WASHINGTON D.C. - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bid farewell to the State Department last Friday, amid chants of “2016! 2016!”
A large crowd of workers and well-wishers gathered at the agency’s main lobby in Foggy Bottom to bid her farewell – among them Filipinos who are among Clinton's loudest cheerleaders.
In the 4 years she served as America’s top diplomat, Clinton traveled nearly a million miles (enough to span the globe more than 38 times) visiting 112 countries, including the Philippines.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had earlier flown to Washington to confer the Philippine Legion of Honor to Clinton – a rare award only given with the consent of the Congress and previously bestowed on President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and more recently, the late Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.
Clinton is one of the Philippines' staunchest supporters, from the East Philippine Sea dispute with China to speaking out against those who would subvert democracy there.
Little wonder her Filipino supporters here said they’re ready to swing into action if she does decide to throw her hat in the next presidential elections in 2016.
In the days leading to her retirement, she was asked constantly about her plans but she demurred. She said she would wake up late this weekend and then later "explore the horizons and do a lot of talking and writing."
“I sent her flowers,” said New York-based Fil-Am leader Loida Nicolas Lewis after Clinton collapsed and doctors found a clot in her head that was eventually removed without surgery.
“We’re staying back and waiting for her to make a decision without any pressure,” Lewis said. She actively campaigned for Clinton during the 2008 Democratic nomination race that then Sen. Barack Obama won.
“Secretary Clinton strongly supported the Philippines ’ advocacy for a rules-based approach in resolving competing claims over maritime areas through peaceful and diplomatic processes within the framework of international law,” a statement from the Philippine Embassy said.
The statement continued, “In September 2010, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Secretary Hillary Clinton unveiled the $434 million Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Compact aimed at reducing poverty through economic growth in New York.
“Secretary Clinton oversaw the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia and reaffirmed the strong military relationship between the US and the Philippines. With Secretary Del Rosario, Secretary (Voltaire) Gazmin and Secretary (Leon) Panetta, they held the first Philippine-US Two + Two Ministerial Consultations in April 2012, providing the framework for intensified dialogue and cooperation on defense and security issues.”
Clinton responded by “reaffirming the US government’s commitment to strengthening the Philippine defense capabilities."
While the official Philippine account enumerated the tangible effects of Clinton’s efforts to promote the country’s interests in the Obama administration, supporters here say it’s the ones that can’t be spoken about that really bore the heavier impact.
When in 2009 rumors swirled in Manila that then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would try to “steal” the 2010 presidential elections by manufacturing a national emergency, a delegation of Fil-Am community leaders sought and got a public assurance from Clinton that the US frowns on any plot to block elections, virtually warning off the Arroyo administration.
And when Del Rosario flew here following confrontations with China over a lingering territorial spat, Clinton laid down the US position – the strongest assurance given yet for its longstanding treaty ally.
She also demonstrated her brand of diplomacy during a visit to the Philippines, acting like a candidate campaigning for Filipino votes than the 4th highest ranking official in the US government.
But while she seemed to relish shaking hands with ordinary people, Clinton was also quick to slap those from offenders – speaking out against extrajudicial killings, abuses and human trafficking.
Clinton has built a legion of Filipino admirers here and in the Philippines, including Lewis who said she still hopes Clinton would become the 1st female president of the United States.