TODAY, the world’s animal lovers will be taking their pets to church for the customary “blessing of animals” on the feast-day of St. Francis of Assisi. In a country drowning in so much blood from a murderous drug war, we could learn from this great saint how to love not only our animals but above all the least of our brethren. Our policemen could learn to care for their drug suspects as much as they care for their police dogs whose job it is to help them detect illegal substances. With the various churches trying to imitate St. Francis, some people hope they might be able to tame the ghost of the killer-wolf of Gubbio, which now lurks in DU30’s forest.
But we should not be terribly surprised if the wolf of Gubbio, which Francis was able to tame, proves to be more docile than the DU30 regime. There seems to be no sign DU30 is ready to change his conduct for the past 14 months. No sign that the rule of law or the rule of reason will soon regain its place in DU30’s political rhetoric, much less in state affairs. No sign that some sense of sobriety will soon influence his off-the-cuff pronouncements that make for presidential policies. The killings are bound to continue, and DU30 will continue to show contempt for those who as much as criticize the killings.
DU30’s ship, which is no Titanic, has already taken so much water, and is on the way to the bottom. But he seems to have no sense of this at all. Samuel Johnson, said to be the most quoted man in the English language next only to the Bible and Shakespeare, was supposed to have said that “nothing so wonderfully concentrates a man’s mind as the thought that he will be hanged tomorrow morning.” This thought is farthest from DU30’s mind because his minions are doing all the hanging. But the denouement could come unannounced.
Lately, DU30 seems to commit one mistake after another. Having Congress, or at least the House of Representatives, under his control, he also would like to see the judiciary under his thumb. So, he would like to see Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales removed, the first one by impeachment, the second by forced resignation. An impeachment complaint has already been filed against Sereno in the House of Representatives, but a Senate resolution by 16 senators against the police killing of minors in the drug war does not augur well for DU30 in the impeachment trial.
For her part, Morales, whose lawyer-nephew Manases Carpio is married to DU30’s daughter Mayor Sara DU30-Carpio, has decided to tough it out, saying DU30 cannot intimidate her. Acting on a May 2016 complaint by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, the Ombudsman’s office has decided to review DU30’s bank accounts as well as those of his family members—ex-wife, common-law wife, and four children—under the direct supervision of Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, after Carpio-Morales inhibited herself because of marriage ties to DU30.
DU30 has rejected the Ombudsman’s authority to investigate his bank records, and threatened instead to investigate and arrest her. But apparently seeing no chance of having his way, DU30 has challenged Sereno and Morales to join him in submitting their respective resignations, since it looks like they are the ones causing problems to the nation. The challenge sounded completely whimsical, and not meant to be taken seriously, but it has already made banner headlines and has not been withdrawn officially.
This has put DU30 in a most difficult position—a zugzwang, in chess parlance, where DU30’s next move can only be to his disadvantage— even though Sereno and Morales have been slow to take advantage of it.
Shades of Marcos
This has created for DU30 a situation similar to that of Ferdinand Marcos after he announced on ABC’s “This Week with David Brinkley” on November 3, 1985 that he was moving up the scheduled 1987 presidential elections by a year and holding a “snap presidential election” on January 17, 1986, to put to rest all questions about his allegedly grossly diminished popular support. This was ultimately held on February 7, 1986 with Mrs. Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, the widow of the late former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., facing off with Marcos.
Once announced, Marcos could no longer get out of that fix, even if he might have had second thoughts about it. He won the election, all right, but well-orchestrated complaints of massive cheating discredited his victory and helped the civilian-supported military to oust him from power. Then the military installed Cory Aquino as revolutionary president, even though she had no active part in the EDSA revolt. Sereno and Morales are not in the same position as Cory was in 1986, but they are in a strong position to shut out DU30, even if they are not potential presidential contenders.
How? They could call DU30’s bluff, if they have the courage to do so, and force him out of Malacañang. All they need to do is demand that DU30 execute a signed document saying he would resign as soon as Sereno and Morales sign their own letters of resignation. This written commitment is necessary because he has already promised to resign at least twice: 1) if any member of his family got involved in corruption: and 2) if it could be shown that he had “even $1” in Hong Kong. Subsequent developments have not prompted him to recognize that these two conditions have already been fulfilled.
Indeed, it would involve some sacrifice on the part of Sereno and Morales, but it would be well worth it. Morales has only a year or less to serve as Ombudsman, while Sereno has quite a few more years. But if she considers herself a patriot, she should be able to give up her unexpired term “for the good of the nation”. It would also be one way of atoning for the wrong done against the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was convicted of and removed for a less than impeachable crime after Malacañang bribed 19 of the 20 senators who voted for conviction, P50 million or more for each.
Shades of Estrada
On the eve of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s impeachment trial and eventual ouster in 2000, he was heard to complain that he was already tired and wanted out. This emboldened his Executive Secretary to discuss the terms of his “surrender” with representatives of the opposition-in-waiting until some other members of Estrada’s Cabinet objected. DU30’s challenge to Sereno and Morales that they all simultaneously resign sounded like one of Erap’s pained remarks during those critical hours. I once called it “the loneliness of the long-distance swimmer” —the will to go on was gone, the tendency was to give up fighting, and drown.
Despite DU30’S bluster, some close observers suspect that beneath DU30’s hardened exterior this “loneliness” may have already crept in. It is possible DU30 has realized he is really out of his depth; that he was meant to be no more than a city mayor, who could impose himself, warts and sores and all, on his office without having to mind his coarse language and manners. Now he knows he doesn’t quite have a worldview or a basic understanding of what a society is and how it’s supposed to function. He has also seen he cannot run a government on a war on drugs alone, which he equates with killing suspects, and which is definitely failing.
Ferdinand Marcos, whom he admired, did not only try to crush the communist insurgency during martial law; he also reorganized the government, introduced the career executive service, instituted agrarian reform, tried to put in place a massive industrialization program, strengthened the country’s security alliances and economic partnerships with major partnerships, tried to be a leading voice in Asean, an active champion of archipelagic rights at the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and a significant influence in the UN, etc.
The mere idea of multi-tasking in such magnitudes and proportions has apparently proved too much for the mayor of the Philippines. Thus, the unguarded expressions of weariness and surrender.
No worthy successor?
One problem, though, is that DU30’s resignation would automatically trigger the process of constitutional succession, which means Vice President Leni Robredo taking over. DU30 finds Robredo unprepared and weak, and will therefore do everything he can to prevent her succeeding him. oreover, a large part of the public seems concerned about her constitutional and political legitimacy, in light of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s pending electoral protest against her before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (i.e. the Supreme Court en banc.) This creates the apparent stalemate.
DU30 reminds us of the story of a monarch whose debauchery was exceeded only by his brother’s who was twice as depraved and twice insane. Warned by his friends that he could get killed in any of the taverns in one of his whoring and drinking sprees, he said there was not a single man in the kingdom crazy enough to replace him with someone twice as mad and depraved as the king. This is probably all that DU30 has got going for him right now.