Government News Analysis

What’s wrong with the gong

Last night, self-styled ‘defender of the people’ Senator Leila De Lima, was being feted at the 5-star Four Season’s Hotel, Washington DC – the most expensive accommodation in the US capital. She was there as a guest of Foreign Policy (FP) magazine – an Establishment-backing global-matters publication – to receive an award. And she’d have been in her element – among the bluebloods, the political and media nobility and the rest of the glitterati in attendance.

For De Lima, every second of her moment in the limelight at the annual ‘100 Global Thinkers Awards’ would have been magical. And why not? She was being honoured. She was finally being recognised for the heroine she always knew she was. The heroine she’s always proclaimed herself to be.

But all that jolts with her situation back in the Philippines where she’s under investigation for allegedly profiteering from the sale of illegal drugs and using the money to fund her senatorial campaign. There are other issues, too, like her “unethical conduct” as a lawmaker in the Senate and that she tarnished the image of the legal profession through her adulterous affair with her driver – charges that could see her evicted from Congress and struck from the Philippine bar.

The fact is, too, that she’s in the US courtesy of the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ). De Lima’s been on an Immigration Watch List since October and the only reason why the DOJ gave her permission to travel to the US – and then on to Germany – is because no formal charges have yet been brought against her. She’s promised to return to the Philippines on 22 December –one day after she’s due to appear at a preliminary investigation hearing. So that’s the person the FP was honouring.

But what’s most telling about the award that this bi-monthly bestowed on the senator is the reason given for her winning it. This accolade was in the category “Challengers” – people who, in the magazine’s opinion, are worthy of recognition for challenging people whom, in the magazine’s opinion, are unworthy of such.

Thus, the FP caption reads: “Leila De Lima, Senator/Philippines. For standing up to an extremist leader”.  Well, one charge we can’t level against FP is that it lacks bias.

So this award is not so much about De Lima’s ‘courage’ as it is about FP’s palpable dislike of Duterte – a dislike that’s echoes across every column inch it prints about him.

For example, in an October article, penned by Max Boot, a fellow at the government-heavy Council of Foreign Relations – yet another self-absorbed ‘non-profit, think tank’ and a plate maker for One World Government – Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte was described as “a crude populist [whose foreign-policy switch from the US to China] is the product of his peculiar psychology … He has cited Hitler as his role model … [and now US defence strategy in East Asia] could be undone because of the whims of one unhinged leader”.

All that’s long hand for ‘Duterte is a vulgar madman with a passion for genocide whose ideas only appeal to the mass ill-informed and illiterate of the Philippine proletariat’ – 16 million of them in this case. Thus, giving this award to De Lima, Duterte’s arch foe, is the FP’s way of sticking it to the Philippine president.

So that’s FP’s very clear editorial position on the Philippines’ leader. But then that’s not entirely surprising. The editor and CEO of this elitist low-circulation publication is David J. Rothkopf – a Democrat, who’s voted for President Barack Obama twice and hails from Illinois, the state from which Obama, as its senator, trapezed into the White House. He was also Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Policy and Development in the Democrat administration of Bill Clinton.

And, as you would suspect, the FP – like the rest of the fawning US media; although this one’s government-minted – was resolutely behind Bill’s missus in the recent US presidential election which she so magnificently lost to that other figure of abject evil in the FP’s eyes, Donald Trump.

In fact, despite its insistence that “we cherish and fiercely protect this publication’s independence and its reputation for objectivity” – honestly we’re not making this up – “It is for all these reasons that FP’s editors are now breaking with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton for the next president of the United States”. The hypocrisy is as dazzling as a lightening strike in a total eclipse.

The FP’s political stance as far as the Obama-Clinton coterie is concerned is crystal clear. And so is its stance on Duterte – a man who had the temerity to confront the most powerful man in the world and the FP’s poster boy, calling him out for grossly interfering in Philippine internal affairs. In fact, it’s Duterte the magazine should have been honouring. He should have been their pick for “Challengers”. On that criteria he’s certainly our pick.

But De Lima wasn’t the only Philippine politician to be lionised at the Four Season’s. Another Challengers winner was former journalist, Geraldine B. Roman, a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. In other words, she’s been in politics for all of seven months. Her caption reads: “Geraldine Roman. Congresswoman/Philippines. For redefining fitness to govern”.

We’re not entirely sure what that means. It’s rather vague to put it kindly. Plainly, she hasn’t done much governing in her short term in the House, though the seat she took has been in the Roman family since 2007, having previously been occupied by her mother, Hermania. Politics in the Philippines, though, is often a family affair.

However, most probably Geraldine is getting her Challengers gong because she’s the first ever transgender woman to be elected to the Philippine Congress. Presumably, having sex reassignment surgery and switching careers from journalism to politics is how she’s “redefined the fitness to govern”. Who cares? More significantly for us is that both De Lima and Roman are members of the anti-Duterte Liberal Party. Maybe it’s just a coincidence; maybe we’re just cynical.

In Germany, De Lima is attending the Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy organised by the high-sounding Institute of Cultural Diplomacy – a little-known conference organiser – to “raise awareness and support for activities that promote global human rights”.

For De Lima, these two appearances on the world stage, minor events though they may have been, will no doubt reinvigorate her. She’ll certainly milk them for all they’re worth – that she’s been acclaimed at an international gathering as a slayer of dragons; and at another that her dedication to the cause of human rights has been acknowledged.

But don’t rest on your laurels, Leila, gongs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In 1935 Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. So was Adolph Hitler four years later; and so was the biggest genocidal madman of them all, Joseph Stalin – twice, in 1945 and 1948. Alright they didn’t get on Foreign Policy’s Challengers List, but we’re sure you get the point.

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