The national situation is becoming increasingly and gravely unreal. We have a drug war gone wrong, an apparently unwell President who thinks his running for the office was a mistake, and an ambitious but thoroughly unprepared potential successor.
After bragging casually about how he had ordered criminals killed when he was still city mayor, and drug suspects wasted in his current war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte now wants us to know he is no killer. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has opined that if DU30 had killed anyone at all, it was probably because he had been forced to kill, and therefore he did not commit any crime at all. But not only drug suspects are threatened with execution, even human rights workers, including lawyers, are.
The President is immune from suit while in office, and the prospect of impeaching him for culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust has been rendered non-existent after the House of Representatives, which exclusively initiates all cases of impeachment, and the Senate, which has the sole power to try and decide all such cases, have both become organic appendages and rubber stamps of Malacañang.
This is the first contradiction.
Too many ailments
DU30 suffers from endless migraine, Barrett’s esophagus, and Buerger’s disease, among others; he admitted having these ailments at the Wallace Business Forum in Malacañang on Monday evening. He also confessed to his habitual use of Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, which is said to be some 50 times stronger than heroin, and used by cancer patients to treat pain. He was reported to have passed out in Peru during the APEC summit, forcing him to skip the final official dinner and the commemorative picture-taking of all the participants. Back in Malacañang, he was reported to have had a spell of dizziness a few days after he came back from Peru.
These make him a sick rather than healthy man, but he says he is all right because he has no cancer. This is the second contradiction.
A reader reacting to this admission, which I had written about weeks before the Wallace Business Forum, has suggested that DU30 should have been asked about his mental and psychological health, which was raised before the Regional Trial Court in Pasig during the annulment of his marriage to Elizabeth Zimmerman Duterte in 1998. In granting Zimmerman’s petition on Jan. 4, 2000, Judge Pablito M. Rojas gave due credence to the finding of Natividad A. Dayan, Ph. D., clinical psychologist at Dayan’s Psychological Clinic, who assessed DU30 in October 1998 to be “suffering from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder with aggressive features with his gross indifference, insensitivity, and self-centeredness, his grandiose sense of self and entitlement, his manipulative behaviors, his lies and his deceits, as well as his pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings. From all indications, Rodrigo’s personality disturbance, which constitutes his psychological incapacity, is deemed serious incurable and with antecedents.”
Does this explain the President’s apparent addiction to “killing,” his volcanic outbursts, and the use of foul and offensive language, which more and more people find less entertaining? The physical and mental health of presidential candidates was not considered at all in the last elections. But the Constitution provides a remedy if and when the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office for health or any other reason.
Whenever such a situation arises, the President himself or a majority of all the Members of the Cabinet could transmit to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written notice of his incapacity, and the Vice President shall automatically assume his powers and duties as Acting President. “In case of serious illness of the President, the public shall be informed of the state of his health. The members of the Cabinet in charge of national security and foreign relations and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shall not be denied access to the President during such illness” (Article VII, Sec. 12).
This assumes that the President shall have been incapacitated, which is not DU30’s case. He remains fully mobile, and in fact continues to travel abroad. He is now on his latest jaunt to Cambodia and Singapore, his 10th and 11th foreign destination since he became President. In less than six months in office, he has become the most traveled of all Filipino presidents. To think that Mao Zedong never left China during all his years in power.
Despite all these trips, to which DU30 intends to add Russia as his next destination, as soon as the weather becomes more agreeable next year, DU30 says he does not like foreign trips. Just imagine what he would be doing, and how much money the taxpayers would be spending on him if he happened to love foreign trips. This is the third contradiction.
The presidency, a mistake
DU30 apparently looks at the presidency as no different than the mayorship of Davao. Complete control. No opposition or dissent from anybody. Whatever he says goes. People do not mind staying up nights to listen to the non-stop storytelling of their mayor/president and sleeping at daytime, if they can. He’s having a grand ball, but he says he doesn’t like it, and that it was a mistake for him to have run and pull out all the stops to become president. This is the fourth contradiction.
As I asked in my last column, what do we do now, and where do we go from here?
Vice President Leni Robredo, prompted by her Liberal Party colleagues and some elements on the Left, is eager to take over, despite the fact that— or precisely because—-she could lose her position should the Supreme Court en banc, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, rule in favor of the electoral protest of former Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr., who insists he’s the real winner of the vice presidential contest.
She does not have the experience, the gravitas or the worldview needed for the presidency. But the name of the game is power, naked power, and the only thing that matters is to capture it, even though one may not have a clear idea of how to use it for the common good. A local wit likens the situation to a neighborhood pet that barks and runs after every passing car on the street: what will it do if it “catches” by the tail any one of those?
Killing and its effects
We have not had a situation where after only six months into a new administration, the people had begun to fret over their fate should the administration continue in office. This is solely DU30’s undoing. He’s made “kill” the first and most frequently used word in his official vocabulary, and the country the new drug “killing capital” of the world. Public acceptance of it has reached saturation point.
First, the war on drugs targeted the pushers, and the users, but after 800,000 alleged users have surrendered, and close to 6,000 drug suspects have been killed, the war has not arrested or killed a single large producer, manufacturer, financier or distributor of illegal drugs. The three alien syndicates, identified in police records as the Chinese, the African and the Mexican syndicates, have remained completely untouched. Meanwhile, DU30 has ordered the targeting of human rights workers and lawyers raising questions about the killings.
DU30’s people’s headline-hunting has referred to an alleged plot to oust the President by extra-constitutional means, citing the international currency speculator and color revolutionist George Soros and a rich Filipino widow in New York as possible funders of the effort. This seems more sensational than real—-I know the widow referred to in Palace statements; she is not as rich as they make her out to be, and even if she had all the money in the world I don’t believe she is the type who could be persuaded to spend a cent on a project like this.
A Marcos-like scenario
But there is real anxiety about DU30 and Robredo continuing in office for the next six years under the terms and conditions they have sought to define the position of government. It is an urgent and compelling issue which the nation must address. The situation is not unlike the last year of Marcos, when it became very clear that the President had become sick and the danger was real that the government could fall under the control of someone else other than the President. The Americans decided to intervene, and succeeded in nudging Marcos to hold a snap presidential election. So on Nov. 3,1985, on ABC’s “This Week with David Brinkley,” Marcos announced that to decide once and for all whether he still enjoyed the nation’s support he would advance the 1987 elections by one year. He said the elections would be held on Jan. 17, 1986, but this was eventually moved to Feb. 7, 1986.
A snap election would need DU30’s and Robredo’s joint consent. They should be willing to vacate their respective posts to provide the constitutional basis for the process. If DU30 sincerely believes his running for president was a mistake, and Robredo is genuinely interested in becoming president, a snap election should provide the opportunity that each of them desires. Some highly qualified statesmen who should have run but did not in the last election could participate, and some who ran unsuccessfully could still make another try. The Filipino voters would have the opportunity to go through the process with perhaps greater sanity and wisdom.