• Synonyms of RevGov: weak, 20th century, banana republic


    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    In the political mainstream, this is the hard truth. The body count of the hard-core enemies of President Duterte would comfortably sit in one of those dangerous bantam cars. There are two senators rabidly against Mr. Duterte: Mr. Trillanes and Ms. de Lima, and one is in jail.

    The rest are your regular garden-variety critics, with no predisposition to raise hell against Mr. Duterte and his administration. DU30’s support at the 24-member Upper Chamber is rock-solid, not a razor-thin one. The open contempt of the more liberal Democratic senators for Mr. Trump is not something you see from Mr. Drilon and his LP teammates.

    At the House of Representatives, there are two hard-core oppositionists and they are both from party-list groups. Mr. Lagman has been a vocal critic, but more inclined to rage against policies and Mr. Duterte’s pro-Marcos bent, without wishing ill of the President. The Liberal Party (LP) contingent in the HoR, decimated and discouraged and without leadership, raises its voice from time to time, but to no effect. Mr. Baguilat, the LP leader, may come from a tribe up North but there is nothing tribal about his criticisms of the DU30 administration. What you get from his volleys against Mr. Duterte is a true sense of country.

    The “supermajority” of Speaker Alvarez is an understatement.

    A President in a democratic context gets his or her frustrations from two sources: an uncooperative Congress and a judiciary bent on frustrating the key executive actions of the President. Let us look at our Congress relative to the major policies of Mr. Duterte and the judiciary, relative to the preferences of Mr. Duterte.

    If only Mr. Alvarez, the speaker, and Mr. Farinas, the majority floor leader, could out-Duterte Mr. Duterte, they would. The HoR, under the baton of the two, would pass administration-favored measures at the speed of bread-toasting.

    On the loyalty of the two to Mr. Duterte, we are all reminded of the factotums of the late New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner. When Mr. Steinbrenner snapped his fingers, the factotums automatically answered like this: “Sir, is it one lump or two?” They knew he wanted coffee and the only issue was Mr. Steinbrenner’s sugar preference for the day. One lump? Or two? There was never any issue about the coffee serving, which they relished doing for Mr. Steinbrenner.

    A Supreme Court (SC) that can pass muster the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani is a High Court that can read where Mr. Duterte’s preferences lie. Right now, the Velasco/Bersamin bloc is the voting bloc that matters at the SC and not many lawyers think that this bloc lives in the tradition of Teehankee and Celing Munoz Palma.

    So what if Justice Sereno, who is not afraid of Presidents, is chief justice? I don’t think she holds sway in a court where even the justices that usually vote with her – Justices Carpio and Leonen – may not like her on a personal basis. As chief justice of the High Court, she has a huge megaphone and she uses hers without fear or favor. But what is wrong with a chief justice that speaks her mind about the intimate workings of a democracy?

    If I were Mr. Duterte, I would see the value of an outspoken, unmuzzled chief justice. It is Exhibit A that in the Philippines, contrary views are welcome. A CJ who speaks her mind but lacks the persuasive power to cajole colleagues on the Marcos burial issue? Mr. Duterte should welcome such kind of a CJ.

    What about Vice President Leni Robredo? Of course, she wants to be President. But her lack of political gravitas leads many opposition-inclined minds to veer more toward the Trillanes-de Lima kind of leadership.

    Unless she grows a real spine, the kind of spine that props up Mr. Trillanes and Ms. de Lima, she will never be President. Her lack of spine makes her an impotent foe of Mr. Duterte.

    The Revolutionary Left has been around for decades but its peak armed strength was right before the EDSA Revolution. It is still a force to reckon with because the “conditions obtaining” – which are the Left’s own words – can turn out recruits from the universities, the blighted slums, the depressed rural areas and the professional class. The appeal of Marx remains undimmed in the 21st century because the call for a “classless society” is in dramatic contrast to the built-in downsides and drags of a liberal democracy.

    But it cant upend the government of Mr. Duterte. Even in the battle for the “hearts and minds,” Mr. Duterte, with his popular support, has the big edge.

    A failure of intelligence, which the governments of Mr. Aquino and Mr. Duterte are both guilty of, allowed the IS to ravage Marawi City and sow mayhem in Muslim Mindanao.

    So, who are the enemies that Mr. Duterte intends to contain with his planned declaration of a revolutionary government? They are phantom forces – that is much what the national security experts will tell Mr. Duterte.

    The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) has said its piece. No legal basis for it.

    I asked concerned citizens what they think and feel of Mr. Duterte’s planned declaration.

    The answer? They gave me synonyms: Revolutionary government = weak, 20th century, banana republic.


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