Townterview Hosted by ABS-CBN with Manila Students
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Well, you said how exciting. We’re certainly excited to have this chance to talk to you, Secretary Clinton. Welcome to the Philippines and please have a seat.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, it’s wonderful being back at this great university, which I just learned has a total of 44,000 students, the director told me. It’s amazing. So I’m thrilled to be here. Thank you so much for doing this.
MODERATOR: Well, thank you for coming, and I know since we have you for such a short period of time, we’ve got all of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao waiting for your words. So let me just quickly toss the first question at you, which is you – we’ve been talking about you, your – all of the highs and lows of your life, what a fantastic life, jam-packed, full of firsts; the first woman this, first woman partner in your – female partner in your law firm, first woman senator from New York, first woman to run for president, and now perhaps the most powerful and perhaps most popular with – the most popular U.S. diplomat.
So given all of this, for the women here and the young students, what advice would you give women who are moving from how to deal with disappointments, going from the lows to get to those highs?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Maria. Well, let me say first that I think every person has the opportunity to make the most of their own lives. But what I have learned over time is that talent is universal, but opportunity may not be. And part of what is happening at this university is helping to equip young people – young men and young women – with the tools that you can use for your own lives. But every life faces challenges. There is no life that I know of, having lived as long as I have now, that doesn’t.
But with faith and with perseverance and persistence and a sense of mission and purpose in your life, you can keep going and make a contribution. And service is what has been at the center of my life. I never really thought when I was your age that I would be in politics or that I would ever be the Secretary of State of the United States. But I always wanted to make a contribution, particularly to children, because I think children deserve all of the support that we can give them. Their families deserve support so they can do a better job for their children.
So this has been a remarkable honor for me to have had the chance to serve, and I really hope that there will be a lot of young people here who are students who take advantage of this wonderful education to find ways to serve as well. The Philippines needs you. One of the great exports of this country is your people, and everywhere I go in the world, I meet Filipinos who are doing everything, every kind of job, making every kind of contribution. We’re so proud to have millions of Filipino Americans. But I think this country also needs your educated approach and your commitment.
So that’s what I’ve enjoyed doing and what I feel strongly about, and I’m just happy to be here with all of you.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: All right. (Applause.) Secretary Clinton, you talked about talent. Let me introduce you to one of Ateneo de Manila’s top basketball players.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, good.
MODERATOR: His name is Chris Tiu.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
MODERATOR: He has a question for you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Chris.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.
QUESTION: How are you doing?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very well, thank you. What position do you play?
QUESTION: I play shooting guard.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, good.
SECRETARY CLINTON: How high is your vertical jump? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, not very high. I can touch the rim, though.
I have two questions for you if you don’t mind. Here’s my first question. My good friend, Ambassador Kristie Kenney, told me that you’re appalled by the poverty situation here in the country. So my question for you is: How do you think the youth can best get engaged in reducing poverty in our country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that the Philippines has been making progress. The income level has risen, which is very significant, but you know, because you live here, that there’s a lot of work still to be done. I think education is one of the most important ways of fighting poverty, I think providing healthcare so that young people are able to take advantage of their hard work and they have a really positive future, I think that having a good partnership between your government and your people to tackle the problems of poverty is absolutely critical.
The United States wants to be a good partner. We are trying to look at ways that we can provide more assistance to the Philippines to tackle poverty. Infrastructure is important, namely roads, and as you saw with these terrible recent storms, trying to fix some of the flooding conditions, some of the sanitation conditions. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I’ve been impressed at how the government has been working on this, but we need to do even more.
And ultimately, people themselves have to take responsibility and organize themselves. There are lots of ways that community groups can be organized to work for better services, to have a voice in the political system, to make sure that the needs of the poor are not marginalized or overlooked. So there’s a lot that can be done, and I really encourage the young people here to think creatively about that. I mean, what could you do as an individual, what could you do as part of a group here at the university that would tackle some of this?
And the final thing I would say is that there are big, big issues that can only be addressed by big solutions. But there’s an individual approach that could always work; mentoring a poor child, making sure that a poor child has somebody to look up to, somebody that you can be there in his or her life to encourage that child to stay in school, to really help that child get over the challenges and the bumps that happen in any life. Those kind of mentoring programs, those Big Brother/Big Sister programs, it’s one life at a time that I think is also an important part of an overall attempt to try to alleviate poverty.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, ma’am. On a lighter note, I’d just like to ask, since most of us Filipinos here are sports fanatics, particularly basketball and boxing, I would like to know if you follow any sport in particular? Do you have a favorite NBA team? And lastly, I’m sure all of us here would like to know what do you think will be the result this Sunday between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto? (Applause.) Let’s see how much of a diplomat Secretary Clinton is.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I have heard that basketball and boxing are pretty big here in the Philippines, right? And so for basketball, I have followed two teams. I’m originally from Chicago. That’s where I was born and raised. And so I followed the Chicago Bulls, particularly when Michael Jordan was there. (Applause.) And then I was a senator from New York, so I have followed the Knicks, but that’s kind of discouraging. (Laughter.)
So I have – I kind of – I follow it, but it’s hard to get as enthusiastic as I would like to. Now, the Knicks are trying maybe to get LeBron James. Now, that would make it very exciting in New York. So I’ll watch that. I’m not sure exactly what will happen. And of course the Pacman’s going to win. I mean, is there any doubt? (Applause.)
QUESTION: All right. One of our questions for today’s forum was sent through the video-sharing website YouTube. Here’s that question, Secretary, from (inaudible).
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, (inaudible) network. Happy – the chance to talk with you, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I just want to clarify some questions regarding your State Department reports on the issues on human rights violations by the Philippine Government and by the armed forces in the Philippines. What is your position regarding these issues? And what are your concrete proposals or concrete actions to end the conflict here in our country? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you, and I’m delighted to know that this forum here at the university is connected up to so many places around the country, and maybe even beyond the country. I think that there are Filipinos who live elsewhere outside of the country who are actually tuned in, so I say hello to everyone.
The United States believes very strongly in the importance of human rights. It is something that is part of our founding document, the Bill of Rights, which you know has had an influence on your own constitution and your own bill of rights. And it is very important that we constantly work toward protecting human rights.
Now, it is difficult even in my own country. We are not perfect. I will be the first to say that. But it is important to keep trying, it’s important to have an independent judiciary that keeps trying, it’s important to have a military and a police force that is sensitive to that. It’s important for the faith community to speak out on behalf of human rights. And I know that there has been some questions here in the Philippines, but I also know that there have also been some very important efforts to try to deal with human rights problems.
So it’s not perfect here, like it’s not perfect anywhere, and it’s up to civil society to constantly be making human rights an issue inside of your own country. The United States will help. We will provide training and support to be sure that the institutions of government are protecting human rights. And I am encouraged by what I hear about the progress in the peace efforts that are going on between the government and MILF, and that is it hopeful that there can be a resolution of the conflict.
I really believe that negotiation to end conflicts and not being discouraged is really important. The MILF is going to continue in the process with the monitoring or the facilitating role that the contact group, and particularly Malaysia, is playing. And I hope it comes to a very positive result, because there’s so much work to be done in the Philippines. To go back to the very first question about poverty, there’s so much work to lift up people and provide more opportunity for people that conflicts need to be resolved so that you can focus on trying to help each individual live up to his or her God-given potential.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? You talked about human rights, and for a while, the State Department had – was critical of the Philippines performance in terms of human rights. How would you gauge it now? Did you talk about it with President Arroyo?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We did. We’ve talked – I talked about it in my official meetings, and the State Department has pointed out areas that we believe could be improved. And I was pleased that the International Labour Organization was recently here in the Philippines to talk about abuses against workers’ rights, because it’s not only human rights in a political conflict context, but it is also what happens when people are trying to organize workers and other kinds of attempts to assert oneself in society.
So we will continue to raise questions, but we’ll also continue, as a friend does, to offer whatever assistance we can.
QUESTION: Well, let – now, Secretary Clinton, let’s go down to Mindanao where we’re joined by our anchor Ces Oreña-Drilon. Ces, what do you have there?
QUESTION: Buenos dias, Maria, and Asalam Alakum to you, Secretary Clinton. That is the greeting from Zamboanga to you this morning. What about you Ateneons? What’s your greeting for Secretary Clinton?
QUESTION: Well, as you know, Secretary Clinton, in contrast to the protests in Manila against the Visiting Forces Agreement, the people here in Mindanao are more accepting and even thankful for the presence of U.S. troops, particularly because they live in the shadow of terrorism and kidnapping for – they have been living in the shadow of kidnapping and terrorism for many years now.
But there are still a lot of burning concerns; for instance, how effective is the U.S. assistance in fighting terrorism, do U.S. troops participate in combat operations? But I’m not asking the questions. And I would like to introduce to you our student here from the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. He is a third-year economic student, Mohamed Zen Nuno Yohan. He – Secretary, he has lived in the – one of the first Muslim communities here in Zamboagna, and he is a (inaudible) by birth and traces his roots to Zulu. And his dreams are really to be able to see a Mindanao where Muslims and Christians can live peacefully together.
Now, Yohan, what is – or, rather, Zen, what is your question for Secretary Clinton?
QUESTION: Before I ask my questions, I’d like to greet Madame Secretary good morning, my warmest greetings from the south, Asalam Alakum. The U.S. – the United States and the Philippines have a long history. What is the direction of the Philippine-U.S. relationship?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Inaudible) so much and greetings to all who are there. And I want to take your question and Ces’s comments and respond in this way. The United States and the Philippines do have a long history of partnership and of friendship, of alliance, and we want to continue to be a good friend and a good partner.
In respect to the conflict in Mindanao, we have provided training and assistance, but not involvement in combat by United States forces. It is a facilitating and supportive role to fight those who would disrupt communities, who would engage in terrorist activities – unfortunately, the kind of horrible acts like beheadings and kidnappings and the things that are so contrary to every religion, contrary to every faith.
So I’m hoping that the conflict will be drawn to a close over the next months. I know that everyone’s working very hard on that. But then there has to be a lot of dialogue between people. There has to be a commitment to build a better future. There are many examples of Christian and Muslim communities living very peacefully and productively, side by side. And what we want for you is that same future so that there will be the opportunity to pursue one’s religious faith, but there will also be the equal opportunity to participate in one’s society and to have one’s opinions heard and respected, and to be a full-functioning citizen.
So we are going to continue to provide support where appropriate, in partnership, and in pursuance of the friendship that we feel for the people of the Philippines.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. You want – I believe you have a second question for the Secretary.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, despite your demanding schedule being the Secretary of the State, how do you find time with the former President Bill Clinton and your beautiful daughter Chelsea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, we try to schedule ourselves so that we have time together, which is the most important thing to us. And when – my husband travels nearly as much as I do, sometimes it’s even more, depending upon the time of year and what his obligations are. He’ll be going to the Middle East today on a long-scheduled trip.
But then we will come back home together in the weekend and just do what people like to do. We like to take long walks, we like to go to movies, we like to go out to dinner, we like to catch up on our sleep, the kinds of respite from our busy lives. And I’m lucky that my daughter lives in New York. In fact, just last weekend, my husband and I were at her apartment visiting with her and catching up on her life. So we stay in touch through telephoning, and I was just actually talking to my husband as I turned in to the university and saw all the students out there, and I told him I had to hang up because I was going to the university and to this forum.
So it’s pretty ordinary and normal, which is what I really like. I like just being at home and having a chance to decompress, and that’s what we look forward to.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much, Yohan, for your questions, and thank you to you, Secretary Clinton, from here in Zamboanga.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks to everyone.
MODERATOR: Secretary, I have to ask this question because it was brought up. You’re in politics, your husband is in politics. Is Chelsea going to go into politics? Is that inevitable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t think so. I think that she has really carved out her own life and her own privacy and her own group of friends and social circle which she finds very rewarding. And she – I think she respects and appreciates the political world, but has no plans for being part of it at this time in her life.
MODERATOR: Well, we’ve got a long time. We’ll see. Anyway, let’s go to Dumaguete. We’re joined by our other anchor, Tony Velasquez. He’s down there right now. Tony?
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much and good morning to all of you there in UST, good morning to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Well, as you know, Dumaguete City has been called the city of gentle people, and you’ll probably find out why when we talk to Anna Espino. She’s a third-year economics and political science double major here at the Silliman University. Also a champion debater, Ana has come out in one of our ANC programs, Square Off, several times --
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
QUESTION: -- leading her team to several victories over the other universities. So a gentle question, perhaps, from Anna for Secretary of State Clinton.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, Anna.
QUESTION: I’m an economics student. I’m an economics student, so I would like to know, will the effort of your government to reverse the recession affect your adherence to free trade principles?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Anna, thank you and congratulations on being a champion debater. That’s quite an accomplishment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that we are reversing the affects of the global recession, not only in the United States, but we’re beginning to see some positive signs elsewhere. And I really want to commend the Philippines. Until the recession, I think you had 34 or 35 straight quarters of positive growth, which is really the best way to end poverty, is to grow out of it.
But what we are seeing is a slow move back to economic stability. In the United States, we are committed to free trade, but we also would like to see trade agreements recognize the rights of workers to benefit from free trade, because if the free trade benefits only go to the top of society, that doesn’t change the economic well-being of the larger society, which we would like to see free trade do.
And we also think that we have to take into account the environment in trade agreements. We now know that climate change – and you’ve suffered through these horrible storms over the last months – is having a very tangible effect on how people are living because of droughts, because of increasing storm activity. There are all kinds of problems, and we have to tackle that.
So we don’t want free trade to encourage climate change; we want it to help discourage climate change. So we’re going to continue to promote trade and economic activity, but we would like to see it have a positive impact on workers and the environment.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Say hello to all the gentle people. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much, Anna, for that question. I hope Secretary Clinton was able to give you a proper response --
QUESTION: Yes, definitely.
QUESTION: -- something that you can write about in your term paper, I suppose.
QUESTION: Exactly, exactly.
QUESTION: All right. Back to you there in UST.
MODERATOR: Thanks very much, Tony. Secretary Clinton, you’ve been talking – your career has been – has – you’ve spent a lot of focus on human rights, and I know that the Obama Administration’s policy now is constructive engagement. And it’s being applied with Burma; you had a high-level visit there. And you’re going to Singapore and you’re going to meet with the Burmese again.
Can we expect, as a result of the recent new strategy, that something significant will be announced in Burma in – by Burma in Singapore with regard to loosening restrictions, say, on Aung San Suu Kyi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Ricky, I doubt it. I think this is a long-term effort that requires a lot of patience. And it is important to commend the Philippines. This government and your country have been some of the strongest voices on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi and I thank you for that. I think that her courage in standing up for human rights and for political rights and democracy is really extraordinary because she’s paid a big price for it, having been unable to be with her husband as he was dying; she hasn’t seen her children in years.
So I’m hoping that we’re able to influence the leadership in Burma to begin an internal dialogue inside their own country, bringing the opposition parties, bringing the ethnic minorities who have been so oppressed, beginning a conversation that could create the conditions for free, fair and credible elections, which they are planning to have next year.
There is no doubt in my mind that the leadership in Burma is on the wrong side of history. It’s just a question of how long they stay there and whether they can be nudged and encouraged to move toward more freedom and opportunity for their own people. Some of you probably remember the oppression of the Buddhist monks who were demonstrating for human rights, the problems of getting aid into the country after the horrible hurricane that struck Burma.
So there’s a lot to be done, but we’ve been in office, what, eight, nine months now. And I think that we’ve tried to reverse some of the policies that were not very productive that were really putting our country in a wrong light. But things don’t happen overnight; it takes a while. But I’m a very patient person and I think we have to be willing to just keep working and support the Burmese people in their aspirations.
MODERATOR: Some people have said that ASEAN’s decades-long strategy of what they call also constructive engagement has not succeeded. I’m wondering – you’re following a constructive engagement strategy now – what does the U.S. bring to the table that perhaps ASEAN has not been able to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we want to be in partnership with ASEAN. One of the first things I did as Secretary of State was to work toward the United States signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation so that we could be fully integrated into ASEAN. We’re very supportive of ASEAN. And I think that we’ve also made clear we’re not taking off our sanctions. We want to engage, but we want to send a clear message that until there are changes inside Burma, we’re not going to be able to help or support Burmese society and provide the kind of benefits that the United States can provide – investment, trade, as Anna mentioned earlier. There is so much that we could be doing which we will not do because we don’t want to support the current government.
But if we have a strong, cooperative approach by both ASEAN countries like Philippines, which is our partner – our dialogue partner – in ASEAN, and we send a message to China and India that have a lot of influence inside Burma that they should help us support the kind of changes toward democracy that would benefit the Burmese people, I think we can slowly but surely make progress. I’m not going to predict it’ll happen in a year or a couple of years, but I think if you look back on history, the engagement over time, and the openness to listen and support those inside a society who are trying to change make a big difference.
I just – before I came to Asia, I was in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. That did not happen overnight. That took many years. There were a lot of very brave people who stood up for human rights, who stood against the oppression of communism, and it built. And Pope John Paul had a huge role in giving voice to human rights against communism. So it started in the shipyards of Gdansk in Poland in 1980, it grew across Eastern Europe, and slowly but surely brought a wall down.
So I think you have to be committed. You can’t blow hot and cold. We can’t be involved one day and then withdraw the next day. You have to stay committed and you have to stay connected to the people who bravely fight for human rights and democracy, and that’s what we intend to do.
QUESTION: But the world today is a very, very different world from when you were First Lady. So all of these things have changed. The U.S. is involved in conflicts that are very difficult, including in the southern Philippines, where counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations – in the Philippines, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. Just in Afghanistan, ma’am, we’ve had a worsening situation there, the UN pulling out.
I guess what lessons has the U.S. learned in terms of dealing with situations where terrorists are operating inside insurgency situations?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there are many lessons, but one of the most important is that the people themselves have to be willing to stand up against terrorism. I mean, what we just heard from the young man who was speaking earlier, that conflict has – cannot be permitted to intimidate people, as hard as that is.
There is absolutely overwhelming evidence that in Afghanistan, the people there do not want to see the return of the Taliban. They know that what happened to them in the past – young girls being taken out of school, women unable to go for medical assistance, being essentially imprisoned in their homes, denied their human rights, the kind of arbitrariness that occurred on a regular basis with stonings and beheadings and all kinds of terrible abuses – nobody wants to go back to that.
But people have to be given support to stand against it, and that’s really what counterinsurgency and counterterrorism is about. We’re not interested, in the United States, of staying in Afghanistan. It’s a country that we want to see defend itself. So the most common comment that we hear from around the country is from people who say “We want your help to enable us to defend ourselves, and then once we can, we want you to leave.”
Well, that’s exactly what we want. Whether it’s in the Philippines or Afghanistan or anywhere that terrorism is trying to intimidate people. It’s a small group of people who try to impose their will on the great majority of people through the kind of brutal behavior and intimidation, and people need to stand up against that. People of faith, people in governments, people in business, in civil society – people need to say, no, there is no justification in any faith for this kind of action, and we will not permit you to determine our future. So the United States wants to be a partner for those who are willing and able to stand up for themselves and that’s what we see happening in the Philippines. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, it’s my turn. My name is Pinky Webb. Mine is a very simple question. Americans have long enjoyed equal opportunity, equal rights. When do you think the United States will have its first female president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Well, I’m probably the last person you should ask – (laughter) – because I certainly tried. (Laughter.) I hope that – (applause) – I hope that that happens for a lot of reasons. It was very significant historically. When our presidential nominating campaign was between a woman and an African American. I mean, that was such a great symbol of our country. And I was very proud to see Barack Obama inaugurated as our President, and very honored to work with him in his Administration.
But the Philippines is ahead of us. You’ve had two woman presidents. So I really should ask you what’s the secret here, because it’s quite a tribute to your society that you are choosing people on the merits in a democratic process. And I think that that will come to pass in our own country. Really, the equality between men and women is one of the most important unfinished challenges in the 21st century, because women and men together have to be committed to a future of opportunity and prosperity and peace and progress. And in countries that do not provide support for women to be empowered to make their own decisions, to have an education, they do not succeed in today’s world. They can be a negative force, but it’s very hard for them to be a positive force. And therefore, I think that it’s not only electing a woman president, but it’s making sure that every child, boy and girl, have a chance to fulfill their own aspirations, and that’s what I think you are trying to do here and that is certainly what we are committed to doing in the United States.
QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary. (Applause.) And we will again take a question from one of the students here in UST. Her name is Jackie Chan. (Laughter.) And I’m serious.
QUESTION: No relation to the actor.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I was gonna say, yeah, that’s quite a name.
QUESTION: Good morning, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning.
QUESTION: I would like to ask what is a major – do we have any – or you can say the major changes we can expect for the foreign policy agenda of the U.S. under the President Obama Administration?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there have been a lot of changes in our approach and our openness and our willingness to reach out to people with whom we do not agree. Certainly the President on the very first day signed an order to close Guantanamo, which was a very strong action that symbolized a change from the prior administration of our outreach to Russia, to China, to other countries that we think we have to be working with, not against for the good of the world.
We’re trying to find positive cooperation, not competition in the political arena. There’ll be plenty of competition in the economic arena that we’re going to be pursuing, but we want to find areas of common agreement where we can work together. We have made it clear that human rights and democracy are very important. We define it broadly. We happen to think that looking at climate change is not only an environmental issue, but a human rights issue, because certainly, if we don’t protect our planet, we will undermine the lives and the livelihood and the rights of many people living with us together on this wonderful earth. We are very committed to women’s rights as human rights, because we think that that is a clear challenge that we should be helping to address.
We are working on food security. We’re having a very intensive approach toward trying to help countries improve their own agriculture. I had a fascinating conversation last night at dinner with the President about how here in the Philippines, you’re working on hybrid rice that can withstand typhoons and withstand excessive water. We’re also working with people in Africa on hybrid rice and other seeds that can withstand drought. So we need to bring research and science to agriculture. I mean, all of these are important priorities of the Administration. And we want to see governments held more accountable to their own people.
We want to see efforts against corruption and more transparency and more accountability. And I think that the new technology provides a tool for that. And of course, the President’s campaign was all about new technology, and we’re carrying that into our Administration, so that for example, we’re encouraging young people to use social networking to report corruption, to organize, to achieve goals in your society. We’ve seen examples of that. In Colombia, for example, a young person put together a huge demonstration against the insurgents. In Iran after the elections, young people were twittering to say where they were going to be to demonstrate. So I think that we’re trying to take the tools of the 21st century and apply them to 21st century diplomacy. And we want to emphasize development on a par with diplomacy and defense. So those are some of our approaches.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Hope to see you soon.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Secretary, you were talking a little bit about corruption. And let me just follow it up, because corruption is an issue in Afghanistan, it’s an issue in Pakistan, and, as you know, it’s an issue here in the Philippines. What can the United States do or can the United States do more to nudge friendly, but corrupt countries, to be more accountable and less corrupt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are trying to do that. One of the programs that we have, the Millennium Challenge Account, requires that countries meet a certain level of anticorruption standards, and we are trying to promote that. We are looking for ways to link more of our aid to demonstrations that the aid gets to where it’s intended and that it doesn’t get siphoned off, as too often has been the case. But the biggest tool against corruption in any society is public exposure and citizens standing up and saying that they’re not going to accept it, for it to be an issue in the political system, especially of a democracy. And the United States wants to encourage that, to provide tools, again, go back to technology. I think that there’s an enormous amount of potential. And I know this is one of the most texting nations in the world. And so I think that there is a way of communicating and exposing and holding up to the bright light of public exposure any kind of corruption at any time. And I would really urge countries to do that, citizens to do that, and we’ll do our part to try to push as well.
QUESTION: Can I toss to you, ma’am, a question from online? This is actually something that made us all laugh. But one of the people – a young girl asked if you had a crush, aside from Bill Clinton, who would it be? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you mean, when I was a lot younger? (Laughter.) Yes. (Laughter.) But I don’t think I should go any further. (Laughter.) I – well, like all young girls, I had lots and lots of crushes, both on boys I knew and people in the media, entertainment stars. Many, many, many, many years ago, when I was young, there was a singer in the United States whose name was Fabian. Some of you who are my age remember – (laughter) – and I was president of the Fabian fan club (laughter) – and there were, like, three of us in it – (laughter) – but we took it very seriously. And then, of course, I was a huge Beatles fan. And I later in life got to meet Paul McCartney, which you know was an exciting opportunity for me.
Now, my 90-year-old mother, who lives with us, has always had sort of a crush on Mick Jagger. (Laughter.) Don’t ask me why. I like him a lot, but my mother really, really likes him. And she’s gone to two of his concerts. And one of the best things I ever did for my mother was introduce her to Mick Jagger. (Laughter.) So I think it doesn’t matter what age you are, sometimes you can have little bits of pieces of crushes. But that’s all part of having fun in life and enjoying yourself. And I think that in this country, there are a lot of basketball players who are the object of crushes, I’m told. And I totally get that, except, you have to realize if you meet them in person, it hurts your neck after a while. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mrs. Clinton, let’s go back to (inaudible) where Sess wants to throw a question at you. Sess, what do you have?
QUESTION: Secretary, on a more serious note, peace has been so illusive here in Mindanao. And just yesterday, another kidnap victim, Irish missionary, Father Michael Sinnott was released through the help of the MILF. The U.S. has watched the peace talks between the government – the Philippine Government and the MILF closely. And I’d like to ask what kind of assistance can your government give to see finally a fruitful conclusion to the peace process?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Sess. And we share your hope that there is a final and soon resolution to the peace process. The Government of the Philippines is responsible for this process. It is something that we support, but we’re not involved in. There’s an international contact group of countries that are being supportive, and certainly Malaysia which is playing an active role.
But we believe strongly that when it’s possible to create the conditions for peace, as it seems to be with the MILF, it’s very important to move to try to realize that, because that helps to bring local people back into society and have them be speaking out for what they want inside the political system, not outside the political system. And that further isolates the hardcore terrorists who have no interest in participating in democracy, have no interest in the political process. They want to impose their will, their version of reality on everybody else. So I think working for peace in Mindanao is really important, not only for the people of the Philippines, but for people everywhere who can see that, yes, there may be disagreements, but we can come to some resolution. And then, to set forth a development strategy that will really reward the people of Mindanao with a better future that everyone can invest in.
QUESTION: But, ma’am, largely, the U.S. has pursued a socioeconomic approach in terms of helping in Mindanao. Has – it hasn’t actually been successful. The closest we’ve come to a peace agreement was just thrown out the window because it offered a political solution. Do you think that a political solution is necessary for this, or can a socioeconomic approach, both in the Philippines and perhaps in Afghanistan, can it work?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it has to go hand in hand. I don’t think it can be one or the other. I think there has to be a socioeconomic approach, because you want people to see the results of their participation in society, that there will be more schools built, there will be more health clinics delivered. There will be more assistance on economic development. But there ultimately has to be a political framework within which that socioeconomic activity takes place. So I see it as a joint strategy. And certainly, the United States has provided a lot of aid in Mindanao, working with different groups, trying to create more economic prosperity. But the political negotiations are proceeding on a very important track. And ultimately, will make the difference as to whether or not peace will come to Mindanao.
The only other point I would make is that it is, as I understand it, important that whatever agreement is reached be reached within the constitution and the laws of the Philippines. You can’t have a peace agreement that gives one group of people more rights than other groups of people within your country. That would be creating more problems. So whatever is worked out within the political framework has to be respectful of the constitutional and legal requirements of the nation, and I think everybody understands that. Because you’re right, one of the attempts was thrown out because it didn’t correspond with existing laws and constitutional requirements. But I think that everybody is now working toward an agreement that will do that.
QUESTION: Would you characterize it as one step forward, two steps back – where we are today?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, no. I think from what I hear in the briefings that I received yesterday, it is really a fresh approach to try to make sure that the agreement can be realized. And there is an impetus because, of course, the President’s term will expire, and I think everyone believes that it would be important to get this done because you don’t want to start over again. I remember very well, when my husband got so close to Middle East peace back in 2000, there were those who thought, well, he’s getting toward the end of his term, maybe we could get a better deal with a new administration. And in fact, nothing was done. So for eight years, all the progress – and we got so close – and if it had been just pushed over the line, maybe would have gotten somewhere. But after my husband left office, then President Yassir Arafat said, “Well, now, we’ll take that deal.” Well, he wasn’t president anymore.
So strike while the iron is hot is an old saying. When people are in the mood and willing to make peace, do not sleep, do not rest until you finally get there. Because as the bible tells us, blessed are the peacemakers. I mean, we need to be focused on bringing peace wherever we can so that people will have more stability in their lives. They can plan on a better future. But we can also isolate those who are not interested in peace at all. They’re only interested in conflict and terrorism.
MODERATOR: Well, you know, Secretary Clinton, it’s a little past 9 o’clock, and I’d like to thank you for spending a little bit more time with us. I understand you’ve agreed to spend a few more minutes. So I’m going to give a chance to Tony Velasquez, who’s been down in Dumaguete. He’s been dying to ask you at least one question. So let’s throw it down to Tony so he can get in there.
MR. VELASQUEZ: Well, thank you very much, Ricky. And good morning, again, to you, Secretary Clinton. You know, the people here at Silliman University cannot offer you an honorary doctorate position, just like President Arroyo did in Malakanyang, but they would like to offer you their very own “i-heart” Silliman University pin right here. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Tony, and thank you, all the students.
QUESTION: And if you can’t get it right now from us, they’ll send it to you by FedEx. All right.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
MR. VELASQUEZ: Well, as a follow-up just to the questions that were already posed by Maria and also by Ricky there, we’ve heard about these series of meetings with U.S. diplomats, with high officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I wonder if you could be at liberty to share with us perhaps what kind of advice or consultation that these officials had with the MILF hierarchy that could perhaps lead to a softening possibly of positions both on the MILF side and maybe on the government side?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Tony, the United States wants to help facilitate peace. I mean, that is one of our goals. And if we can be helpful in talking with the government or talking with the leadership of the MILF, we stand ready to do so. But ultimately, the decision must be made between the government and the MILF itself. Malaysia is trying to be helpful and other countries are trying to be helpful. We all want to see an end to this conflict. But we cannot substitute our judgment for those who are at the table, actually making the peace. But certainly, as we’ve heard this morning, this is on the minds of the people of the Philippines.
All of the questions that we’ve had from remote locations as well as here, really suggest to me that the people of this country want to see an end to this conflict. And that is what I hope will happen. And we are going to do whatever is appropriate, to offer advice or suggestions. But we want to support the process that the government is running with the MILF. There’s going to be, I think, a resumption of meetings in Kuala Lumpur starting next week. So that’s what we want to focus on – that everyone should be doing whatever we can. And I have to just say that, to me, the conditions for peace are ripe. People really want to see it. And I hope that no one misses this opportunity because it will make a very big difference in the lives of the people of Mindanao and of the entire country.
QUESTION: But Mrs. Clinton, a lot of analysts are pointing out that this Administration may have neither the popularity nor the political will to actually strike an agreement before the end of – before May 2010. From your chats, your dealings with President Arroyo, what insight can you offer us?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think President Arroyo is very committed. And I think that lots of times making difficult decisions by nature cannot be popular. You have to do what you think is right, and you have to make a tough decision. I think she is fully prepared to do that.
You may not know this, but your president actually went to college with my husband. And I’ve seen pictures of them both when they were freshmen at Georgetown and looking very young, but very enthusiastic. And I think that the president is committed. She wants to see this done. And in fact, what I’ve often found is that it is easier to make these difficult decisions when you’re on the way out of office, because you know what’s at stake and you are willing to brave the political fires. And I think the president and her team is very committed to doing this.
QUESTION: You’re very optimistic. I – Pinky, you want to throw – I would like to ask you, we’ve got elections coming up in May 2010. Our state of democracy, we’ve come from people power in 1986, largely a promise that was unfulfilled. We seem to be in the same place where we were now. How would you gauge where we are as a democracy, and then what do you see moving forward?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there is always a difficulty in fulfilling the promise of democracy. But you’ve just – there is no better system. As hard as democracy is, as frustrating, as disappointing as it can be, it is by far the best system that human beings have ever devised. And I know that you’re going to be moving toward automated elections, which I think is a very positive step forward.
QUESTION: It’s the first time ever, though, that a country anywhere around the world is going to go from fully manual to fully automated without a dress rehearsal.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I know it’s challenging. But I would just hold up the example of India, the world’s largest democracy. India adopted automated computerized voting several elections ago. We think about India with more than a billion people, something like a half a billion, 600 million vote, illiterate people vote by looking at the pictures on the punch card at the – both the faces and the symbols of parties.
And what I was so impressed by is that the way India has set this up – and I do not know how the Philippines has actually set it up – they took it out of politics. It is run by a board of civil servants so that the politicians of any party are not involved in it. And it is so highly effective that nobody questions the results of the elections. Well, that is what I hope for you.
But based on our own experience, there will be some bumps in the road. When we moved toward automation, we had some problems, but you just keep working on it and keep perfecting it. And there could be some dry runs, not of a full election, but trying out the technology, making sure you know how it works, educating voters about it. But in many places, it’s proven to be quite successful, and I hope the same for you.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’ll throw to you an online question, a question that’s come in. The United States doesn’t seem to walk the talk in terms of its climate change policy. I guess, just to elaborate, some of that – the U.S. – your husband failed to sign the Kyoto agreement, and now we’re going towards Copenhagen. The U.S. is perceived as protecting big business interests at the expense of the environment. How would you answer this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, back when my husband and Al Gore were in the White House, there was so much less understanding in the United States of climate change. And we were very active in negotiating Kyoto. Of course, Al Gore was instrumental in it. But our Congress rejected it overwhelmingly, and then for eight years, we had a president whose administration denied climate change.
But I want you to just think about what we’ve done in the last nine months, is we’ve passed a big stimulus bill with $89 billion for clean energy technology, which we are now rolling out. We have, through regulation, increased the emissions standards on cars and on utility plants. So we’re not waiting for congressional action; we are moving ahead in the Obama Administration, and we passed a very aggressive bill out of the House. So we’ve passed it in one House; we’re working in the Senate.
But we’re going to go to Copenhagen 100 percent committed to creating a framework agreement. We probably – we doubt that we can get to the legally binding agreement that everybody wants, because too many countries have too many questions. But we do think that we can come up with a very strong framework agreement, and we encourage countries like the Philippines to be prepared to take advantage of the financing that the developed countries will put forward for adaptation. And that’s how we see the potential progress coming out of Copenhagen.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Do we still have time for questions?
MODERATOR: Yeah. We still have her here. Keep asking.
MODERATOR: Okay, all right. I’m curious, Secretary Clinton, to find out about your talks with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Did she say if she was stepping down in 2010, or if she’s planning to run for congress?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we didn’t get into that. We talked about climate change, we talked about Burma, we talked about all of the regional and global issues; certainly, the economic recovery, the national disasters that you have been coping with, and what more we can do to help. We had a really very comprehensive discussion about issues.
But I think that what we see as our partnership and our friendship with the Philippines goes from administration to administration to administration. We are committed to the people of the Philippines. We are committed to the democracy of the Philippines. We have many Filipino Americans who are in constant contact with friends and relatives here. And the president was very, very focused on looking at what kind of progress we could make in the remaining months of her term as president.
MODERATOR: All right. Secretary, you know, we’ve got so many people online who were trying to get a little bit of their questions in. Let’s see what we’re seeing online through ABS-CBNNews.com. So far, there are 1,800 online viewers in our chat room. Karl gets straight to the point: Would you like GMA to extend her term after nine years in office? I think you already answered that to some extent with Pinky’s question.
And finally, R82 has a question that concerns a lot of Filipinos: When will the U.S. change its immigration policies? Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain have been employing thousands of Filipinos through skilled migration by a point system. Any plans for the U.S. to do something like that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re hoping that we can achieve comprehensive immigration reform, which is something that I feel very strongly about. I championed it as a senator from New York. I championed it in my presidential campaign. We have so many priorities. I mean, I can’t even adequately describe what it was like coming into office eight years after the prior administration when problems had been stacked up. It felt like there were thousands of planes circling in the air that we had to bring safely to a landing, and immigration reform is one of those.
The President’s focus has been so directed toward healthcare reform, which is something that is long overdue, something that my husband and I worked on. So we hope to get to comprehensive immigration reform and then this issue will be part of the legislation that we introduce.
QUESTION: Well, Mrs. Clinton, I want to bring it back a little bit to you. You talked about your life in politics and how it’s affected your family. It has had an effect on your family. If you go back and look over decisions you and your husband have made, is there anything you would change?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course, of course. There are many things. I mean, I mentioned one of them, healthcare. I wish that we had taken a different approach or been more successful back in 1993 and 1994. I think that any time you’re in politics as long as Bill and I have been, and you are involved in making so many decisions, hindsight is 20/20. It’s like being the coach on the couch watching a basketball game and you’re thinking you should have done that and you should have done this. Well, we can look back and say there are many areas where we would have liked to have pursued it differently or made a different call at the time.
But overall, I’m very, very proud and grateful for the service that we’ve had. I think that my husband’s two terms in office, the work that I did in the Senate, now the work I’m privileged to do with President Obama, is aimed at very clear efforts to improve the lives of people and to give people who are willing to be responsible the tools to improve their own lives.
I don’t believe government is the answer to everything. I do not believe that. I think that any society rests on a strong leg – it’s like a three-legged stool – a strong leg of a functioning government that responds to the will of the people, a functioning market economy that creates opportunities for people, and then civil society which includes faith communities and organizations that create all of the positive energy that often is most meaningful in a person’s life.
So you have to look and say, well, are you furthering the goals of your society? And I feel very positive about what we’ve tried to do.
QUESTION: But what about the personal impact of having this power on your family?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that it is a choice that people make. No one says you must go into politics, you must stay in politics. But it’s the kind of service that Bill and I have been called to do, and we’re very grateful that we’ve had a chance to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Do you have any message to the Filipino people, Secretary Clinton, please?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is such an honor. This is my third trip to the Philippines and it is such an honor to be back. And I look forward to returning in the future, because our friendship and our partnership is one that I highly value and that President Obama wants to broaden and deepen, that together we can make a difference for the people of the Philippines and improve the future for our world.
I think also we are enriched in the United States by the many contributions of Filipino Americans. I count many among my friends, and I have learned a great deal from them and I am so grateful for their contributions, both in the United States and back home here in the Philippines.
So I wish all of you well. And we will continue to work with you, to support you, to provide assistance as we’ve done on many occasions, most recently in the wake of the terrible natural disasters, because we want to see the Philippines continue to grow and prosper. That is our only interest in being your friend and being your partner, and I look forward to working with you.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Thank you.