By Ben Rosario
As soon as the last of foreign leaders flew out from the country, opposition lawmakers quickly unleashed loads of criticisms against the way the ASEAN summit proceeded.
Not even President Rodrigo Duterte’s way of wearing the Barong Tagalog, the national formal outfit for Filipino men, escaped critical observation from House of Representatives oppositionists allied with the Liberal Party.
“The sloppy way of wearing the barong of the president is something that downgrades the image of a Filipino leader,” said Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice.
Erice added: “I think a president shouldn’t be lousy and sloppy in the way he dresses specially while representing the Filipinos in an international major event.”
Erice’s remarks are apparently a follow-up of disparaging statements issued by fashion critics about how Duterte carried the barong while hosting formal events of the ASEAN summit for world leaders known for their sartorial elegance.
However, it will also be recalled that Erice has been a staple in Duterte’s public denounciations against abuses committed by mining firms. The president had linked him as the alleged backer of a mining corporation that is facing various cases in court.
Opposition Reps. Tom Villarin (Akbayan Partylist); Edcel Lagman (LP, Albay); Teddy Baguilat (LP, Ifugao) and Gary Alejano (Magdalo Partylist) also issued press statements assailing various aspects of the summit hosted by Manila.
“The ASEAN summit was a failed PR sting out to project the Duterte administration as a leader of a regional bloc that enjoys high economic growth and an important market for global capital,” said Villarin.
He noted that world leaders who showed up in Manila have chosen to ignore major issues affecting various countries and the international community.
“While it dazzled in panoramic glitz hosting world leaders, what was starkly left out was the region’s poverty, environmental crisis, border conflicrt and human trafficking, human rights abuses including a genocide being committed in Rohingya and mass murder in a war against illegal drugs in Manila, the host capital,” Villarin said.
Alejano made an issue out of the encounters between the police and protesters during rallies that targetted US President Donald Trump.
“Two important issues that were expected to be raised during the summit are peace and stability in South China Sea and the concerns on human rights violation under the Philipppines’ war on drugs. These were hardly taken up,” said Alejano, a close ally of Duterte’s chief critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes III.
For his part, Baguilat lamented that Filipinos got “monstrous and glitzy photo ops and social gathering” in exchange for the billions of pesos government spent in hosting the regional summit.
“I don’t recall any major and significant regional agreement drafted or approved by the bloc. It’s all just handshakes and safe rhetoric,” said Baguilat.
Lagman, the acknowledged leader of the independent opposition group in the Lower House, said that there is nothing about whether or not Trump and Duterte discussed human rights concerns during their bilateral talks.
“Obviously, the restraints of diplomacy and deference to the host country foreclosed any extended discussion by the two presidents on an embarrassing issue, which has been repeatedly condemned globally and locally by human rights groups and advocates,” he said.
Lagman added: “What is overriding is that the Duterte administration must end forthwith the extrajudicial killings even without the prodding of foreign leaders.”
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