Mr. Duterte has clearly neutered the brave men of the two chambers of Congress. The prime example is the Senate president, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd. Nene Pimentel, his father, fought Marcos at all fronts and at the most hostile of trenches. Ninoy Aquino once said that Nene Pimentel deserved to be president of the republic, post martial law. During the 1986 presidential campaign, Nene was the body man of the late Cory Aquino. A bullet for her would have to pass through Nene first.
When the EDSA Revolution broke out in February of 1986, we were resting at the hard floor of Sonny Osmena’s ancestral house in Cebu City. He was taking a break from guarding Cory Aquino while I covered Cory’s boycott plea (of Marcos’s cronies) to Cebuanos for the resurrected Manila Times. During those uncertain times, Nene bunked where he can. The struggle did not bring many comforts.
Nene’s clenched-fist defiance of martial rule was the stuff of martial law reportage.
Mr. Pimentel 3rd was schooled by his father on defiance. I don’t think he missed those hard lessons in life. Yet, we have not heard him speak about Mr. Duterte’s s war on drugs, especially on the underside of alleged extra-judicial killings. No assent. No dissent either.
For a son of Nene Pimentel, the silence is totally unexpected.
Pimentel 3rd can’t invoke “ party loyalty.” During the time Nene was Cory’s MILG secretary, he spoke out against what he believed were the misses and miscues of the Cory administration. He was extremely loyal to Cory but that did not prevent him from speaking out his mind.
Where is Bam? Where is Ping? Where is Frank? Ok, this is the final question. Where is Mr. Trillanes? The ex-coup plotter and public face of dissent seemed to have been stymied into a very untenable position. Clearly, all of the above have forgotten about Dylan Thomas.
(Do not go gentle into that good night….) Clearly, Mr. Duterte has neutered these supposed brave men into silence.
Who have spoken out against Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs, against some legal aspect of the war and against the alleged unnecessary funerals that have been by-products of the war on illegal drugs? Three high-profile women: VP Robredo, Senator Leila de Lima and CJ Sereno. We, however, have to grade the degree of dissent stated by the three.
VP Robredo, perhaps due to her position as a member of the Cabinet, generally aired softball criticisms. Statements that are in the category of “ mabuti sa wala.” She surely calibrates her statements. She says her piece but she does not incur the ire of Mr. Duterte.
I don’t think confrontations are part of her DNA. (I had a co-worker who can act as Ms. Robredo’s doppelganger. She, too, had no mean bone in her body.)
Braver than Ms. Robredo is Senator de Lima, who has pressed for a Senate inquiry on the alleged extra judicial killings that have marred the otherwise admirable efforts of Mr. Duterte to cleanse the stench of the narco-republic.
A barrage of social media criticism has emboldened, not discouraged, Ms. De Lima. I don’t think she is the type who cowers under pressure. In an earlier piece, I have argued that the Duterte administration should have space under its vast tent for the likes of Ms. De Lima. Mr. Duterte wants to coopt the rebels and the secessionists. Surely, there is space for Senator De Lima’s dissent.
At the end of the day, her actions will only enhance, not hamper, Mr. Duterte’s dream of a better country.
The bravest, of course, is CJ Sereno. Backtrack a bit and check her record. One thing stands out. If she does not eat presidents for breakfast, she has a record of defying presidents.
Mr. Aquino named CJ Sereno to the High Court, first as an associate justice, then chief justice despite her lack of experience. In the ideal world, the exercise of independence would not be her priority. But if you look at her stand on the DAP case, she voted passionately for the unconstitutionality of the DAP. If that did not reveal a fiercely independent mind, I don’t know what that was.
On the plunder case against former President Arroyo, she was strongly for the Ombudsman – a decision for plunder and against Mrs. Arroyo.
CJ Sereno’s silence on Mr. Duterte’s warning that her actions might plunge the country into a constitutional crisis does not mean she has retreated into some silent corner. She has not and she will never do that.
At the end of the day – and looking at what is good for the republic and what is good for democracy – the last thing that Mr. Duterte needs is a parasol-holding Chief Justice.
Being an old man in the typing business makes you remember things, including those low points for the High Court. Remember the sad optic of a Chief Justice holding a parasol to shield Mrs. Marcos from the sun at a very public event?
It made us weep for the Republic.