Elections

Does the US have to worry about a new red in its bed?

A May 16 photo of Philippines' president-elect Rodrigo Duterte (seated, right) with property magnate and former senator Manny Villar during a press conference in Davao City. Business titans, turncoat politicians, celebrities and rebel leaders have descended on the long-neglected far southern Philippines, hoping to gain favor with the nation's shock new powerbroker.
Ted Aljibe | AFP | Getty Images

May 18, 2016: How the Philippines and China could find a common cause

Left turn. Is that like a hard left, a 90-degree pivot, right now? Or a gradual, gently sweeping arc in that direction?

Key questions, when you're looking at what shape or form Rodrigo Duterte's new government is going to take in the Philippines, are, What exactly does the "revolutionary government" he's promised actually mean? How "red" is it going to be?

Duterte's acknowledged he's going to be his country's first leftist president. But he says he's not a communist, describing himself as left-leaning, rather than card-carrying. Let's say socialist then.

What about his government though, when you consider he's promised to bring Jose Maria Sison back from a 30-year exile and install him in the new cabinet? Duterte's planning to go to The Hague for talks with Sison soon. They've already conferenced over Skype.

Sison, known colloquially as "Joma," is the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and Duterte's intellectual inspiration. Sison taught a young Duterte at the Lyceum in Manila in the '70's. Marcos jailed Sison for nearly a decade for subversion.

After the dictator fell, Sison was released. Shortly after, while travelling in the Netherlands, the Philippines revoked his passport. He's been stateless since, and continues to live in the Netherlands. He's been seeking asylum there as a political refugee since 1987.

The United States has classified him as a terrorist since 2002. Similarly, the EU. But the Philippines dropped subversion charges, so he's not wanted by Manila.