JUNE 1, 2019


Duals Need to Pay Attention Here


Iíd like to say whatever happens in the Philippines stays in the Philippines, but it seems that ďnationalistic/authoritarian thingĒ is racing round the world. And itís not stopping in the Philippines.

In India, Prime Minister Modi has secured another victory in parliament based on a national security-grounded Hindu nationalism. Add China to the mix, and you have the ancestral politics of the Big Three Asian American communities in the U.S. (Chinese, 4.9 million; Asian Indian, 4.1 million; Filipino, 3.9 million).

And isnít it great weíre in America?

I still have family ties in the Philippines, but havenít been there in more than 30 years. The last time I was in Asia in 2014, I was in Thailand and Malaysia. Close, but not the Philippines.

Both my parents were naturalized U.S. citizens from the Philippines, but they passed away before I could invoke my right to become a dual citizen. And now I donít know if it would have been worth it.

Does the Philippines even want us to be ďbi-ď in that way, as in bi-national?

Judging from the latest midterm elections, Iím not sure.

The Philippines sent out ballots to an estimated 228,500 voters in the U.S--but forgot to pay the postage, according to poll watchers.

The ballots were delayed, and the Philippine government had to send out $1 million to cover the postage due. On top of that, the ballots were misaddressed, leaving some dual citizens upset at why their registrations were abruptly changed.

All of this acted as a coincidental monkey wrench in an effort among liberal to moderate left Filipinos to assure a voice in the Philippine Senate that would be strong enough to say no to the resident autocrat, President Rodrigo Duterte.

Of the twelve seats that were open, none of the liberals won a spot. The closest one came in 14th, an incumbent senator, Benigno Bam Aquino, the nephew of People Powerís Cory Aquino. The hope is that the U.S. vote, a fraction of the 1.3 million overseas voters might make a difference.

They did not.

And so Philippine watchers will wait to see if the new Senate becomes a rubber stamp for the whims of Duterte, who has been talking about a move to a parliamentary style of government. Or if a handful of legislators decide to stand up for the U.S.-style democracy which the Philippines was modeled after since after World War II.

Iíd say judging from the election results, the voice of the people was heard and it was resounding in its support for Duterte.

Thatís the way the people see it.

It leaves me less than optimistic that the liberal forces, so thoroughly thrashed in the election, will have the sway needed to challenge any moves by Duterte.

As an American Filipino, Iím concerned.

But I have a greater sentimental sense of right and wrong and the rule of law. I want whatís right for the Filipino people as well. But they are the ultimate arbiters and seem to be moving toward an ďends-justifies the meansĒ autocracy ready to embrace whatever Duterte wants.

Extrajudicial killings of drug dealers? Even if it fills the prisons and even kills an innocent person or two or three?

Itís something that Trump has publicly says he admires.

Itís the reason the Rappler journalist Maria Ressa said prior to the election that the Philippine mid-terms would also be a cautionary tale on democracy for the U.S. and the world.

She warned that if the liberals canít win enough seats to mount a strong opposition to Duterte, fundamental changes can come quickly.

That may be the case but it may be time to turn your attention to the U.S. part of the equation.

Maybe itís time we finally say ďLet the Philippines be the Philippines without us.Ē Duterteís extrajudicial killings are affronts to freedom and democracy, sure. But have you noticed, we have our own democracy troubles here?

President Trumpís stonewalling on subpoenas are a clear challenge to Congress which has oversight on the executive branch.

Already two federal judges have upheld the idea that Congress and investigators have a right to see financial documents of Donald Trump, even from before his presidency.

The issue is whether Trump has continued to profit from his businesses while being president, or whether heís been in receipt of ďemoluments.Ē

Watch for that word. It means any kind of compensation or payment that Trump may have received as president that may be considered a conflict of interest.

Thereís a lot of that sort of thing in Asian countries where the rule of law is not so strong. Rule of personal/political will generally prevails. Thatís also called corruption, and itís abundant in societies and governments where democracies are not quite as strong as that of the United States.

We should be concerned about all of it: How Trump and his lawyers comply or not with the courtís upholding of Congressional scrutiny. How otherís subpoenaed come forward or not (including Robert Mueller). How Trump stonewalls Congress and creates a defacto state that puts him above the law.

Thatís not where a president is supposed to sit.

Ordinarily, we can sit under our palm trees and read about the Washington shenanigans and feel apart from it all.

But this is fundamental U.S. government stuff.

If the Trump stonewall continues our democracy is diminished until good people push back.

Itís been said that Nancy Pelosi is slow-rolling impeachment based on the polls. But thereís enough evidence of Trumpís misconduct just from the Mueller Report to go ahead.

We didnít really need the Trump tantrum last week on infrastructure, though thatís a fairly good reminder of what kind of person weíre dealing with.

So you see, if youíre a dual citizen, itís time to focus on our own problems in the U.S.

The fight for democracy is on multiple fronts.

But perhaps itís time to let the Philippines be the Philippines without us, lest the U.S. becomes something else without us.


EMIL GUILLERMO is a veteran journalist and commentator. He was on the editorial board of the Honolulu Advertiser, and a columnist for the Starr-Bulletin. Twitter @emilamo

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