I cannot claim to know Fidel V. Ramos very well, but I know him well enough to be able to say that he does not suffer fools gladly and he has a very low level of tolerance for people who, as he said recently in his newspaper column, are peddlers of sh_t. With this in mind, I would have given anything to be able to hear what the 12th President of the Philippines said to President Rodrigo Duterte in the course of their well-publicized meeting in Malacanang last week.
FVR minced no words in addressing, in his column, the positions taken by Rodrigo Duterte on two very important national issues. I refer to the gamut of relations between the Philippines and the US and the United Nations-sponsored treaty on climate-change mitigation that went into effect on Nov. 4 upon its ratification by the acquired minimum number of signatories. Mr. Duterte must have gotten an earful from FVR.
Why is it likely that FVR spoke last week to Rodrigo Duterte in forthright, you’re-full-of-it terms? Several reasons. The 12th President is a respected and admired – not feared and despised – citizen of this Republic. He was the principal hero of the Edsa Revolution – the glorious event of Feb. 22-25, 1986 that the family and supporters of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos want to reduce to historical insignificance – and he left the presidency after six years of governance that witnessed the removal of the institutional and policy roadblocks to national economic efficiency and placed the Philippine economy on the road to more rapid and sustainable growth. FVR did it all and has nothing more to prove.
The second reason why I am inclined to believe that Mr. Duterte received an earful from FVR was that the 12th President is a firm believer in solid staff work and has no patience for people who open their mouths and say things that have not been thoroughly studied and, worse, are full of the four-letter word that he mentioned in his column. When one spouts hot air, one gets a steely look from the Man from Asingan (Pangasinan).
The third, and by no means least important, reason is that FVR feels entitled to speak his mind to Mr. Duterte in the wake of Duterte’s claim – since denied by FVR – that the 12th President flew down to Davao last year to persuade Mr. Duterte to make a run for the presidency. On at least two occasions the incumbent president introduced FVR and then expressed thanks to FVR for having encouraged him to make his presidential run. FVR probably thought, if you say that I was partly responsible for your having become president, then I have every right to upbraid you for the foolish things that you have been saying and doing.
And foolish, in FVR’s view, have been Duterte’s actions and utterances on Philippine-US relations and climate change. He has said so in no uncertain terms in his column.
Why quarrel with the US, the Philippines’ longtime defense ally and economic partner, in your quest for an “independent foreign policy”, FVR asked Duterte in his column. Why must such a policy be exclusive of longtime friends? Your foreign policy moves are “discombobulating,” FVR told Mr. Duterte.
FVR had very sharp words for Duterte with regard to the UN-sponsored climate change treaty, which Duterte had declared he would not respect. “All the reasons you have advanced for not honoring the treaty are full of sh_t,” the straight-talking 12th President told Duterte.
If I were asked to liken the recent turn in relations between Rodrigo Duterte and FVR to a sporting event, I would choose a baseball game, with Duterte as batter and FVR as pitcher. At this point the score is Strike 2.
In baseball, Strike 3 means that the batter is out. Is Strike 3 on the way?