A sick President and a suffering nation under tremendous threats: Who now runs the Philippines?

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte gets his suit fixed by Senator Christopher "Bong" Go as they prepare for the Ceremonies of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito while at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan on October 22, 2019. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Senator Bong Go, President Duterte’s closest aide, gave a public assurance that his principal is still healthy and his complained pain in his pelvic is just “muscle spasm.” While the rest of the nation feels sad and apprehensive over what could happen to Mr. Duterte, considering his age of 74, which, to the minds of several people, does not exactly give much hope of a longer, healthier life, one cannot help but indulge in several nasty speculations concerning not just the health of the Chief Executive, but the direction this nation is facing. The President is hurting, yes, but the entire nation suffers as well from the very same painful episode of their lives, and worst.

AFP_OL6A7-4315Farmers are up in arms, fighting what they perceived to be a law that favors rice cartel lords and a weapon of destruction at class level. Members of the surviving middle class are leaving the country in droves. Those barely surviving among the poor classes have likewise accepted their sorry fate here, and like the rest of the middle class, are packing their bags only to become human trafficking victims abroad.

22sunog2While we appreciate how government is trying to cope up with the distressful situation, and is dispensing social services like crazy to those who are in dire need, the undeniable fact remains that there are still millions out there under desperate circumstances. Imagine how many of us are still unregistered into the system. These people are living not in the hinterlands, but in the back waters of Filipino urban cities, who, by right, deserve a slew of upliftment efforts from our government.

clean up drive 8The system is so fucked up that it will take a million Raffy Tulfos, a hundred Gawad Kalinga, and a hundred more non-governmental organizations to provide palliative measures for those severely victimized by the system. Deeply seated, the social ills of this society are beginning to shape the future direction of this country.

An absence of a radical break from the ordinary, and we will witness during our lifetime a rising of a relatively deprived generation, whose lack of faith in the national narrative, will try to re-make society along the very lines of their own experiential narrative, a story so stark and so dark, that it feeds into the collective hate among us Filipinos. Describing this as a volcano waiting to explode is an understatement.

This will happen in incremental fashion, manifesting in the peace and order of our cities and towns, and eventually crystallizing into a massive movement of people with shared passions, collective faith and unwavering desire for revolutionary change. No more concessions among classes, no more win-wins— only a zero sum game where the clash of classes eventually results to an annihilation of an era.

With a sickly President at the helm, who now protects this state from the predations of the corrupt, the pretensions of political outsiders and the grand plans of a potential foreign invader? Such news of an ailing president gives free license to these economic and social parasites and predators to systematically squeeze the juice out of this nation, and eventually leave the coffers dry like before.

Who decides on the highly confidential and sensitive stuff? Who says this is okey and who gives the thumb’s down? Of whose authority does this people do so, of dispensing that highly critical role of running the bureaucracy? 

Who now determines the foreign policy and trade policies of this country? Which projects funded by foreign and domestic debt now passes the keen attention of Duterte and which ones don’t but are passed nonetheless? 

It is now time for true Patriots to act for the sake of generations of Filipinos, whose futures are now at risk under a sick and ailing president. President Duterte’s condition may not be life threatening, and under the Constitution, may definitely not lead to a constitutional succession, but prolonging both the agony of an old man such as Duterte and the uncertainties caused by his state of health, is sadism in the highest order.  We must take heed of Mr. Go’s pronouncement that the President needs ample rest, but the question remains–what exactly does Senator Go meant when he says “ample rest”? How long would that be? And during this stage of the President’s health, who now tends the work which Mr. Duterte left?

PRRD with Davao Mayos Sara Duterte
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte chats with his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and Senator Christopher “Bong” Go as they prepare for the Ceremonies of the Accession to the Throne of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito while at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan on October 22, 2019. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Sources in the know share that factions and power cliques within the Cabinet are jockeying to fill the vacuum. Executive secretary Salvador Medialdea remains the force, but there is that looming presence of Senator Bong Go, and the appearance of presidential daughter Sara Duterte who recently represented her father at the Japanese enthronement event. These personalities carry with them a truckload of supporters whose interests vary and are expected to pursue differing directions and opinions on policies. Without the imposing presence of Duterte, who then wields the baton or the stick that enables the peace among these cliques? We are talking with just three personalities here. We haven’t even identified the faction of former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and of Fidel Valdez Ramos, and the clique of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano whose various members are imbedded within the Duterte run bureaucracy. This is a most disconcerting problem.

Duterte in pain with Sen Bong GoWe, the electorate, went to the polls and chose our leader precisely because we want to harness his leadership, intellect and skills for the proper functioning of our government. We are now in a situation where personalities not elected in that post are now personally manning the post that is supposed to be Duterte’s.

Such a scenario reminds us of the waning days of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime fell after the people realized that various cliques were running government instead of their duly elected leader. Back then, Marcos was ailing due to lupus, and wanted his wife, Imelda to take over government. This did not sit well with former Minister of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile and erstwhile Philippine Constabulary Chief and Deputy AFP Chief of Staff Fidel Ramos whose interests run diametrically opposed with the Marcos-Ver-Romualdez clique. The rest is history, with the Marcoses and their cliques abandoning their mansions after they felt the rage of a deprived people near Malacanan’s gates.

Uncanny but true–even the social scenes which happened back in the day are somewhat similar with those happening today.  Such historical similitudes cannot be avoided because Duterte chose to take the path which his idol took nearly four decades ago. The only question is–will this lead to a repeat of EDSA, or will it just settle to a win-win solution concocted by this country’s elites? I think a compromise between these elite groups would surely be considered in the next few weeks.

The difference between what happened in 1986 and now, is that there is a weak and highly discredited opposition forces. A Robredo options is simply non-negotiable to many of the Duterte camp and even to the Filipino people. However, such an option is entirely possible and feasible if Robredo manages to unite the disparate social forces together and come up with a Unity Government. If Robredo refuses to do this, she may yet see herself and her political allies at the political sidelines even after 2022.


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