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Shinzo Abe: A Visionary

The assassination of Shinzo Abe, Japan’s former Prime Minister, was a shock to all of us. His death was horrific not only because of its suddenness and the fact that it was caught on video but also because Abe was a dear friend to the Filipino nation. His government provided a lot of help to our country especially during his stint as Prime Minister from 2012 to 2020. In particular, I know that he has a special bond with former President Rodrigo Duterte whom he immediately befriended after the latter’s assumption to office in 2016. In fact, Japan was one of the first countries President Duterte visited when he assumed office, and Prime Minister Abe had likewise visited our country twice, also going to Davao City.



Even before I had the chance to meet him, I had always viewed Mr. Abe as a visionary. He tackled the economic problems of his country via what came to be known as “Abenomics,” a three-pronged approach that combined aggressive fiscal expansion, monetary easing, and structural reform with the immediate aim of boosting Japan’s domestic demand and gross domestic product (GDP) growth while raising inflation to two percent.



In the global sphere, Abe understood the changing landscape of geopolitics in the region. He argued for increased defense spending and the reinterpretation of Japan’s postwar, pacifist constitution which allowed Japanese troops to engage in overseas combat — with certain conditions — for the first time since World War II. Abe knew that Japan had to be retrofitted to enable it to respond to a changing regional security environment characterized by the changing role of the United States in the region, a bolder and economically stronger China and increased unpredictability of North Korea.



I thought, at least as I observed him from the outside, Mr. Abe was genuinely affable as a human being. He aggressively sought to establish a good personal relationship with former US President Donald Trump even before the latter assumed office. He did the same to President Duterte, offering genuine and warm friendship in order to improve bilateral relations. I saw this first hand when I joined President Duterte in his 2019 visit to Japan. He was invited to attend the Nikkei’s International Conference on the future of Asia and also to a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Abe. I was part of the official business delegation that accompanied President Duterte in this visit (the first of two that year), which was upon the invitation of Prime Minister Abe himself.



Mr. Abe visited the Philippines in 2017 and immediately ushered in stronger Philippines-Japan relations. He proclaimed upon his arrival: “I chose the Philippines as my first destination this year and that is testament to my primary emphasis on our bilateral relationship.” Duterte would later reciprocate this when he said: “Japan is a friend closer than a brother. That means Japan is a friend unlike any other. Ours is a special friendship whose value is beyond any measure.” Thus cementing a bromance that would be the foundation of the Golden Age of bilateral relations between the two countries.



The assassination of Mr. Abe is no doubt senseless and abhorrent. His death at the age of 67 will have an impact on Japanese politics but also, and more significantly, on regional geopolitics. His vision is anchored on his belief that “without peace and security, there is no growth or prosperity.” He further believed that security threats in the region, and globally, require a determined response anchored on international solidarity. This is the reason why he endeavored to reach out to the United States, the Philippines and other countries. The community of peace-loving nations mourns his death.



On behalf of my family, I would like to condole with the wife, family, and friends of Prime Mister Abe. More than this, we would like to extend our sympathies to the people of Japan who have lost a great man, a great leader, and, a great visionary.




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar