Did Cory Gardner Get Played By Rodrigo Duterte? Answer: Yes

Sen. Cory Gardner, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

Stories in the Denver Post, two Denver television stations, and many other news outlets via the AP about Sen. Cory Gardner’s unannounced trip to Manila to visit with notorious Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte added up to one of the worst news cycles for Colorado’s junior Senator in recent memory. As Denver7’s Blair Miller reported last night:

What exactly is Sen. Cory Gardner doing in the Philippines shaking hands with under-fire president Rodrigo Duterte?

That was the question many in Colorado asked Thursday when Filipino president’s press office put out photos of the two shaking hands in a meeting that happened Wednesday.

“Sen. Cory Gardner owes the people of Colorado an explanation for why he can’t meet with us, but has time to visit with murderous Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte,” read an email blast from ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii.

Colorado politico social media blew up from there, as those on the left and right traded barbs over Gardner’s meeting and his lack of in-person town hall meetings in his home state.

One of the reasons this story rapidly turned disastrous for Sen. Gardner was the lack of any advance word of his intention to visit with President Duterte, whose alleged widespread human rights violations in less than a year in office have rendered him perhaps America’s most controversial foreign ally. As we discussed yesterday, Duterte is accused in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of his own citizens as part of a crackdown on drug use and trafficking in the Philippines. Duterte has reportedly boasted about personally killing drug traffickers, and recently joked that his troops could commit a certain number of rapes before being punished.

Gardner could have easily avoided being lumped in with Duterte if he had made this trip public before going, and stating clearly in advance that he was going to call Duterte out. But he didn’t do that, and after the story blew up on social media and local news outlets, Gardner responded to the Denver Post with a belated statement about his supposed intentions of criticizing Duterte for his widely-reported human rights violations.

We’ll never really know what Gardner said to Duterte, mostly because the local Filipino news reports of the meeting contain no details–and the video released by the government of the Philippines of their meeting curiously included no audio. What we can say is there were two very different audiences from Gardner’s visit. Gardner says now to American media he engaged Duterte on the subject of human rights abuses in the Philippines. But in Filipino media, we haven’t found a single reference to any criticism of Duterte–only that Sen. Gardner paid a “courtesy call.”

And as the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning observes from the leaked notes of the meeting we posted yesterday, it doesn’t seem like Duterte was expecting much criticism:

“I am determined to put an end to the illicit drug trade,” Duterte’s script says. “Illegal drug trade money is helping fund instability in my country. It will be dealt with accordingly, with the full force of the law employed to destroy the illegal drug trade apparatus.”

“We appreciate the US’ support for the Philippines’ comprehensive war against the illegal drugs trade,” he continues. “I hope we can continue to find ways to work together to completely dismantle and destroy the apparatus of the illegal drug trade.” [Pols emphasis]

Toward the end of yesterday’s bad press for Sen. Gardner, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark got Gardner on the phone to ask whether he agrees with President Donald Trump’s effusive praise for Duterte’s tactics. In response, Gardner gave an answer that started out alright, but swiftly deteriorated into waffling:

CLARK: Duterte’s brutal anti-drug campaign has killed drug addicts in the streets, but President Trump has praised Duterte’s tactics in a leaked transcript of their first conversation.

CLARK (on phone): Do you share the President’s positive view of that campaign?

GARDNER: We must follow the rule of law, and that’s what I expressed. That’s why I said to the President that we have to have rule of law, we have to have transparency, we have to have investigations of any, uh, type of extrajudicial killing–well, excuse me, we have to have investigations of any killings to assure that it’s not, uh, extrajudicial killing. [Pols emphasis]

Folks, there is no question that extrajudicial killings in the Philippines are taking place. Duterte has personally boasted about committing extrajudicial killings. Gardner’s self-correction to allow for the possibility that there are not extrajudicial killings taking place in the Philippines under Duterte severely undermines Gardner’s contention that he went to Manila to call Duterte out in any way.

That, and the smiling video clips sans audio, and the long on-camera handshakes! Whatever Gardner thought he was accomplishing with this furtive trip to Manila, his cozying up to Duterte is all the Filipino people will ever see. At the end of the day, what Gardner was to Duterte was a prop. Gardner’s visit served to validate Duterte domestically, not to chasten him.

And that is the only thing that matters.

15 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DaftPunkDaftPunk says:

    Is our Philipine Foreign Policy being run out of a vanity shop in Yuma?

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      We actually have an official ambassador to the Phillipines – Sung Kim, who also has expertise in Korean, Chinese, and other Asian affairs. He is reputed to have great charm and people skills.  I think I saw him in the background on the Gardner – Duterte photo op.  I hope that Duterte gets along with him better than he did with the last ambassador, Goldberg, whom he called "A gay son of a whore".

      So my theory is that Cory went to see Duterte, not for anything human-rights-related, and not because Duterte is fighting ISIS affiliates, and has instituted martial law, plus checkpoints in Manila to deal with threats to US citizens. It's not because we have five military bases in the Phillipines, and are sending troops there even now to train Filipinos to fight terrorists.

      Cory met with Duterte, I think, because Cory has legislation in process which would make an American public resolution against China's building (and militarizing) that fricking island in the middle of the South China Sea. And I don't oppose it, if that was the purpose. I'd just like to see the American moral "stick" as well as the "carrot". If you want American aid against ISIS, President Duterte, you're going to have to meet ______ human rights standards first.

      The US Embassy in the Phillipines has good*, up-to-date information on the Resorts World attack, on the checkpoints in Manila, and other matters. What role did the Embassy play in Cory's caper?

      What will a Trump administration do if Duterte's martial law leads to more verified reports of abuse, torture, and rape, which he has already said he would condone? At what point do we start exerting the United States' moral authority on this situation? Do we ever? And what role will Mr. Gardner play in that?

      *As far as I know, it's good. There are sites which contradict it, purportedly quoting the ISIS affiliated rebels.

    • MichaelBowmanMichaelBowman says:

      We're slowly warming up to foreign leaders in Yuma County.  Our largest feedlot is owned by the Brazilians, our pork complex is owned by the Chinese.  Monsanto effectively controls our corn acreage; they're being swallowed up by the Germans.

      It'd be hard to find a better-suited poster child for the globalization the Dumphuckistanians and Drumpfsters so loathe than the one right under their nose.  

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        I think that my little "All American City" has some of the same foreign companies in the agricultural sector. For sure, with the corn and wheat.

        To its credit, the town rejected a Walmart, which then located 10 miles down the road. But we still have local-owned hardware and grocery stores. Cargill meat plant is American owned.

  2. ModeratusModeratus says:

    This is flat wrong. Gardner was there to represent America, and I have no doubt he brought up human rights violations. He met with the head of the Philippine Human Rights Commission. Colorado Pols's job is to attack Gardner no matter what he does. This smear campaign is a perfect example.

    Enough! Not everything Gardner does is evil.

  3. Genghis says:

    Congressional Republicans and foreign mass murderers go together like inebriated hillbillies and explosives.

  4. JohnInDenver says:

    I'm sure Senator Gardner worked with due diligence to pursue the key objectives the current regime in Washington. His role as Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy makes the visit potentially helpful in understanding the possibilities for US action.

    What accommodations are on the table? How will the United States be supporting a leader who declares martial law, who freely boasts of the "success" of his campaign against illegal drugs as thousands of murders are committed in the course of trying to "arrest" users and low-level dealers, and who wavers in his statements about allowing US military bases or eliminating them?

     

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Some transparency here would help a lot. It shouldn't be up to leftie bloggers to try to figure out what the hell the foreign policy is  in regard to Phillipines, China, and the ASEAN countries. There should be some speeches, or objectives, or something. The current Phillipine ambassador was an Obama appointee. The policy objectives posted on the US Embassy for the Phillipines, were put together under Obama, and include:

      *partnership in economic growth

      *end to corruption

      *strengthen the rule of law

      *less regulation, to enncourage investment

      *higher "fiscal performance", which I think means more tax revenue collected.

      So these on the whole, are good policies. I wonder how much the Trump regime is committed to them.

      Unfortunately, our chief executive is almost completely inarticulate when it comes to policy speeches. I don't think we'll be hearing from him anytime soon. Which brings me back to Cory. Is he a stand-in for someone with real authority?

  5. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Journalists in the Phillipines are targeted for assassination and imprisonment if they contradict the Duterte line.  These have to be some of the bravest people in the world.

     

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