By Office of Senator Alan Cayetano
September 5, 2016
PASAY CITY – Ahead of the historic first meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and United States President Barack Obama, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano wrote an open letter appealing to the head of the world's biggest superpower to "give the Philippines and President Duterte a chance" to achieve genuine change, even as his government wages a three-pronged war to address poverty, defeat drugs and criminality, and achieve just and inclusive peace amid criticisms.
In his open letter, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair also appealed to President Obama to help the Philippines pursue an independent foreign policy that balances the country's relations with the US and China, even as he affirmed the country's firm commitment to the US as a long-time ally.
"As a Citizen of the world and a believer in Change, allow me to write you an open letter to attempt to articulate the audacity of the Filipino people to hope for a better future and to aspire for a nation that is secure, peaceful, law abiding and prosperous," wrote Cayetano.
"I write to you because more than any other person, you know how it feels to have the weight of the world on your shoulders...to have the burden of fixing the problems of your own country but having to constantly live up to the expectations of the entire world," he continued.
The senator said that like President Obama, who persevered to overcome challenges and accomplish so much for the American people in the last 7 years, the Philippines now has a president who has shown willingness to sacrifice his life and honor to see that change comes to all Filipinos.
"After decades of hopelessness and up to 10 million Filipinos leaving our country to find work in foreign lands and after an entire generation exposed to the perils of illegal drugs, we finally have a President who is trying to get the country back on the right track," Cayetano explained.
"Now it is our turn. Our turn to experience Change we can believe in," he said, echoing the central theme of the presidential campaign that won Obama the US presidency.
He then asked: "Will you now allow us to lose hope and fail? Will the West deny us the 'Change we can believe in?'"
Cayetano noted that President Duterte has been misjudged by some sectors based on the way he speaks. This has been aggravated by a misinformation campaign about the human rights situation in the country, he added.
"Does he (Pres. Duterte) not deserve to be judged on his record and his actions? On facts and not manipulated statistics? On where he wants to bring the country rather than his sometimes politically incorrect words?" he asked.
On the two countries' relations, Cayetano stressed that the Philippines deserves a chance to assert its national identity and pursue an independent foreign policy.
Explaining further, Cayetano defined this as "a foreign policy for Filipinos by Filipinos" which shall be marked by "a balanced friendship with our oldest ally and big brother the United States of America on one hand and a friendship of mutual respect with our neighbor China on the other."
Cayetano expressed confidence that as President Obama has tried at every turn to avoid war and promote peace in various parts of the world, a win-win situation can also be worked out for the USA, Philippines and China.
The senator then cautioned against efforts by pessimists, critics, and hardliners in the West, the United Nations, and within the country who want the US and the Philippines to continue to bicker and disagree.
"Hardliners fear the Philippine government will make peace with the communist rebels. Critics fear that Christians and Muslims can't build communities and a nation together. Pessimists say that we can't be a drug-free country," he explained.
"Will we let the pessimists and hardliners win Mr. President? Or will we persevere and try to understand each other, so we can wake up one day to a peaceful, prosperous and progressive Philippines?"
"Can't we give the Philippines and President Duterte a Chance?" he concluded, even as expressed hope for a successful meeting between the two heads of state.