Duterte in Jordan

Philippines & Jordan united against ISIS?

What deals did President Duterte of the Philippines make in Jordan?

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Hala Lattouf, Jordan’s Minister of Social Development review guards of honor at the airport in Amman, Jordan, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has become (in)famous around the world for his domestic war on drugs, defined by a shoot-first-ask-questions-later attitude, and for comparing himself to Hitler.

Last week he was touring the Middle East, looking to broker alliances, friendships, and business deals. More specifically, Duterte was looking to buy guns that will allow him to reinforce his security forces and expand the “war on drugs.”

His first stop was Jerusalem, where he stayed for three days and met with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin.

According to the local press, Israeli companies and business groups signed up to USD82.9 million in possible investment deals, most of which are reportedly related to security.

Among these agreements were two memoranda of agreement for the marketing and promotion of “tactical vehicles and development of military and intelligence products and hardware,” two more to explore collaboration on security, intelligence data mining, information technology, and cybersecurity-related certification courses in the Philippines, and finally, two agreements of intent to establish weapons manufacturing facilities.

These two production facilities would come at a total cost of USD60 million, and would create up to 360 jobs, according to official information from Israeli officials.

This is also not the first time that Duterte has sought arms supplies from Israel, as Tel Aviv had already sold rifles to the Philippines in the past.

One of the Asian president’s objectives was not fulfilled however.

An agreement to expand cooperation between the police forces of the two countries, which had earlier been announced as being under discussion, did not go through.

The new push for arms deals with Israel and other nations around the world has been prompted by the US, which under pressure due to human rights violations in the Philippines stopped selling weapons to Manila.

Israel doesn’t have such restrictions. The Israeli government’s numbers indicate that the country has already sold three radar systems and 100 armored vehicles to the Philippines. Previously, Duterte has been explicit in his desire to not only expand security cooperation but also to strike an aircraft deal with Israel.

Israel has been under a lot of pressure due to its occupation of Palestine and accusations of human rights violations.

Speaking to the press, Molly Malakar, program director at Amnesty International Israel, argued that the more pressure Israel feels due to its own violations in Palestine, the more it aligns itself with “criminal regimes in order to achieve diplomatic support.”

Duterte’s Middle East trip did not stop in Israel however. On September 7, he met with King Abdullah of Jordan to also discuss security cooperation in fighting Islamic State terrorism. The Philippines has had to battle with the Islamic State inside its own borders in 2017, when affiliates of the terrorist group occupied several neighborhoods of the Southern Filipino city of Marawi.

The clash lasted five months and claimed the lives of over 1,000 people.

This time, Duterte promised cooperation with the Jordanian Kingdom in the fight against IS. “You need one battalion… I will send them to you,” he was quoted saying to the King.

The Jordanian State announced earlier this year it would supply two Cobra helicopters to the Philippines to help fight Islamic insurgents. On top of that, President Duterte managed to secure the promise of over USD60 million in Jordanian investment in manufacturing, trade, and healthcare in the Philippines.

Human rights groups fear, however, that the military equipment might be used to target Duterte’s political opponents and poor drug consumers rather than Islamic State rebels.