Bunye: Don’t ever threaten President Rody

Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

THE President’s unorthodox diplomatic moves have once again drawn mixed reactions.

Veterans at the DFA are once more scratching their heads at the President’s “undiplomatic” pronouncements.

Detractors’ descriptions of presidential policy range from “rash,” “short-sighted,” “whimsical,” “contradictory,” “knee-jerk” to “confusing.”

His defenders, on the other hand, are quick to rally around the President, calling his action “bold,” “fiercely independent,” “determined” and “a significant shift in the Philippines’ foreign policy direction.”

One thing is certain though. President Rody has caught everybody’s attention, especially world leaders. And that makes him one of the most recognizable world leaders of influence today. Certainly a huge leap from the “probinsiyano mayor.”

At the center of last week’s discussions was the decision last Wednesday to inform the EU delegation in Manila that the Philippine government will no longer accept new grants from the European Union.

But this should not have come as a surprise at all. Malacanang merely formalized what President Rody had been saying all along.

When the EU and the US, both huge ODA donors, as much as hinted (read as: ‘threatened’) that ODA assistance would be cut, Duterte fired back: “Go ahead. We will not beg for it.”

Both donors had called Duterte to account for unexplained killings arising from Duterte’s war on drugs. The EU, in addition, took Duterte to task for the plan to reimpose the death penalty. Duterte considered such actions as undue interference in the affairs of a sovereign state.

When a US senator threatened to block the sale of armalites for the use of the Philippine national police, Duterte countered that the Philippines can always buy arms substitutes from China and Russia.

One diplomatic lesson learned: Don’t threaten Duterte. He just might call your bluff.

But are the EU and the US bluffing? Who has more to lose?

In the case of the EU aid, the numbers (over several years) are staggering: P13.9 Trillion. At a time when the Philippines is trying to raise trillions of pesos to fund its planned massive infrastructure program, Duterte’s decision may not make economic sense.

Palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella assured, however, that Duterte’s decision to reject the EU assistance was approved upon the recommendation of the Department of Finance. O, come on. I am speechless.

Abella also talked about substitute funding from China.

The full effect of the withdrawal/rejection (depends on your point of view), may not be immediately felt. But it will definitely impact, among many others, several EU-funded peace initiatives with Muslim rebels.

Echoing listener reactions in his popular radio program, DZBB’s Mike Enriquez asked President Rody to set aside amor propio. He reminded the President that no man is an island. No country is an island.

As to whether Duterte’s move is the right one, only time will tell.

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