What if DU30 is sicker than his politics? Philippine Star

What if DU30 is sicker than his politics? Featured

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte’s state of health has been a matter of routine concern for Filipinos since he came into office in July 2016, but it took a turn for the worst last week when rumors spread online that he had, in fact, died.

This gave Malacañang a chance to quote Mark Twain and say “rumors of his death were grossly exaggerated”: on Monday, one newspaper front page showed him having breakfast and reading a newspaper with his live-in partner Honeylet Avanceña; on Tuesday, his spokesman Salvador Panelo babbled about his “robust health.” A slight fever last Friday had prevented him from attending a scheduled peace and order summit in Leyte, said Panelo, otherwise he was in the very pink of health.

We have nothing as reliable as a medical bulletin to tell us about DU30’s actual health condition. Usually reliable Palace sources said he was not in Malacañang from Friday to Sunday; on the other hand, our Davao sources, who have access to DU30’s inner circle, said he was not in Davao either. His last public appearance was when he visited Jolo to condole with the families of the victims of the January 26 twin bombings of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral; reports said he had a dizzy spell after that visit, while clasping his breast with his right hand. He finally reappeared on Monday in Davao.

Asking for prayers
DU30 was reported to have asked for prayers. He had not done this before; he had on the other hand attacked the Church with profanities and invectives, and ridiculed Catholics for their hopeless church-going. Some of my friends quickly responded with genuine charity without suspecting DU30 might just be playing with them. They were happy to learn he had not succumbed to any fatal illness.

The most skeptical, however, wondered whether it’s not a DU30 “clone” or “double” that’s been photographed for the consumption of the Filipino public, especially after the Philippine Star on Tuesday carried on its front page a picture of a DU30 look-alike, together with a Kim Jong Un look-alike, feasting on fried chicken at a Jollibee outlet in Hong Kong. The North Korean strongman’s impersonator was identified as Howard, while DU30’s impersonator was identified as “Cresencio Extreme.”

But while DU30’s physical health seems to be holding out, not everything about his government is well. His handling of the twin bombings in Jolo and the bombing of the Zamboanga mosque is all shot; you have to suspend all disbelief to believe what DU30 and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are saying about the so-called “suicide bombing.” An unidentified Indonesian husband and wife were supposed to have been the suicide bombers; this means they carried the bombs that killed 20 others and wounded over a hundred, mostly churchgoers, and were probably blown to bits, beyond recognition.

DU30’s clairvoyance

How in Heaven’s name were the police able to identify them as Indonesians, after their bodies were pulverized, and without any policeman or witness having spoken to them when they were still alive, before the fatal explosions? And how was DU30 able to identify the “suicide bombers” even before the PNP began their half-baked investigation? This seems to suggest some amount of clairvoyance.

In my previous column, I mentioned that one full week after the bombings, the PNP crime laboratory had not been able to come out with a crime report, because they could not decide what explosive material was used by the “suicide bombers.” They also apparently had difficulty gathering DNA samples after the “crime scene” was prematurely and ill-advisedly washed of the blood and body parts of the victims. At this writing, the situation reportedly remains unchanged. There is still no crime lab report.

Indonesians at Crame
On Monday, PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde announced that five Abu Sayyaf members had surrendered to the police in connection with the cathedral bombing. But there has been no explanation of the delayed crime lab report. Nor has there been any intelligent follow-up on the alleged Indonesian suicide bombers. On Monday, a group of Indonesian government men, obviously intelligence personnel, were huddled at Camp Crame with PNP officers. They stayed there for hours. Their presence, however, was not mentioned in Albayalde’s press briefing that afternoon.

Why were they there in the first place? Highly informed PNP sources were inclined to believe the Indonesians were invited by Albayalde to lend a hand to DU30 and the PNP in selling the story to the public about the “Indonesian suicide bombers.” But Albayalde’s people apparently failed to convince the Indonesians to support their proposed script, so there was no mention of the Indonesians coming to Camp Crame that afternoon.

This suspicion may or may not be correct. If correct, DU30 will have to exert great effort to make sure Jakarta does not question his claim, without any concrete proof, that two Indonesian “suicide bombers” carried out the Jolo bombings.

The prospect from Jakarta
More than this, DU30 will have to make sure Indonesia, the biggest Muslim country in the world, does not protest DU30’s deafening silence and inaction on the bombing of the Zamboanga mosque, which killed two Islamic missionaries and wounded five others, one day after the Sulu cathedral was bombed.

Frustrated by DU30’s insouciance, in utter contrast to his ballistic reaction to the Jolo bombings, some moderate Filipino Muslims are asking that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (O1C), the 57-nation “collective voice of the Muslim world,” demand an explanation for DU30’s lukewarm response. They seem inclined to believe that the Zamboanga attack could have been the work of the old Davao Death Squad, whose crimes were exposed in the 2017 Senate hearings by two self-confessed DDS members, Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas. An OIC intervention could seriously disrupt DU30’s last three years in office.

This would be regrettable enough. But what if, despite the Malacañang quack doctor’s professional diagnosis, DU30’s medical condition proves to be no better than that of his politics? DU30’s reported call for a command conference of the military and the police, soon, can only be intended to examine his prospects.

* * *

Even before the official campaign period for the May 13 elections could begin, former presidential spokesman and senatorial candidate Harry Roque Jr. withdrew from the race for reasons of health. For those who never considered Harry a worthy pick, this was a signal service to the voters. Many are hoping most of the 62 remaining senatorial candidates could follow Harry’s lead and relieve them of the burden of rejecting the unfit.

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