POSTSCRIPT / July 11, 2021 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Sara-Duterte bid splits PDP-Laban

A FIGHT for ascendancy in the ruling PDP-Laban party has set back its search for a presidential candidate to run with President Duterte who is seeking the lower position of vice president in the May 2022 national elections.

Early this week, Duterte was poised to anoint his loyal aide, Sen. Bong Go, as the presidential bet after party leaders organized assemblies, gathered signatures and passed resolutions urging Duterte to run for VP and just handpick his running mate.

In a meeting Tuesday, party leaders led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, who is PDP-Laban vice chairman, appeared to have convinced Duterte to run for VP while giving him a free hand to pick Go as the standard-bearer.

The meeting gave the impression a done deal was just being wrapped up – until the party president, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, in California preparing for his boxing bout set Aug. 21 in Las Vegas, stopped the Cusi-led extravaganza.

It turned out that the party, or at least the Pacquiao faction, adopted a resolution July 3 expelling Cusi their vice chairman, and two other leaders, for supporting Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as a presidential candidate with her father running for VP.

The resolution said Cusi was manipulating the party to support the daughter-father tandem, “a blatant admission” of backing Sara for president although she comes from another party, the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (Faction for Change).

It said further: “(She) does not even believe in federalism, her party fielded candidates against and opposed official candidates of PDP-Laban in 2019 elections, and she is vehemently opposed to joining the PDP-Laban party.”

Another resolution voided the actions of the national council meeting held May 31 in Cebu City, saying Cusi had no authority to call for and preside over it. It annulled PDP-Laban’s call for Duterte to run for VP and canceled a call for a party assembly on July 17.

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DUTERTE told the Cusi-led meeting Tuesday, “I am seriously thinking of running for vice president. If I run and the elected president is not a friend, the situation would arise where I would remain an inutile thing there. This is my dilemma.”

But Go is not his only friend and ally. There is, for instance, his daughter Mayor Sara who is also being promoted, with her consent, as a presidential candidate.

One question being kicked around: Supposed Go, or Sara, wins the presidency with Duterte as VP and the new president after a decent wait resigns or otherwise gives up the post to allow Duterte to succeed to the presidency?

Would that violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Constitution which says in Art. VII, Sec.4, “the President shall not be eligible for any reelection”? That issue could reach the Supreme Court where 12 of the 15 justices, including the Chief Justice, are Duterte appointees.

The mere running of Duterte for vice president in 2022 – according to former Comelec chair Christian Monsod, a member of the Commission that drafted the Constitution – is already an attempt to circumvent the charter and must be shot down by the high court.

 Who’ll cover Duterte’s tracks?

IT IS widely believed in this country that the president, who can be removed from office only through impeachment, is clothed with immunity from suits even if this in effect elevates the Chief Executive beyond the reach of the very law that he is sworn to execute.

President Duterte in particular may have felt more pronounced his need for more legal protection after he was accused of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The ICC’s processes are ongoing.

The fate of strongmen hounded by their victims suggests that, if they cannot stay in power, they should ensure that their successor is one who is ready to cover their tracks and protect them.

That is one coverup job presumably expected of Go or Sara, whoever between them makes it to the presidency with the older Duterte as VP.

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DUTERTE has been conditioning himself and the public to the contortions he has to go through as a “spare tire” vice president without any obvious compelling reason. Duterte cannot show fear of retribution from victims of abuses during his watch.

In the Tuesday meeting, he conceded that his running for VP was “not at all a bad idea”, took care to clarify that he would run only if there is still “space” for him. Last week he mentioned the need for him to be around “to maintain the equilibrium.”

Equilibrium was translated to “Continuity” by his devotees, who took turns reciting supposed reforms and achievements of Duterte in the last five years that they warned could be squandered if he would not be around to follow through (as vice president?).

The “continuity” blade cuts both ways. It would mean “more of the same” to those who have had enough of extrajudicial killings, corruption, poverty, official lying, mismanagement, and canine devotion to China that have marked Duterte’s tenure.

Claiming to have been “touched” by the party’s show of confidence, Duterte said, “If I run for vice president, which you want me to do also, maybe I will.”

We’ve seen this “hele-hele bago quiere” drama before. Then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also claimed in 2015 having a hard time deciding to run for president. But he managed to file his certificate of candidacy as a substitute of Martin Dino, a PDP-Laban member who had filed his papers as presidential candidate then backed out to be replaced by Duterte.

(Dino was appointed interior undersecretary on Jan. 8, 2018. Before that he was installed chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority where he tangled with officials whom he accused of malversation, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and grave abuse of authority.)

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 11, 2021)

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