ILOILO City: President Benigno Aquino 3rd issued his toughest warning yet against Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, saying he will not stand idly by if the presidential frontrunner starts ruling the country like a dictator.
In his speech during a campaign rally for the Mar Roxas-Leni Robredo team of the Liberal Party here at the Plazoleta Gay on Tuesday night, Aquino pointed out Duterte was already acting like a dictator, ignoring the constitutional ramifications of his pronounced threat to shut down Congress if his opponents attempted to have him impeached over allegations of hidden wealth.
Threat against the Constitution
“Hindi naman ako abugado, siya abugado. Pero pinag-aralan ko po ‘yung ating Saligang Batas at hinahamon ko po kayo
lahat dito, lahat ng nakikinig sa atin, hanapin niyo sa Saligang Batas: Saan ang kapangyarihan ng Presidente na i-abolish ang Kongreso [I am not a lawyer. He is. But I’ve studied our Constitution and I challenge everyone here present to look into it: Where does it say the President has the power to abolish Congress]?” the President said.
“I-abolish rin ang Supreme Court, baka iyon ang susunod, ewan ko. Pero hanapin ho niyo, walang ganung karapatan [He might abolish the Supreme Court next, we don’t know. But look at the Constitution, there is no such right],” he added.
Aquino said Congress and the Supreme Court are part of the check and balance system to prevent grave abuse of discretion [by the President].
He added that Duterte’s brusque behavior, potty mouth and sheer lack of statesmanship could spell trouble for the country’s international relations.
The President also cited Duterte’s plan to form a revolutionary government, which, he said, would be akin to martial law.
Aquino said a revolutionary government will strip the people of the power to question the wrong policies and decisions of Duterte.
He added that it pains him to see the growing support for a presidential candidate who acts like a dictator.
“Hindi ko matatanggap na walang nangyari sa pagkamatay ng tatay ko at iba pa nating mga kababayan, libo-libo po. Kailangang ibuhos ko ‘yung magagawa ko. Kung buhay ko ang katapat iyon lang ang tangan sa akin, e dapat hindi ganun kaimportante ‘yung buhay ko dahil hindi ko mailalaban ‘yung ipinaglaban ng tatay ko. Hindi magkakaroon ng kabuluhan [I cannot accept that my father’s death will have been in vain. I have to do everything that I can. Should my life be the price, then my life wouldn’t be that important if I couldn’t continue the fight started by my father. His sacrifice would lose its meaning],” Aquino said.
Aquino’s father, Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr, was assassinated at the tarmac of then-Manila International Airport upon his return to the Philippines in August 1983 to pursue the struggle against the strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ rule.
His mother, Corazon, was catapulted to the presidency in 1986 by the force of a people power revolt that toppled Marcos.
The President said he had to apologize to the US and Australia because of Duterte’s undiplomatic remarks against them, two of the Philippines’ strongest allies.
The Davao City mayor earlier dared the United States and Australia to sever ties with the Philippines after he was criticized for his statement that he should have been the first to rape an Australian missionary who was gang-raped and murdered in a prison riot in the city in 1989.
Aquino said he has received a torrent of phone and text messages from different sectors telling him that he was the only one who can stop the rise of a bullying President with no respect for laws or women and children.
“But I have only 58 days left. I will be an ordinary citizen. If ever our fears become true and he becomes a dictator, do you think I can still act? I’d probably be number one on his order of battle,” he added.
Malacañang accused Duterte of mocking democracy by allowing himself to be “co-opted” by local communists, whose slogans and catchphrases the presidential candidate has been dishing out.
Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Duterte’s closeness to Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chairman Jose Ma. Sison is alarming because the two leaders’ allegations against the government “defy the solid gains achieved the Philippines during the past six years that have been recognized by the international community.”
Coloma was reacting to a video of Duterte and Sison’s conversation that went viral on social media.
Duterte, the Palace official said, was virtually mouthing the pronouncements of Sison, who is in exile in The Hague in The Netherlands.
He bewailed that while the government, through the office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, tried to engage Sison and the National Democratic Front (NDF) to a dialogue, the talks did not prosper “on account of their unreasonable demands.”
“Mayor Duterte’s avowed ‘socialist’ and ‘leftist’ advocacies are not within the ambit of a democratic framework, much less in accordance with our Constitution,” Coloma said.
Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, said a Duterte administration would be vulnerable to a lot of things, including a coup d’etat.
She added that there are indications the mayor may not be able to live up to the people’s expectations, particularly in light of allegations that he has hidden wealth.
“His [Duterte] statements are very disturbing to the point that if you refuse to agree with him you will get in trouble, or he will close down government institutions that will not support him. That is not the way a democratic system works,” Poe noted.
She warned that freedom of the press will also be threatened under Duterte.
Poe said freedom of information or FOI will be implemented under her administration even without a law passed by Congress.
The senator vowed no uprising will happen under her presidency because she will make sure that every Filipino will be happy.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA