A few days before the 100th day of the BBM administration, former president Rodrigo Roa Duterte graced the PDP-Laban faction ceremonies. In that meeting, Duterte made it clear that his group will remain friends with the administration yet will not mince words when an issue or a scandal hits the administration that affects the welfare of the people.
That statement meant that Duterte wanted to assume the role of fiscalizer. And by that, Duterte indicated his readiness to use whatever political capital he thinks he still has. The question is–up to what point does Duterte intends to spend this capital, and to what ends?
His daughter, Sara, remains BBM’s constitutional successor. As this 1987 Constitution dictates, whatever happens to the President, the vice president succeeds. During his visit to Indonesia and Singapore, his very first foreign visit, BBM entrusted the administration to Ms. Duterte. Lately, however, during these visits to Cambodia for ASEAN, there seems to be no official announcement about Sara being a government caretaker. Or does this administration already presumes that there is no need to declare Ms. Duterte as his caretaker officially? Or maybe there is already some uneasiness since many suspect some of Ms. Duterte’s allies want nothing more than a take over instead of just a care-taker status for her?
Anyway, things are heating up between active and retired generals still allied with the Duterte group and of President BBM. With the government tagging General Bantag as the primary mastermind behind the death of broadcaster Percy Lapid, some Duterte trolls and groups are protesting why some personalities are insinuating the possible role of the former president in Lapid’s controversial death. Before he left for Cambodia, President Marcos Junior insinuated that there might be a personality higher than Bantag that plotted or suggested the assassination of Lapid. This same line was mouthed by no less than the brother of Lapid, Roy Mabasa, and even former senator Leila de Lima, a self-professed enemy of Mr. Duterte. The Duterte camp suspects that there might be a deliberate political agenda behind the tagging of Bantag. Is there a plan to put Mr. Duterte also behind jail alongside Bantag? Or these same forces want nothing more than weaken Mr. Duterte politically so that he becomes incapable of marshalling his forces to subvert the BBM administration?
With the demise of former presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos, the only charismatic leaders left of the so-called “old block” still alive is former president Joseph Estrada and Duterte. Both leaders are ailing yet, Duterte is more popular than Estrada. In the event of a breakage of ties between the Duterte and BBM camps, the most logical person to lead the charge against Marcos junior would be Duterte.
2023 will be a politically charged year. Why? First, the remnants of the Duterte administration working within the bureaucracy will be no more by December 2022. By this time, the entire bureaucracy would be under the strong grip of the BBM faction. Of course, there are some Duterte people who managed to silently keep themselves within government and since they occupy lesser and non-sensitive posts, their value as Duterte sleeper spies remain. I believe the Duterte camp will begin their fiscalising roles by January 2023 or as early as December.
Or it might be earlier, possibly this November when the Department of Justice begins its preliminary investigation on the Percy Lapid case. Expect Bantag’s arrest and detention to hug media headlines. Bantag already said that he is ready to fight government, because he is innocent of the charge. What would happen if government presses for his arrest–will Bantag voluntarily give himself in or bet his life on the lam? Whatever he chooses, Bantag’s arrest will be the signal for the re-consolidation of Duterte forces. Question–is the Duterte camp still strong enough to resist BBM’s forces?