IT IS worrisome enough that the President does not seem to have a road map – to tell us where he is taking us and how he plans to get all of us there – but when he starts wandering off and telling ever-shifting stories, we get really scared.
The disturbing scenario is much like when the head of the family starts lying to his wife and children.
We are not saying here that President Rodrigo Duterte has been purposely lying, but his credibility has so sunk that when he says something we no longer know whether to believe him or not. And to think that he is the President.
On Twitter days ago, we suggested that when President Duterte has something significant to say, it might be best if he stated it in writing, signed under oath, and attested to by the Executive Secretary. His speeches should also be preceded by an oath to say only what is true.
In his latest rant, intended to be a speech last Saturday at a program in Davao City of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, he dared Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to resign together with him.
He did not say clearly for what noble purpose the three of them should quit. But as he accused the two lady officials of corruption, was he implying that he too was corrupt and therefore compelled to resign like them?
Whatever he had in mind, the question in the neighborhood kanto, the corporate board rooms and in media forums was: Suppose Sereno and Morales did resign, but Duterte did not? (Remember that his speech, and his promise to quit with them, was not under oath!)
Duterte gave a hint of his game plan when he said that after they resign, he would ask the police and the military to investigate the ex-officials and hand down their verdict. It seems he had in mind his police-military apparatus replacing the ombudsman and the courts.
• Duterte’s ‘martial law’ slip showing
FROM WHERE we were watching, we espied the martial law slip of strongman Duterte showing.
Was this why, since he took over 15 months ago, he has plied the police and the military with bountiful benefits and privileges to cement their loyalty in the event an emergency occurs and there is a scramble for control?
Under the Constitution, if President Duterte resigns as he proposes to do together with the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman, the sitting Vice President – not a police-military junta drawing inspiration from him – becomes the president.
Now, Vice President Leni Robredo’s becoming the president – not just acting president — is fraught with interesting possibilities, assuming Duterte allows constitutional succession without bringing in his police-military option that could lead to a bloody strife.
A President Robredo and her supporters must be prepared for that eventuality – although my reading is that Duterte did not really mean it when he offered to quit with the two lady officials. It looks more like another of those distractions, a feint, that Duterte employs when cornered.
This is going far into the night… but as the new president, Robredo can revamp the Cabinet, and appoint Sereno and Morales back to their positions. She can leave Duterte to the tender mercies of Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who is used to that kind of power play.
If only because of the likelihood of Robredo replacing him as president, I expect Duterte to take back – as usual — his challenge to Sereno and Morales to resign with him.
That was why we started out here by saying that whatever Duterte says must be signed under oath. As in chess, the rule should be “touch-move” – once you touch your piece, you must move it. No rubber moves, no atras-abante, no prevarication, no equivocation, no joking.
• But to whom will Duterte resign?
TO WHOM will Duterte resign? As a non-lawyer, my simple answer is: In the absence of a law on the matter, since the President was elected by the people, he should submit his resignation directly to them.
Lawyer Romy Macalintal offers his opinion: “President Duterte challenged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to ‘resign with him’ as he ‘deemed that the three of them are only making worse for the country.’
“There is no problem as to whom Sereno and Morales would submit their resignations in case they accept Duterte’s challenge. They could be submitted to President Duterte since they were appointed by him.
“But to whom should Duterte submit his resignation? There is no provision in the Constitution that specifically provides for the official authorized to receive the resignation of the President and when such resignation would be effective. In the United States, the resignation of its President is submitted to the Secretary of State and is effective upon receipt of the resignation letter.
“While our Constitution provides that in case of resignation of the President, the Vice President shall assume the Office of the President, it does not provide for the manner or procedure for resignation of the President. It also provides for the designation of the Vice President as ‘Acting President’ in case of inability of the President to discharge his functions and the reassumption by the President of his office once the ‘inability no longer exists.’
(FDP: But Section 8 of Article VII says that “in case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President, the Vice President shall become the President to serve the unexpired term.” The VP becomes the President and not just become the Acting President.)
“Indeed, there ought to be a law to specifically designate the official authorized to receive the resignation of the President.”
(FDP: To me as a voter, a sworn signed public statement saying “I hereby resign as President of the Philippines effective right now!” is acceptable.)