The Philippines

Neither will be ideal but Clinton is 'a better match'

Whoever becomes the United States' next president will have to deal with the Philippines' volatile leader, Mr Rodrigo Duterte, and it won't be a pretty sight, analysts say.

Mrs Hillary Clinton will likely pursue President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, which will set her against Mr Duterte's wish to rid the Philippines of US troops in two years.

Mr Donald Trump, meanwhile, shares Mr Duterte's short fuse and cocky temperament. That can quickly set off a misunderstanding that may, in turn, plunge already frayed relations between Manila and Washington even deeper down the diplomatic abyss.

Mr Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform, said he sees the new US president engaging in "hardball diplomacy" with Mr Duterte. He cited the US State Department's decision to halt the planned sale of more than 26,000 M4 assault rifles to the Philippines over Mr Duterte's human rights record as a manifestation of that kind of diplomacy. "We can expect more of that," he said.

Political analyst Richard Javad Heydarian, of De La Salle University, said that while neither Mrs Clinton nor Mr Trump "will be ideal", Mrs Clinton will "definitely be a better match" to Mr Duterte.

Mrs Clinton will likely pursue President Barack Obama's "pivot" to Asia, which will set her against Mr Duterte's wish to rid the Philippines of US troops in two years. Mr Trump, meanwhile, shares Mr Duterte's short fuse and cocky temperament. That can quickly set off a misunderstanding that may, in turn, plunge already frayed relations... even deeper down the diplomatic abyss.

 

He said that unlike Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton has had a history of dealing with "prickly" leaders like Mr Duterte, citing her experience with Turkey's President Recep Erdogan. "Duterte and Erdogan are both strongmen, strong-willed and very charismatic. Erdogan has on occasion threatened to cut off American access over US criticism of his human rights record. If Clinton can deal with Turkey, I think she can pull off a similar trick with Duterte," he said.

Ms Ella Salvacion, 43, a senior staff member at a US call centre company here, said while she disdains Mr Trump for his anti-women rants, she does not expect either him or Mrs Clinton to have any big impact on US investments in the Philippines, particularly on the business process outsourcing industry, which employs more than 1.2 million Filipinos.

She said business will always trump politics.

"The Americans are unlikely to pack up and leave just because they don't like Duterte. We are still paid substantially less than our American counterparts. I think we get only a quarter of what they get," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 05, 2016, with the headline 'Neither will be ideal but Clinton is 'a better match''. Print Edition | Subscribe