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June 01, 2017 02:15 PM UTC

Gardner All Smiles With Philippine President Duterte

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE #3: As the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner met with notorious Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte this week, known globally for allegedly allowing thousands of extrajudicial killings, where a spokesman for the senator said the two spoke about “the importance to adhering to the rule of law” and battling extremists.

Their meeting happened in Manila, the Philippines capital, on Wednesday, according to captions on photographs of the Colorado Republican shaking hands and speaking with Duterte, which were released by Philippines Presidential Communications Operations Office…

ProgressNow Colorado, a left-leaning advocacy organization, quickly criticized the meeting and demanded “a full accounting of Gardner’s meeting with a murderous strongman who has been condemned by international human rights organizations.”

“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,” said ProgressNow’s executive director Ian Silverii. “Since taking office last year, Duterte’s regime has been accused of thousands of extrajudicial killings, encouraging lawless vigilante violence against civilians, and threats against journalists. Duterte has boasted about personally committing murder. Duterte is the last person Sen. Gardner should be associating with, and yet there he was — a headline in Filipino news media, smiling and shaking hands with this murderous strongman.”


UPDATE #2: Sen. Gardner issues a belated statement:

These meetings have been an important first-hand opportunity to discuss threats to US national security, such as North Korea’s illicit nuclear program and China’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea. Instead of engaging in press release diplomacy, Senator Gardner wanted to discuss face to face with President Duterte the importance to adhering to the rule of law. They also discussed joint efforts to defeat ISIS-linked groups, as they continue to gain a stronger presence in the country. These three nations all have an important role for the United States, and it is essential for our national security that we work together to stop anyone that wishes to cause harm to our country or our allies.


UPDATE: The meeting Sen. Cory Gardner wouldn’t confirm to Cyberscoop is big news in the Philippines:

Time to revise that statement, Sen. Gardner.


Filipino strongman Rodrigo Duterte.

A fascinating story of international intelligence agencies, hackers, and controversial moves by President Donald Trump in Asian foreign policy posted yesterday to Cyberscoop ropes in Colorado’s Sen. Cory Gardner, who has been in Asia on a junket during the current congressional recess:

A leaked transcript of a phone conversation between President Donald Trump and his Philippine counterpart was available online for weeks before surfacing in news reports, and it now appears to be just one of a series of sensitive Philippine government documents acquired by a hacker group with suspected ties to the Vietnamese government, according to research conducted by multiple cybersecurity experts and evidence gathered by CyberScoop…

The leak appears to be bigger than just one document. Included in the dump were notes regarding a conversation between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, briefing notes for a call between Philippine government officials and a U.S. senator, and internal documents tied to the Philippine National Security Council.

The files have signs of originating from the same two sources, as indicated by VirusTotal submitter metadata examined by CyberScoop. Cybersecurity researchers have linked that information to an advanced hacking group: OceanLotus, also known as APT32, a unit attributed to the Vietnamese government by several U.S.-based cybersecurity companies.

The U.S. Senator in question is indeed Colorado’s own Sen. Cory Gardner:

The document related to the conversation with Gardner was uploaded to VirusTotal on May 31. The document itself is also dated May 31 and contains references to North Korea’s missile development program and the global war on drugs. A Gardner staffer declined to confirm whether the senator was planning to have such a call with Philippine officials. [Pols emphasis]

The document does not identify who specifically it was produced for, but the “script” segments seem to suggest they are statements from Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally–note the first-person references on diverse issues, which sound like a chief executive talking:

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news out of the Philippines lately, President Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned internationally for the very same “campaign against illegal drugs” extolled in this document. In the last year since Duterte took office, as many as 7,000 Filipinos have been killed amid allegations of extrajudicial vigilante violence and threats against journalists. Despite this, President Donald Trump’s administration has embraced Duterte’s regime, even inviting Duterte to visit the White House:

The President “is interested in human rights issues, but he’s not going to allow that interest and concern keep him from defending the national security interests of the United States,” a senior administration official said.

It would appear that Sen. Gardner did not intend for this meeting to become public, as evidenced by his staff’s refusal to confirm it was planned or took place. But given the controversial nature of Trump’s embrace of Duterte, the people of Colorado certainly do need to know if Gardner shares Trump’s largesse toward this alleged murderer and en masse violator of his own people’s civil rights.

At the very least, those 26,242 Filipinos in Colorado deserve to know.


22 thoughts on “Gardner All Smiles With Philippine President Duterte

    1. There is no audio of the meeting between Gardner and Duterte. I guess that's what the briefing notes are about?

      Is this normal? Nothing in Trump world is "normal", but would it be usual practice to send a committee Senator, not the Secretary of State or ambassador, on a visit like this? Is Cory angling for a wider role in Trump administration?

      What are the national security interests served by closer ties to Duterte's regime? We do still have bases in the Phillipines, and there is a deal to upgrade them.  Is this posturing for a show of US military strength in Asia?

      1. Maybe he is angling for a new job. If Conman Cory goes to the Sad-ministration, at least Hick gets to choose a replacement until Nov. '18. I'm pretty sure he can find a Democrat to hold the seat. So, Bye-bye Cory! Hope he can duck when the shaving cream heads toward the fan.


    Despite Senate traditions that he respects so faithfully, and unnecessarily, even as Republicans have shit on them throughout his tenure, Bennet should call him out. 

  2. I want to see the briefing notes and / or the follow-on memo from the conversation.

    Somehow, I doubt Sen. Gardner brought up human rights or directly addressed the current Philippine campaign of murder against users and small time dealers.

    1. The briefing notes and associated documents from Trump and Gardner's phone calls (including the phone transcript of the Trump-Duterte call) are available here on the document cloud which Cyberscoop published.

      So there are, in my opinion, legitimate national security interests to be served by making nice with Duterte, even though Duterte's a murderous dictator. Obama did the right thing and used diplomacy to be hostile towards Duterte; this was reciprocated by Duterte, who famously told Obama to "Go to hell", and defamed Obama's mother as a whore.

      On the other hand, Duterte is simpatico with Trump now. Before the election, Duterte called Trump a bigot; after the election, he thought that he and Trump had "cursing" in common.

      Russia, China, and the US are all jockeying for dominance in the south China sea – with trade agreements and military presence. China is actually building itself an island there.  Vietnam doesn't care for the Russia or China dominance scenario, and may actually prefer a closer Phillipines and US relationship.

      If you read Gardner's briefing notes, there's a lot of trade information there which I don't fully understand. It looks as though the US imports circuits from the Phillipines, and that we export finished products such as furniture to them. They're also still a prime resort destination, including for child sex tourism.

      Neither the human rights abuses, nor the child sex trafficking, were apparently topics in the Gardner / Duterte briefing. They talked about China, North Korea, and trade.

      Trump has a branded resort in Manila, the Trump Tower Phillipines, in Century City. The resort's CEO, Mr. Jose Antonio, is a business partner of Trump's , and also a special envoy from the Phillipines  to the US.  So there's a strong conflict of interest there – giving some clues as to why El Trumpito is so very interested in the Phillipines.

      Bottom line for me is that Gardner has no diplomatic nor espionage experience, and is likely in way over his head. This rapprochement, if that is what it is, needs to be done by someone who comprehends all of the complications to the situation.

  3. The follow-on statement says

    "Instead of engaging in press release diplomacy, Senator Gardner wanted to discuss face to face with President Duterte the importance to adhering to the rule of law."

    Duterte claims the anti-drug campaign IS lawful. So was there a statement that the Senator did not, that on-going murder campaigns were wrong, even if the victims were primarily drug users and sellers?

  4. Seems like a stretch here . . . 

    . . . a trip to the Phillipines and Korea is hardly a pleasure junket . . .

    . . . no verifiable record of what was, or wasn't, said . . .

    . . . I guess if you're of the unbending opinion that our political leaders should never interact with another country's proven nutball leader, then you're also of the opinion that no semi-same politician from another country should be having any interaction with our Drumpfenutball???

      1. Wouldn't you?

        . . . still, he could've gotten that same layover with a "fact-finding" excursion to investigate coral bleaching in Fiji.

  5. BREAKING: There is a gun battle and explosions in two casinos in Pasay City in the Phillipines right now. The area has been under martial law since May 23, supposedly because of ISIS militants. . Per CNN

    Per Time, this battle in Marawi, on Mindanao island in the Phillipines, has been going on for a week. I don’t remember seeing any news coverage of it.

    Duterte has “joked” about martial law allowing his soldiers to kill and rape with impunity.

      1. It's not one of Trumpf's casinos, but the Trump tower in Century City, Makati, is only 20 minutes  (~9km) away from the beseiged "Resorts World" casinos in Pasay City. Per Google Maps.

        error: I originally wrote that these cities were on Mindanao island, the martial law area. That’s incorrect – these cities are on the main island, about half an hour away from the capital city of Manila. However, Duterte has floated the idea of extending martial law to the entire country.

        Has this been on the news? The Phillipines is only 5200 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii.

    1. There are conflicting reports about the tragedy in  the Resorts World Hotel in the Phillipines.. There is a high body count – 36 dead, mostly from smoke inhalation. That's coming from the BBC. Trump claimed in his Paris Accord speech  that the Manila attack was by a terrorist. ISIS claimed the attack as one of its own. NBC news covered the Prez  tweet storm and has some details on the attack.

      The officials on the scene said it was one lone gunman of unknown ethnicity, carrying an assault rifle, apparently intent on robbery since he filled up a bag with casino chips, possibly mentally unstable since he set tables on fire, then set himself on fire and shot himself.

      So it's a tragedy, becoming another ordinary mass murder tragedy, but in the middle of a volatile situation, our president jumped to conclusions and called it a terrorist incident. The southern part of the Phillipines remains under martial law, with government troops given explicit permission to rape and kill, and our de facto envoy is Colorado's junior Senator. Have I covered everything?


  6. Typical over-reaction from Progress Now. Last time I checked, the Philippines is still a US ally, regardless of how one might feel about their president. Myself, I'm not an admirer of Mr. Duterte or his methods. But the country remains allied to the US and as noted, is fighting Islamic separatists again in the south. As an aside, this simmering war has gone on for decades.

    Comment: "Gardner has no diplomatic or espionage experience."  How is this known for sure? Why would a US Senator be spying on an ally? Makes no sense. And this is hardly the first time a member of Congress has gone on trips with diplomatic overtones. Gardner may have his issues; not holding any in-person constituent meetings is one of my concerns. But meeting a democratically elected President Duterte should not be one of those issues.

    1. Gardner does not have diplomatic experience. Here's his bio. I don't necessarily disagree with what he's doing on the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia Subcommittee. His Maritime legislation would at least clarify US policy and warn China against militarizing its own artificially built island in the middle of the ocean.

      This still seems to me to be an incredibly sensitive time and state in the Phillipines right now.  Way too sensitive for amateurs. We need real diplomats there. Russia, China, the US and the ASEAN nations are all jockeying for power in the region.  As far as whether espionage is needed, I obviously wouldn't know; but there are five military bases in the Phillipines, so my guess is that there are spies around, and if he is talking with Duterte, he should be being briefed / debriefed, rather than having hackers just expose it all online for amateurs like us to pore over. 

      ISIS blowing hotels up in the middle of the country, 9 kilometers away from a Trump-branded resort. The southern part of the country under martial law, and Duterte poised to extend it further now that ISIS is striking close to the capitol. .

      We know that Cory is fully capable of talking for hours and saying absolutely nothing. So perhaps he won't do any harm as a stand-in diplomat. Just maybe, Cory is better informed on Asian – pacific issues from his committee work,  than  is the actual Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. We know that Trump gutted the offices at the Dept. of State. Maybe there aren't any junior diplomats to send. And that's another terrifying thought. What if Cory's the best we've got?

      It's just a continuation of the Trump Amateur Hour. Gut the department, negotiate by the seat of your pants, go with a "feeling"….or your own financial interests. Doesn't inspire confidence in our foreign policy negotiators – sorry.

  7. MJ — I think you nailed it.  Jared's portfolio includes Asia, but he's laying low, not that he would be any better or experienced than Gardner.  Truly sad state of affairs.

    It'll take at least 2 election cycles to see if we can turn the ship of state around, otherwise the SS Trumptanic is headed directly over the edge of the earth.angry

  8. When questioned, Senator Spokesmodel proudly proclaims being pro-life. He might wax rhapsodic about the right to life and the guarantees of the Constitution. How then can he shake the hand of a proud extrajudicial murderer? Constitutional conservative or fascist bootlicker? He does fill out a suit, though.

  9. UPDATE: Cory's Duterte – pals mission was all for naught. Duterte says he won't even visit the US anymore, because it's a "lousy country".

    And, Duterte is extending martial law in the Phillipines and “negotiating” with China on the Spratly artificial islands. He’s not supposed to negotiate, because of the economic zone the islands are in. It’s a volatile mess.

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