Still unsullied from his SONA (State of the Nation Address) last Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gathered four past presidents to discuss a unifying resolution about their country’s territorial disputes with China.
President Duterte also convened the NSC (National Security Council) primarily to talk about his government’s strategy in proposed negotiations with China to resolve the long-seething West Philippine Sea or better known as South China Sea conflict.
Former four leaders attended the meeting at the Malacanang presidential palace: Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno C. Aquino III.
Inviting former presidents to the council’s meetings is traditional, but to gather them in one meeting, despite being rivals in their glory days, is considered a rare show of unity that made such a Philippine republic’s history.
In 2001, Arroyo helped oust Estrada causing his demise in power and conviction on a plunder charge, but she granted him a pardon that allowed him to run again for public office. Currently, Estrada is the mayor of Philippines’ capital, Manila.
Meanwhile, Aquino toiled to detain Arroyo on charges of election fraud in 2011 but she was freed from years of hospital detention after the Supreme Court acquitted her on plunder.
Aquino is also a well-known critic to Duterte, calling him a looming dictator during the presidential campaign.
Aside from the maritime disputes with China, Duterte intended to discuss other security concerns, including peace talks with communist and Muslim rebels.
Also, the president has been profoundly tough on battle against illegal drugs, as thousands of confirmed and suspected drug users, dealers, and protectors have been jailed and scolded since his inauguration last June 30.
The five leaders at one point posed for pictures — smiling.