Duterte goes analogue

Duterte goes analogue
Filipino president considers ditching his smartphone as he thinks the CIA is using it to eavesdrop on him. In 2016, Duterte, a controversial figure across the world, won the general election and assumed the office of the President. One of his key campaign promises that he had made was to be tough on criminals. He often urged the...

Filipino president considers ditching his smartphone as he thinks the CIA is using it to eavesdrop on him.

Background

In 2016, Duterte, a controversial figure across the world, won the general election and assumed the office of the President. One of his key campaign promises that he had made was to be tough on criminals. He often urged the public to take law into their own hands and kill drug addicts saying “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.”

The rift between the US and the Philippines became apparent after Duterte came to power. He openly advocated an independent foreign policy and aimed to establish closer ties with China and Russia.

The US has been critical on his War on Drugs, in which he openly insinuates the extrajudicial killing of drug offenders, and have refused to sell assault rifles and other heavy armaments to the Philippines, despite having a historic friendship.

Analysis

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is thinking of dumping his smartphone over fears that the CIA is constantly eavesdropping on his conversations and might use his private information to eventually assassinate him.

“I know, the US is listening. I’m sure it’s the CIA, it’s also the one who will kill me,” Duterte said in Cebu City on Tuesday, rejuvenating fears that Washington may seek his demise over his independent foreign policy and willingness to obtain weapons from other global suppliers.

To avert possible smartphone intrusion by outside powers, which Duterte said could include "Russia, China, Israel, and maybe Indonesia,” the 73-year-old leader is considering going back to using a basic cell phone, with which eavesdropping and interception are harder.

Moscow and Manila signed a military cooperation agreement last year, with Russia already supplying over 5,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to the Philippines for free, to help it fight Islamist insurgency.

Despite pressure from the US, Duterte’s government is also considering the purchase of patrol boats, helicopters, armoured vehicles and even submarines from Russia.

Duterte has long feared that the CIA might be out for vengeance amid deteriorating bilateral ties with Washington. Just last Friday, Duterte once again noted that the CIA “wanted me dead.”

Washington’s refusal to sell assault rifles to Manila, over concerns about the country’s human rights record amid its ongoing war on drugs, has forced Duterte to seek new suppliers. Manila, which has long depended on the US for weapons, turned to China and Russia to fill the gap.

US-Philippines relations, however, have never been based on mutual respect, Duterte stressed, noting Washington's failure to treat Manila as an equal partner.

President Duterte highlighted that the US sold refurbished arms to the Philippines whereas China and Russia offer ‘brand-new’ supplies without preconditions.

In response to a statement made by US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver, Duterte once again defended his choice to seek new arms suppliers.

The summation of Duterte’s pivot towards China and Russia is his brutal War on Drugs. There appears to be a gradual decline in the US-Philippines relation which is largely attributed to President Duterte’s unhinged crackdown on drug offenders.

In addition to his Human Rights record as Mayor of Davao, a city in Southern Philippines, the US is actively looking to change course on their commitment to arms sales to the Philippines. This has led to President Duterte denouncing US arms sales as not up to the mark, decidedly favouring Chinese and Russian weapon systems.

Assessment

Our assessment is that President Duterte’s fear of the CIA using his smartphone to spy on him is an act of rabble-rousing. It is a distraction from a possibly genuine criticism of his human rights record and the radical anti-drug policy in the Philippines. We feel that the Philippines will construct closer ties with China and Russia during the remainder of President Duterte’s term, which will see the Philippines reaping the benefits from the BRI projects proposed in the South China Sea.

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