood by Marcos and his cronies. (11) And the Philippines, during the Marcos period, became a kleptocracy almost unparalleled in history.

When a massive uprising toppled the Marcos presidential administration in 1986, the US quietly used their military facilities to enable Marcos and his closest cronies to flee to Hawaii; the grouping had served 'US interests' well and were, therefore, protected.

Marcos family comeback

Within a short time of the death of Ferdinand Marcos in 1989, however, family members were allowed back into the Philippines to not only re-settle but to also move into influential positions. Nearly three decades later they are, once again, vying for political power and influence. Two of the most prominent family members, Ferdinand Marcos Jnr., together with Imee Marcos have both already had experience in the Senate. There are also numerous others in a variety of local and provincial administrations. They have been assisted with the return of vast wealth, estimated to be around $10 billion, in a country where bribery and vote-buying is the norm. (12) The presidential election campaign next year will be the same.

In more recent times the far-right in the Philippines have also been quite brash; they have drawn heavily upon the swashbuckling bravado of the Trump administration to push politically divisive agendas serving 'US interests'. Foreign Minister Teddy Locsin, for example, was noted as stating on social media that the 'Nazis were not all wrong' together with a citing of Hitler's military and economic policies. (13) It has provided a glimpse of things to come.  

In conclusion, the recent diplomatic stand-off between the Philippines and China is far more complicated than the presence of Chinese fishing boats in contested waters in the South China Seas. It is the outcome of the present Cold War between the US and China, and Philippine associates of the far-right seizing upon an issue, dear to the hearts of anti-imperialists throughout the Philippines, to polarise political opinion in the lead-up to presidential elections next year.

As Jose Maria Sison, leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines has said, “Serving two imperialist powers that are now conflicting can become a big problem for Duterte.” He has added recently that “the US has no reason to keep him in power beyond 2022.”

With the US showing no sign of altering their present regional foreign policies and the likelihood of the already simmering tensions escalating into real-war scenarios, we should be on our guard about being possibly drawn into military confrontations in the South China Seas, set-up by the Philippine far-right to serve the 'US interests':  

                                          We need an independent foreign policy!  

1.     Philippines in bid to keep Beijing at bay, Australian, 12 May 2021.
2.     Ibid.
3.     Ibid.
4.     Philippine plans, This Week in Asia, 12 May 2021.
5.     Wikipedia: Commander Cirilito Sobejana.
6.     Inside the League, Scott Anderson and Jon Lee Anderson, New York, 1986), pp. 46-47.
7.     Statement by President Syngman Rhee, Fourth Session of APACL, 16 June 1954, Declassified, Wilson Center Digitial Archive.
8.     Inside the League, op.cit., page 281, and, page 59.
9.     Shoes, jewels and moneys, FP., 16 April 2014.
10.   Inside the League, op.cit., page 59; and, WACL website: 9 January 1990, which provided information about John Howard attending the 1989 WACL conference in Brisbane, Australia, as a registered delegate.
11.   FP., op.cit., 16 April 2014.
12.   Ibid.
13.   Wikipedia: Teddy Locsin Jnr.



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