18sep11-October windmills of Duterte’s mind

POSTSCRIPT / September 11, 2018 / Tuesday

October windmills of Duterte’s mind

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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PRESIDENT Duterte cut short Saturday his sojourn in Jordan to save face (and, by coincidence, taxpayers’ money) and rushed home bearing dire warnings of ill winds of October conspiring to blast him off his perch in the Palace.

The President’s handlers apparently failed to advise him early on that Jordan is the royal retreat of Prince Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, whom he had lashed months ago with expletives. Duterte hurriedly left Amman.

Landing at the Davao airport, Duterte lost no time warning that the opposition Liberal Party, the forces of Sen. Antonio Trillanes (Magdalo Party-list) and the Communist Party were plotting to topple him this October.

As expected, Trillanes and the Liberals denied that they were conspiring with the geriatric Communist leaders enjoying their asylum in the Netherlands.

Duterte’s conspiracy theory improved on the tale told by then President Marcos in 1972 to justify his declaring martial law so he could stay beyond the constitutionally imposed presidential two-term limit and segue on to autocratic rule.

While Marcos talked of only two forces – the elitist Right and the radical Left – conspiring to grab state powers, Duterte lumped together the three parties, but left out the US Central Intelligence Agency that he had accused of planning to assassinate him.

Marcos usurped the supposed plot by declaring martial law and staging an inside-job coup. As for the October plot reported by Duterte, he did not disclose details after saying, “Bantayan ninyo (watch it)!” It could be dizzying watching the windmills of his mind.

There are no indications the three parties tagged by Duterte could mount any serious destabilization as early as next month. They could, probably if they exploited the deterioration of the economy, over time — but not next month.

Whatever is left of the Liberal Party is in disarray and in bad need of leadership and funds. Trillanes’ camp has some firepower but not enough to scare Duterte. The Communist seniors lolling in Holland have been reduced to a maudlin “Maalaala Mo Kaya?” club.

With the three anti-administration forces not primed for an October strike, and with their basic differences on many issues, what plot is Duterte warning against?

Or would he himself create a crisis to trigger widespread violence and lawlessness to justify nationwide martial law or a variation of a revolutionary government – with the three groups set up as the instigators?

Will the armed forces, tasked under the Constitution as the “protector of the people and the State,” be able to spot a fake crisis and act accordingly? Will the Supreme Court, despite its eroded credibility, be able to acquit itself as the unflinching defender of people’s rights?

We expect the escalation of a communications cyberwar — to gain the upper hand in the people’s mind for/against what the administration intends to do this October and ahead of the midterm election on May 13, 2019.

With some 90 percent of the thinking population having access to cellphones and such devices, social media — not the traditional mainstream news and entertainment platforms — will be the dominant weapons in that war.

Duterte has had the communications advantage since the 2016 elections, but that has not saved him from fumbling planners and operators – as what has happened with some of the administration’s communication tasks going awry.

The target public is distracted by such gut issues as rising prices of essential goods. The daily stress makes people vulnerable to propaganda for or against the administration. The distraction is reinforced when such calamities as typhoons and floods hit populated areas.

The enormity of the problems at hand is telling on the mental and physical capacity of the President who seems to be still locked in his Davao micro mindset.

• It sounds Greek to you? It’s Latin

ALMOST everybody nowadays is spouting ab initio, quo warranto, et cetera, and such Latin terms that one would think we are a nation of lawyers. The legal terms are bodily carried over by media from court proceedings to their news stories.

We are sharing below some excerpts from an article of Irineo B. R. Salazar published on Sept. 8, 2018, in München on his Filipino-German Learning Center blog:

“Social media is full of memes since the attempt to void the amnesty of Senator Trillanes. Just like the lack of a birth certificate does not make a person unborn, a missing marriage certificate does not annul a marriage, and whether one has the death certificate of Rizal somewhere in a museum or not, Rizal (and Elvis) are dead.

“Will quo warranto and ab initio go the way of in saecula saeculorum (‘now and forever’ in Catholic liturgy) which became colorum due to use by cult-like rebels? Has Solicitor General Jose Calida crossed the line, offended Filipinos?

“Laws as commitments — His predecessor Florin Hilbay asked whether anyone sent to buy vinegar (Robin Padilla) can just arrest someone now. There are even memes that ask if a marriage is annulled if the marriage certificate is missing. One thing very sacred to Filipinos is marriage, not just a legal document like so much else but a sacred commitment made.

“Just like an amnesty is a commitment by a state to a person. Laws are also a form of commitment, like contracts between people are commitments. Morality is also a form of commitment to restrain one’s own baser instincts, and be nice to others.

“The left is also defending Trillanes, not because they like him, but because the principle that an amnesty stays is essential to the safety of many former rebels among the left.

“Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo says that ‘The State cannot be shackled by an act of clemency it has given to a political offender when the latter pursues subsequent acts inimical to its interest…’ which betrays an idea of government ‘for the powerful, by the powerful for the powerful’ not the people. Government should keep its commitments, not be captive to the whims of groups or factions.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 11, 2018. Follow the author on Twitter as @FDPascual.

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