POSTSCRIPT / March 27 2022 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Who is the 'g@go' Duterte will back?

President Duterte must have been just pretending to belittle in his usual colorful language the tough job he has to hold until noon of June 30, but he did say in Davao City on Friday that only a fool (“gago”) would seek the presidency.

His remark about the top executive post in the land came as everybody awaited his endorsing the fool rushing in to take his place after winning the May 9 presidential election with Duterte’s help.

President Rodrigo Duterte. Photo: USA Today/ Kim Hjelmgaard.

Word got around after he met last Sunday (March 20) with ex-senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the dictator’s son was to be his Anointed One. But Malacañang said, “No, it ain’t so.”

Maybe not yet, the usual crowd kept prattling, as news spread that Duterte would make an important announcement tomorrow, March 28, from his Davao redoubt.

The announcement better be more dramatic than his saying it is his Happy 77th Birthday! (and that “7” happens to be the lucky number of the elder Marcos). Could the big news be about who Duterte’s “gago” is? Abangan!

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By Easter Sunday, April 17, the lead pack in the presidential race should have thinned out to two or three candidates, among them we dare say Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo raring for a final showdown.

After Easter, or three weeks before the May 9 elections, many of the original 10 presidential wannabes left behind by the lead pack should have decided – for the sake of the country – to quit and just help who they believe would make the best president in these critical times.

Based on their survey and rally crowd showing, we see Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and Sen. Ping Lacson trailing the Top Two, although the latter suffered a setback this week when his own party, the Partido Reporma, dropped him in favor of Robredo.

The pressure to either stay or drop out is not as intense among senatorial bets who can randomly aim for 12 slots. In the one-slot presidential derby, a candidate loses altogether if he fails to top the scoreboard.

Sure presidential losers should seriously consider quitting and supporting the candidate in whose hands 110 million or so Filipinos are better assured of finding a more caring, competent and less corrupt government.

We think it is the patriotic duty of sure losers to step aside and help the candidate who they think is best qualified to unite and lead the country in recovering from the pandemic and the economic distress.

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On many occasions, Duterte has talked out of experience about the qualities that the president should ideally have.

In a March 11 interview with his friend Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, for instance, Duterte said his successor should be compassionate, decisive, a good judge of character, and preferably a lawyer.

Duterte-watchers have been using some of those qualities to guess who he would endorse as his successor. His meeting Marcos Jr. last Sunday has stirred speculation that he, although not a lawyer, is the “chosen one”.

But Malacañang said that was just a meeting where the President gave advice to Marcos Jr. What specific advice, the Palace did not say.

Did he also tell Marcos Jr. what he said last Friday at the inauguration of the Cancer Treatment Facility building in Bajada, Davao City, where he opined that anybody wanting to be president is a fool (“gago”)?

He cited himself to illustrate what he meant: “Ang taong magambisyong presidente, gago, ah gago. Kagaya ko, minsan mamayat ako, minsan tataba ako. (A person dreaming to be president is a fool. A fool. Like me, sometimes I lose weight, there are times I gain weight).

“When you get to study all documents of the Republic of the Philippines from all places, provinces and cities, mawalan ka ng stamina (You’ll lose stamina).”

He said he tends to spend time reading documents before signing them even if they had been reviewed by assistants.

Ako… binabasa ko ulit, tapos I sign. Matatapos ako niyan mga ala 7 alas 8 bago ako makatulog (Me… I read them again, then I sign. I manage to finish at 7 or 8 before I can go to sleep… That’s why early on, I said my day starts at 1.”

Duterte also said that if an aspiring president plans to be corrupt, that person would have no problem:

Kung mangurakot ka e walang problema. Wala talagang problema. Di ka na kailangang umuwi ng probinsya, may mansyon ka na doon. Pero, kanya-kanyang istilo yan sa buhay. It depends on how you look at life.

(“If you want to amass wealth, there would be no problem. You’ll no longer need to go home to your province, you can have your own mansion there. But that depends on your style.”)

On wealth amassed while in office, Duterte’s refusing to disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the past two years, as required by law, makes it difficult to look into his riches accumulated during his term.

The President gets his monthly salary of ₱423,723 practically intact since he does not have to spend for anything he takes, consumes or uses. His office expenses are covered by its budget whose fund allocation is augmented by his P4.5-billion confidential and intelligence funds.

Intelligence funds are spent without being subjected to the usual scrutiny by the Commission on Audit. A Palace official once said that a simple certification that the money taken from the President’s intelligence funds was properly spent normally precludes any further auditing.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 27, 2022)

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