Duterte opposed the Balikatan exercises, at least as far as Mindanao is concerned, objected to the use of an airport in Davao City as a U.S. drone base, and he’s unlikely to be an enthusiastic helpmate for the pivot. Duterte wants to have bilateral exchanges with the PRC on the issue of Scarborough Shoal and undersea resource development.
In the course of President Obama's congratulatory phone call, Duterte stated he would try a multilateral approach to PRC but "if there’s no wind to move the sail, I might opt to go bilateral."
Duterte's qualms about the U.S. military relationship and openness to dealing with the PRC have occasioned disquiet in Manila's pro-US government departments, and provoked systemic pushback.
And they look like part of a sustained, long planned effort to box in Duterte, limit his options, and pre-empt possible moves by him away from the current US-Philippine strategy for gaming the SCS issues.
The Manila establishment, in other words, looks ready to go to war over the Scarborough Shoal--with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Given the friendly relationship between the anti-Duterte Manila establishment, the US government, and the Western press--and Duterte's apparent disinterest in playing the foreign media game--expect the pro-pivot SCS narrative to get "overweighted" in the international media and diplomatic discourse and contribute as needed to getting Duterte and his populist/insufficiently pro-US agenda chewed up perhaps a la Rousseff, Kirchner, and Maduro in the Philippines' no-holds-barred political arena.
For some time, the Manila establishment has been systematically planting its flags and deploying its forces to defend the current China policy--founded on participation in the U.S. rebalance and keystoned by confronting the PRC through the UNCLOS arbitration process--in anticipation of an adverse outcome in the presidential election.
On top of that, the New York Times report of its exit interview with Aquino led with:
President Benigno S. Aquino III said Thursday that the United States would be obligated to take military action in the South China Sea if China moved to reclaim a hotly contested reef directly off the Philippine shore.
But he suggested that there would be a harsh response if China decided to [reclaim Scarborough Shoal], saying that in his view the United States would be forced to defend the Philippines or risk losing its credibility in the region.“It has to maintain its ascendancy, moral ascendancy, and also the confidence of one of its allies.”
An interesting statement on several levels, not the least of which is the president of the Philippines apparently drawing a red line for the president of the United States.
Beyond that, nothing says "militarization" like "threatening military action if somebody reclaims an island" and I imagine the other ASEAN countries viewed with interest but not too much enthusiasm Aquino's effort to provide a justification for U.S. military action in the South China Sea.
More significantly, perhaps, Aquino seemed to be trying to do the expected incoming Clinton administration a solid by helping extract the SCS from the confines of the "international law" box where Obama has tucked it to the dismay of China hawks (in which the U.S. has no position on Scarborough sovereignty and can do little if anything to block reclamation legally), and let it roam the wide open "U.S. national security/credibility" spaces where "anything goes" to protect vital American interests.
Also, as a domestic matter, Aquino is trying to take the ball out of Duterte's hands by declaring that U.S. strategic interests on Scarborough Shoal can and should legitimately trump whatever deal he thinks of working out with the PRC.
And if Duterte goes too far in his bilateral dealings with the PRC, the Philippine media has already test-driven the strategy to paint him as an ignoramus, a stooge, and/or in thrall to Chinese gold.
It can also be said the US built its modern military toolkit by porting best practices of the genocide against Native Americans in the US homeland to the brutal counterinsurgency against the Moro on Mindanao after the Spanish-American War.
Despite the current obsession with the South China Sea, territorial, colonial, and imperial issues have always been a big, if unwelcome, part of the U.S. equation for the Philippines.
Not just Michael Meiring.
Abu Sayyaf was actually a collection of the usual suspects i.e. Muslims who fought the Soviets under the U.S. aegis in Afghanistan and returned home to do mischief. Apparently Abu Sayyaf was enabled by high-level protectors in the Philippine military, who saw them as a potentially useful asset against the Moro independence movement on Mindanao and providing useful pretexts for the extension of central government control over the island via martial law.
As I conclude in my Asia Times piece:
The Meiring case is simply an inflection point in a multi-decade and ongoing US program of misjudgment, misbehavior, and mayhem in Mindananao that continues to the present day.
Unfortunately for the United States, that campaign has gone on for fourteen years right under the disgusted nose of the man who is now poised to become president of the Philippines.