Do you want President Rodrigo Duterte out?
Despite Christmas cheer, many a partygoer worried about the 6,000-and-rising body count in the anti-drug campaign. People also griped about Duterte’s foul language, lately labeling the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights an idiot, along with three out of every five Americans. Oh, and he threatened to “burn down” the UN headquarters in New York.
Of graver concern was his express wish for martial law minus congressional and judicial review now mandated by the Constitution.
Leading critic Sen. Leila de Lima claimed that President Duterte was showing the mental effects of taking Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller normally prescribed to cancer patients. She then urged the Cabinet to declare him unfit for the presidency.
De Lima’s ouster call came two weeks after Vice-President Leni Robredo quit the Cabinet, claiming a plot to oust her as VP, and her Liberal Party allies organized protests over anti-drug killings and the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes).
The latest report of possible regime change came two days ago in this newspaper. The Manila Times chairman Dr. Dante A. Ang cited material from an unnamed source alleging a US plan to remove Duterte, drafted by former Ambassador Philip Goldberg < http://www.manilatimes.net/us-ex-envoy-plotting-duterte-fall-source/303868/ >.
Why all the ouster talk now? Maybe because the election protest of losing VP candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is finally coming up in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, after undue delay. If it prospers, it would derail plans for a Robredo presidency. Which may be why a usually prescient astrologer said that if Duterte rules till after March, he’s safe.
Undoing six months of Digong
But what if he bows out, and the Liberal Party regains power under Robredo? What do we lose by losing him?
Saturday marks six months of Duterte’s rule. In that time, he slashed crime and drugs, and recast relations with America, China and Russia. He also exposed hundreds of officials and police allegedly in cahoots with hoods, including two fraternity brothers just fired after receiving P50 million from a gambling lord.
All that could be undone if Duterte goes.
That would please drug kingpins and their millions of minions and clients, plus thousands of corrupt officials and police protecting narcotics. Also foreign leaders, nations and organizations unhappy with Duterte’s invectives and initiatives, especially the suspect killings and the swing to Russia and China.
What about Filipinos? They elected Duterte mainly to fight crime, and statistics show his campaign has achieved big gains and high approval.
Last week the Philippine National Police reported that total crime was down by 12.4 percent in July-November, compared with the same months in 2015. Index crimes dropped by almost one-third, and nearly all types of crimes against persons and property by double-digits, except killings.
Crimes against property plunged 42.5 percent; also down were rapes (-11.6 percent) and physical injury (-25.7 percent). But with more than 6,000 drug-related deaths, murders surged by half, while homicides dipped only by 1.6 percent.
Assuming the PNP has fixed its crime data mess (see < http://www.manilatimes.net/duterte-must-clean-pnp-crime-data-mess/290583/ >), it seems President Duterte has delivered much of his pledge to eradicate crime.
That performance contrasts with the tripling of incidents under then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd, from 324,083 in 2010 to more than 1 million a year in 2013 and 2014, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Now, imagine if an Aquino-backed leader takes over the presidency, restoring many of his policies and appointees. Would it curb crime?
And contraband, too: Smuggling also tripled to $26.6 billion by 2014, from $7.9 billion in 2009, based on International Monetary Fund trade data.
As Aquino himself admitted in his 2013 State of the Nation Address, guns and drugs flooded in among the thousands of untaxed, uninspected containers, including 2,000-plus vanished in 2011. How do you think recently busted shabu labs got in?
Back to Uncle Sam
Also back to square one if Duterte exits is foreign relations. Aquino’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows US forces to escalate deployment and use bases in the country, would be fully implemented.
EDCA would make the Philippines a strategic threat to China, with the Seventh Fleet’s nuclear-armed ships, subs, and planes in our territory able to hit most of the mainland. The US Army-funded RAND think-tank believes American and Chinese forces have much incentive to strike first, with bases serving US forces among China’s top targets.
Plus: Aquino’s policy of prodding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take on China, would resume. That Asean tack and the EDCA threat would end the goodwill and assistance recently won in Beijing.
No $50 billion in Chinese projects, and no Filipino fishermen back at Scarborough Shoal. Instead, the People’s Liberation Army would probably start building military-capable facilities at the disputed lagoon 200 km from Subic.
Also resuming would be US-Philippines sea patrols and combat exercises provocative to China. And forget arms deals with Moscow and Beijing. We’ll continue to buy only Western armaments, whose ammunition and spare parts supplies are reportedly now restricted by Washington.
Protected by the President
Of course, Aquino-era politicos would be back in business, including those protecting narco-gangs, and engaging in sleaze, like the airport’s tanim-bala crooks. Investigations of anomalies in the past regime would stop.
Instead of being fired, as Duterte’s fraternity brods were over the P50-million immigration bribery, presidential allies would again enjoy Palace protection, like Aquino’s shooting buddies and partymates. So would shady police: Not the ones burying drug lords, but those backing them.
Now, if adversaries of Duterte’s reforms succeed in taking him out, would the next leaders have the daring, drive and determination to continue his law enforcement, foreign relations, and anti-graft initiatives? Or would they conclude that opponents of change are too tough to beat?
Bottom line: If President Duterte loses to the crime syndicates, corrupt officialdom, and Western powers that want him out, backed by defenders of verbal decorum and funeral propriety — so does the Philippines.