The Consequences of the President’s Absence

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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

We understand why Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo corrected himself when the topic about President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s proposed 3-day rest came out. It is not about the expected barrage of criticisms from political opposition, no.

It is the perception that this administration is fast becoming a lame duck.

The palace must immediately correct this impression by simply explaining why the Executive Secretary is now the “informal” President of this Republic. That’s the impression of everybody after Malacanan described Medialdea as “caretaker” of government.

Nothing in the Constitution allows a non-elected Executive Secretary to take the reins of government just with the say-so of the President or his spokesperson. And why is he doing the care taking when the President is still very much alive and is purportedly in the thick of things?

Everyone understands that the president needs some rest and recreation considering the heavy burden of administering a huge bureaucracy. He is already seventy four years old, and most of those with that age are usually enjoying their twilight years either playing with their grandchildren, touring the world or simply planting herbs and flowers in one’s farm somewhere in the boondocks. But not this 74 years old.

Everyone knows he’s suffering from some pains in this body, again, expected since, at the very onset, the President already revealed to all that he suffers from brueger’s disease, some issues on his spinal cord due to a motorcycle incident and possible liver problems. Apart from his age, Duterte is also ailing.

We have to hand it to Senator Bong Go–he’s really a dear friend of the president. Go says the President needs “ample time” to rest. Later pronouncements say that this “ample time” means “three days.”

What is three days, when even US President Donald Trump has his rest days at the presidential retreat, Camp David? In the past, we have the Baguio mansion as official summer residence of the President. Now, it seems, we now have Davao. Giving the president some time to rest is definitely NOT the issue.

The issue is—with his absence, what then happens with Duterte’s own plans for this government? What happens to the supposed guidance and direction that only Duterte is expected to do by the 16 million electorate who voted for him last 2016?

Questions arise–what now happens to deals, documents, international agreements, and executive orders which needs the President’s utmost attention? Yes, Medialdea, being the E-S is cloaked with Executive powers, yet still, he is not the same as Duterte. He thinks differently and possibly even his beliefs do not run parallel with Duterte’s. How can one be sure that those being signed and approved by Medialdea are consistent with what Duterte intends or plans to do with this country?

Just as what Duterte detractors expected–this administration will only govern for three solid years and procrastinate for the next half leading to its twilight years. Duterte will just try to make his thoughts known and experiment with it and if works, fine. If it doesn’t, then he will just let others do the walking, while he remains indulged in the talking.

For many, this bodes a bad omen. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Duterte’s administration is acting like it is the very first one which is expected to just cruise along and become a lame duck presidency sooner than expected. If Duterte’s health condition does not improve, then, expect the presidential derby to start earlier than 2022.

 

 

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