Who wants President Rodrigo Duterte ousted?
Now, don’t everyone slam the reply button all at once. Let’s give way to those admitting they are among the factions and interests hurt or threatened by his nearly three-month-old administration.
Are you a drug or crime boss? Then your ilk was first to wish Davao City’s crime-busting mayor stayed south. Your narco-business has shriveled to one-tenth its mammoth size under past President Benigno Aquino 3rd, as reported by Philippine National Police chief Ronald de la Rosa.
Indeed, incarcerated narco-kings were said to have offered P50 million for contract killers to take out Duterte and de la Rosa. The convicts quickly denied it, but they certainly wouldn’t mourn if the two join the 3,000-plus narco-suspects killed in the bloody anti-drug campaign.
Nor would their cohorts in government. President Duterte has named dozens of officials allegedly protecting narco-syndicates, from former Justice Secretary and now-Sen. Leila de Lima and other lawmakers to provincial governors, city and town mayors, police generals and judges. Not a few would back Duterte’s removal.
De Lima has spearheaded a Senate inquiry into drug-related killings. Duterte has accused her of protecting drug lords in the national penitentiary that she supervised when she was Justice chief, and allegedly getting millions of pesos in payoffs.
Duterte’s campaign has also squeezed all manner of criminals, with incidence down
30 percent to 50 percent from a year ago, after tripling under Aquino to more than
1 milion annually since 2013.
Based on 2014 figures found online in the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Philippines In Figures 2015 book, the crime reduction reported by PNP chief dela Rosa would mean some 3,000 murders prevented over one year, 4,000 rapes, 20,000 robberies, 50,000 thefts and 75,000 assaults. The perpetrators and masterminds behind such lawlessness would want Duterte and de la Rosa taken out.
So would Mindanao extremists supporting the barbaric Islamic State: the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), a brutal kidnap-for-ransom gang based in Basilan and Sulu; and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) talking peace with Duterte.
The Abu Sayaff and drug lords are suspected masterminds of the recent Davao City market bombing, which killed at least 15 and injured dozens. Duterte has ordered the Armed Forces to wipe out the ASG; it wants to get him first.
The BIFF broke away from the MILF, which itself splintered from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Both the MILF and the BIFF went on their own after their mother insurgencies engaged in autonomy talks. These radicals wanted to continue fighting for secession.
Aquino’s once and future power?
Besides lawless groups, elements of the past administration are plotting ouster, according to President Duterte himself. He said recently that “yellows” were behind machinations to remove him—referring to politicians and media linked to Aquino. His emblem is the yellow ribbon popularized by his late mother, democracy icon and former president Corazon Aquino.
Duterte’s predecessor sought to continue Liberal Party rule, but LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas lost, along with erstwhile survey topnotcher Sen. Grace Poe, widely seen as Aquino’s Plan B. But Roxas’s running mate Leni Robredo won, fueling speculation that the LP could oust Duterte and install his vice president.
VP Robredo denies the purported plot, saying she has a good working relationship with Duterte, and any impeachment move would not prosper.
For an official to be impeached and sent to the Senate for trial and possible removal, one-third of the House of Representatives must approve the Articles of Impeachment. That is deemed unlikely, given Malacañang’s immense clout among congressmen, who have mostly allied withDuterte.
Moreover, his Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno now has pork barrel records of all legislators, many of whom benefited from the tripling of pork under Aquino to more than P20 billion a year, plus his illegal P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Notably, as the Senate moved to probe anti-drug killings, Duterte announced a deeper pork barrel probe, which had mainly implicated Aquino opponents. That would give pause to ouster plans by lawmakers who got pork and DAP in the past regime.
Still, if Duterte’s 91 percent trust rating crashes, he may yet see a sudden House revolt. That happened to then-President Joseph Estrada in 2000 after his crony then-Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson admitted giving him jueteng payoffs. The House impeached Estrada in a lightning petition signed by most congressmen–including dozens of his own allies.
If that happens to Duterte, VP Robredo’s Liberal Party and the Aquino camp return to power, to be cheered no doubt by the crime, jueteng and smuggling syndicates, which flourished under LP rule and are now under threat by Duterte.
If Duterte falls, America stands
Also likely to gain from an LP comeback is the United States and its allies. Washington wants Duterte to continue Aquino’s pro-American policies, including the confrontational stance toward Beijing and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
The EDCA would escalate US forces in the archipelago and grant them use of Philippine bases. It is crucial to Washington’s pivot to Asia policy to move 60 percent of naval assets to the region.
If Duterte drops EDCA, American forces would be hard put to find another vast host nation close to Asian flashpoints.
That’s why his conciliatory moves toward China and recent rough talk toward America and President Obama worry the West, which now shows growing antipathy toward Duterte.
The US and the European Union have criticized the anti-drug killings, in contrast to their muted response to abuses by regimes they back, like Egypt’s brutal suppression of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Western aid and investment may sour, as warned by Western business chambers in the Philippines.
Western media too is increasingly negative, decrying killings but hardly mentioning the crime explosion Duterte inherited, and his campaign’s dramatic gains. Compare them with the more balanced Middle East network Al-Jazeera.
Plainly, if Duterte is taken out, the big gainers wouldn’t be the Filipino people.