What is Gilbert Teodoro up to in Washington DC?

Teodoro with Ambassador Gaa and two US defense officials. Photo grabbed from Philippine Embassy website.
Teodoro with Ambassador Gaa and two US defense officials. Photo grabbed from Philippine Embassy website.

President Arroyo’s defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro is on a largely quiet mission in the United States, with the 2010 presidential contender scheduled to speak on “the US-Philippine alliance” in a forum organized by conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation.

The Philippine embassy has given clues on what he seeks to accomplish while in the US:

  • Teodoro awarded medals to US defense officials “for their contribution in enhancing RP-US security cooperation, particularly on issues related to counterterrorism assistance and the Philippine Defense Reform Program”.
  • Teodoro also sat down with Ambassador Willy Gaa “to consult and discuss on ways to further boost RP-US security cooperation”.

What else he is up to? Is he also going to sit down with US defense secretary Robert Gates to fix “kinks” on the issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement which a senator and cause-oriented groups now want to be abrogated for being patently unfair and one-sided? Lest we forget, Gates has recently ordered a 600-man US counterinsurgency force to stay in the Philippines.

Come to think of it, Teodoro’s visit to the US coincides with the 10th anniversary of the VFA which is routinely used by both Manila and Washinton DC as license to violate the constitutional prohibition on foreign military presence and intervention in Philippine affairs. A decade of US military presence in Mindanao, in particular, has not produced results insofar as “advising” and “assisting” the Philippine military crushing local bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

Still on the VFA which Teodoro avidly defends: Various group will mark the VFA’s anniversary with a public forum on Sept. 11 at the University of the Philippines. Speakers include Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian, Atty. Evelyn Ursua and Prof. Roland Simbulan, an expert of US affairs in the Philippines.

vfa1

Teodoro may also be on damage control with the Arroyo government consistently getting failing marks in human rights and governance issues. The US Congress has previously laid down human rights-related preconditions on US military aid to the Philippines after a worldwide uproar over extrajudicial killings of activists and other opponents of Arroyo.

In a statement, the Washington DC-based Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines expressed suspicions on Teodoro’s visit:

As part of President Arroyo’s Cabinet and inner circle, [Teodoro] cannot be separated from the massive corruption, human rights abuses, mismanagement of the country’s economy, and the selling of Philippine sovereignty that have been central to the Arroyo administration As a May 2010 Presidential aspirant, Filipinos living in the US and all US taxpayers who help support the Philippines through aid need to be aware of this.

For the Obama administration to happily exploit this weakness and willingness of Philippine leaders to put their personal interests and ambitions, and the desires of foreign nations above their own people, it goes against the promise to change the foreign policy of intervention in favor of a ‘new beginning.’ Can you truly call this a ‘partnership’ when the outcomes strongly favor one side?

Teodoro’s visit to Washington DC could also be his way of signaling to the US that he deserves its support going into the 2010 elections which he intends to join although it is not yet sure he will be crowned as the standard-bearer of the pro-Arroyo ruling coalition. It is an open secret that the US plays a key role in determining who ends up being President of the Philippines despite formal democratic pretenses of free elections. Cementing pro-US deals now and providing Uncle Sam assurances of his fealty and loyalty may be Teodoro’s wild card in the coming electoral circus.

7 Comments

  1. Redante

    Hi Tonyo

    You might be interested in the new database “Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker” which discloses “more than 22,000 contacts with executive branch officials, members of Congress and their staffs and others as they sought favorable policies for their clients on everything from tax and trade issues to the resolution of longstanding territorial disputes and U.S. defense policy.”

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  2. Kalovski Itim

    Hi Tonyo,
    Our friends printed out copies of your blog write up and distributed to people who did join the Heritage Foundation sponsored forum in Washintton D.C. They will also distribute your write up in a forum at the Philippine Embassy and will be featured in one of the local newspapers here. The heritage foundation people is asking now who are you. So expect a spike in on blog or probably an interview in the coming months. -K

  3. Michelle

    TO elmot: I think Filipinos need to start being forward looking instead of being myopic on how a country/government should run. Yes, there had been disasters in RP, but it does not, and should not mean that the rest of government functions (such as external relations) must also be put into a halt. Gibo’s trip to DC had been scheduled for quite some time already. And besides, its not like Gibo is the only dude in RP or NDCC that can make a difference in disaster relief.

    For Mr. Tony, perhaps you need to take a closer look at RP-US cooperation in the South. The partnership between our two countries is not hinged on applying brute force but more on development programs. Both US and RP military men are doing projects such as building schools, bridges, roads etc. that have improved the situation in Basilan and now, in Jolo. Ive been to these areas before RP and US forces started working together in Mindanao. There is a big difference now. It may not be felt strongly here, for those who live in Manila and have NEVER been to these conflict areas, but to those who have been beneficiaries of the improved conditions in their communities, it is a big deal.

  4. tonyo

    Michelle, it is quite obvious that you’re for Gibo Teodoro and that explains the lavish praise you give him in your comment. It is a stretch to claim Teodoro as “the only dude in RP or the NDCC that can make a difference in disaster relief”. That is totally funny, ok, tragic because look at what happened to us when Ondoy struck. We the people took it upon ourselves in the crucial first hours since the typhoon struck. People themselves led in information gathering, mobilizing resources and manpower, etc. Even Teodoro would attest to that and not make fantastic claims as to the record of achievement of the NDCC under his watch. I hope we are talking about the same Teodoro and the same country.

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