President Rodrigo Duterte’s absence at the APEC gala dinner and leaders’ ceremonial “photo shoot” in Lima, Peru last week, reportedly due to a mild illness, has triggered speculations about his real state of health and his being able to complete his six-year term in office. He himself has said, in complete levity, that he does not expect to last his term, and he has been heard to complain about persistent and severe migraine, heartburn associated with a problem of the aesophagus, and some pain suspected to be linked to Buerger’s disease. Whether or not any of these is life-threatening, those around him appear to have accelerated their plans to control power before anything untoward happens.
This applies specifically to his communist allies in the Cabinet. Led by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., they would like to see a revolutionary government in place. Cabinet sources said the paperwork for this is now well in progress. This would dismantle the Constitution under which DU30 ran and won last May in a five-corner presidential contest. If unchallenged, this plot would allow him to rule indefinitely without a Congress, a Supreme Court, the various constitutional institutions, the current system of presidential succession, and a free press.
How a revolutionary govt would look like
It would be a virtual repeat of the martial law period from 1972 to 1980, with one very clear and extremely dangerous distinction. Where Ferdinand Marcos used the Constitution to control the entire machinery of government, save the Supreme Court, in order to fight the communists who were trying to take over the State, the proposed revolutionary government will first destroy the Constitution in order to install into power the communists whom eight years of martial law and several decades of the Cold War had failed to extinguish.
The CPP/NPA/NDF had to wage a violent and costly armed struggle, at the cost of so many lives on both sides, to attempt a takeover. Despite this, it failed. Under the present plan, parts of the serpentine creature are already inside the government; the beast merely needs to execute a few more steps to bring all of itself in and throw the democratic state out. Some analysts argue that DU30 took the first fatal step when he issued Executive Order No. 1 on June 30, 2016, “reengineering the Office of the President towards greater responsiveness to the attainment of development goals.”
Under this order, Evasco, the former rebel-priest who served as DU30’s presidential campaign manager, will oversee the work of 12 critical agencies, in addition to his otherwise innocuous duties as Cabinet Secretary, which he assumed after the position of Executive Secretary went to Salvador Medialdea, DU30’s lawyer-friend from San Beda law school. These include the Cooperative Development Authority; National Anti-Poverty Commission; National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; National Commission on Muslim Filipinos; National Food Authority; National Youth Commission; Presidential Action Center, Office of the President; Philippine Commission on Women; Philippine Coconut Authority; Philippine Commission on the Urban Poor; and Technical Education, Skills and Development Authority; and not least of all the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, chaired by Vice President Leni Robredo.
A rich fishing ground
These agencies offer a rich recruitment base for Evasco’s Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change), which will serve as the main engine of the socialist oriented revolutionary government. They also offer extensive opportunity to spend unlimited funds on “leadership training.” The KP’s main task is to convert DU30’s electoral machinery into a real power for governance. For this purpose, Evasco has created the “Office of Participatory Governance” in the Office of the President, with the help of two undersecretaries, Peter Tiu Lavina, a National Democratic Front activist, and Delfin Cabrera, a reputed member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The OPG is a “detached cell” from the NDF’s national executive council tasked to manage the sectoral and territorial alliance-building of the CPP and the NDF.
Lavina is said to be directly in charge of the OPG, while Cabrera is said to be its finance officer. Said to be working under Lavina are three national coordinators of the Kilusang Pagbabago’s national organizing committee, which was formed in Taguig City on October 9-10, 2016. These are Edina Almodal for Luzon; Doris Isubal Mongaya for the Visayas; and Joselito Libres for Mindanao, all described as CPP members. Libres is concurrently the KP’s national lead convenor.
As of now the KP boasts some one million members. Regional and provincial committees are reported to have been organized in Bohol, Cebu, Negros Island, Siquijor, Samar, Guimaras, Cavite and Northern Luzon. A confidential KP listing shows its regional coordinators in the Cordillera Region (Anina So Rosuman), Central Luzon (Renie T. Balaquio), National Capital Region (Edina Almodal), Western Visayas (Fr. Jose Cajilig), Negros Island (Atty. Archie Baribar), Regions 8 (Marife Terrano Vizcara), 10 (Vida Pacturan), and 11 (Alexander Balili), and two other national coordinators in the offices of Evasco and Lavina (Alexis Casiple and Reuel Velarde respectively) to be either NDF or CPP members.
The communist push and the Marcos burial
Evasco’s effort to organize a revolutionary government appears to be proceeding in full gear, but the communist role in it does not seem to enjoy sufficient public support. The surprise and unpublicized burial of the remains of the late President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on Nov. 18, despite the full-throated opposition of the Left and so-called martial law victims, may have set it back further still. A survey conducted by the SurveyNgBayan on August 17-20, 2016, with a 99 percent level of confidence and a margin of error of 3.3 percent, shows that 66.36 percent of those polled favored a revolutionary government, 28.01 percent were against, and 5.45 percent gave no answer.
But an earlier survey conducted by the same Philippine- and US-based organization in early June, when DU30 first revealed his plan to appoint communists to the Cabinet, reveals that 32 percent opposed the appointment of communists, while 28 percent favored it and 40 percent gave no answer. This survey had a confidence level of 98 percent and a margin of error of 4 percent. This was the only question in the series of surveys conducted by the same group, where a particular DU30 initiative received a negative vote. The message, therefore, seems clear: the people would welcome a revolutionary government, provided it is not run by or for the communists.
Where does the Marcos burial figure in all this? Well, the anti-Marcos groups, which include former President B. S. Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party and “yellow” crowd, now fear that the same nine Supreme Court justices who had thrown out the petitions opposing the late strongman’s burial at the Libingan could very well hasten the vote in favor of former Senator Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos Jr. in his electoral protest against Leni Robredo as Vice President.
This could then supply the necessary stability currently lacking in the Presidency, which the Left is now trying to exploit. With Marcos as Vice President, the communists will have to contend with a strong constitutional successor to the presidency, which did not exist before under Leni Robredo. This could mean the collapse of their revolutionary socialist project. They must therefore work double-time to preempt anything like this. Some of them appear to be hopeful that on Nov. 25, they could fill the streets with anti-Marcos marchers who could provide the tipping point for the launching of a revolutionary government.
An excess of loyalists
I am skeptical about this. It appears that there are more pro-Marcos loyalists out there, who will not yield their ground. They are genuinely supportive of DU30 after Marcos. The issue is not between Marcos and the enemies of Marcos. It is between law and anarchy, between order and chaos. It is between a promise that is waiting to be fulfilled, and a system that has failed. DU30 must make his choice. He must reject the clever machinations and manipulations of the Left, if he sincerely wants to keep and deserve the people’s trust and confidence.
This, of course, is his choice. He could choose to uphold the Left at the expense of the majority who have always stood by the principles and practices of the God-fearing democratic and republican state. He cannot risk sacrificing this majority unless he is prepared to lose everything this nation has always stood for from the dawn of its existence. But it is not DU30 alone who must make this choice. The people, too.
In the last five months, we have had to contend with a schizophrenic view of the Presidency and the society in which we live. We like the President despite, if not because of, the many crazy things he says and does, which we find “cute.” And because we like him, we are so afraid to show our disapproval of the wrong things he says and does.
The need to distinguish
We admire his tough talk against drug dealers, but we cannot approve of the summary killing of drug suspects. Yet we refuse to distinguish between the foul-mouthed fellow we like and the foul language and the summary killings we reject. So the inane question we invariably ask is, “Are you for or against DU30?” when our question should be, “Are you for or against the killing of suspects without due process?”
Or, “do you approve of the President using foul language in public?”
Or, “Do you approve of the President clearing the elements of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group who gunned down Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte inside the sub-provincial jail in Baybay, Leyte at four o’clock in the morning, while allegedly trying to serve him a search warrant?”
Do we not feel insulted that he should expect us to believe the incredible and absurd police narrative just because he has decided to “believe” it?
SurveyNgBayan decided to ask the question about the Espinosa killing, and 73 percent of those asked thought the killing was a “rub-out,” only 15 percent thought it was legal, and 12 percent did not know.
Amid DU30’s completely avoidable mistakes and excesses, the nation has waited for some institution–the Congress, the organized and unorganized political groups, the civic society and professional organizations, and yes, the churches, to speak up. They have so much to contribute to the dialogue that must take place, and they are not being heard. Many, beginning with the Congress, have become a complete irrelevancy, even a threat to the common good and the national interest.
The NTC returns
Since August 2014, the National Transformation Council had sought to clarify the fundamental problems of Philippine society and called for systems change, based on the return of the rule of law and faith-based renewal of values. In various assemblies all over the country, we tried to propagate that message, and were rewarded with a most generous public response. We seriously doubted that the manifestly venal elections would be our path for Change; so without the needed reforms, we could not participate. But our people could not forego that grand fiesta, and when they chose DU30 who won on his promise of “Change,” the NTC thought it owed the new President a chance to demonstrate what he meant by it.
After nearly five months of watching from the sidelines, the NTC has come to believe it needs to actively engage that precise challenge of constitutional, political and social change. Accordingly, in a meeting in Lipa on Monday evening, the NTC leadership decided to reaffirm its solemn commitment as a patriotic democratic opposition, primarily concerned with advancing a militant and faith-oriented democracy in this part of the world.