Amid questions on Duterte's health, Bong Go releases photos of the president | Philstar.com Amid questions on Duterte's health, Bong Go releases photos of the president | Philstar.com The Philippine Star

The Deegong’s health: Its implications Featured

LATELY speculations have been rife as to the health of DU30. Social media has been inundated by rumors on the purpose of his recent trip: “Why is Duterte in Israel? Why is his schedule full of big holes? Is he there for medical treatment? Why are the details under wraps?”

The national conversation has deteriorated to a point where rumor and innuendo gain more currency than actual news. But such is the nature of gossips. They have more traction. They are simply salacious and easier to spread from mouth to mouth. These normally start with tidbits of truth and, depending on which side of the issue you belong to or are comfortable with, one adds a tier of prevarication or “unverifiable truth,” spreading this out, seducing others to chip in by coating another layer, and so on and so forth.

Social media has opened channels to every Tom, Dick and Harriet to vent their views on the public with nary a concern for “the truth.” This liberating power needs only an internet connection and suitable apps.

Lately items have proliferated dissecting the Deegong’s“pale, gaunt skin texture,” irregular public exposures and irritable demeanor. Even his close supporters claim to notice the same, jumping to the conclusion that indeed, the President must be sick. It’s the old “liver problem,” they surmise. And the old rumors of his taking small doses of the opioid fentanyl as a pain reliever have again been revived. All these really are, in the colorful language of the president, “just plain b____t”.

It seems to me that there are several factions feverishly involved in this deadly game of rumors and social media inaccuracies. There are those who are not happy with this regime and are identifiable as the opposition which includes the yellow army and the remnants of the old cabal of PNoy, the LP and other political parties, decimated by the earlier raids of the PDP Laban.

Another bloc is the rabid Deegong loyalists faithfully carrying the torch for his political agenda and the defenders of whatever he stands for — from the deadly war against illegal drugs to his ambiguous anti-corruption fight to a bastardized version of federalism. The latter is toxic because of the propagation of a myth that only Duterte alone and only within his watch can federalization be realized; thus, this frantic effort to put this half-cooked version in place prematurely.

An adjunct to this group is the disgruntled Duterte election campaign workers who were left out in the cold, without government appointments or rewarded sinecures in corporate boards. They are not as acrimonious as the yellow army but won’t mind chastising the president in their own perverted way.

These factions have raised this game of rumor-mongering to a dangerous level. The “antis,” convinced that the Deegong’s health is deteriorating fast and may not last the mid-term, have accelerated their attacks in all media, precipitating the near-desperate move of Duterte’s minions in the Comelec and government bureaucracy to enforce a different protocol to get Bongbong into the line of succession, shunting aside Leni Robredo.

A twist to this scenario is that the President’s allies have anticipated this all along and have in fact disingenuously positioned GMA, a hard-nosed politician, to be the Deegong’s handmaiden in pursuit of the next phase of a pragmatic political agenda — the mentoring of his heir apparent, Sara.

The permutations are intricate. One yellow army thread calculates DU30 can’t depend on the military to do his bidding despite his seeding the bureaucracy with appointed generals, colonels and assorted officers. So, the narrative flow is that he will have to rely on his old leftist comrades, those outside of Joma Sison’s coterie, nurtured by him while he was the Davao mayor, to stand as “shock troops.” Meantime, he will have to neutralize experienced coup plotters like Trillanes and his erstwhile special forces comrades by incarceration or by other means.

All these because Deegong is perceived to look, pale, frail and sickly!

For heaven’s sake, the President is not that sick! There is no incontrovertible proof that he is. He may be weakening as gleaned from his own statements and the knee-jerk denial of his spokesman, but the man is 74 years old. He will not give up his seat for Bongbong, Leni or Chiz. He has been riding on the tiger’s back to dismount safely. He loves power too much to give it all up.

This quarrel between the pro and anti DU30 is beginning to irritate a larger group comprising most of the citizens who are neither identified with the yellow army or the DDS/fist pumpers. This group has neither the inclination to hate or love the Deegong. But neither are they neutral too in the political conflicts. They are not categorized as “the undecided,” as they have made their decision in favor of the country. They too have a stake in its welfare but their concerns demanding simply good governance are being marginalized by the boisterous opposing factions.

What to me is closer to reality instead of these conjectures on the President’s health, fanciful scenarios and false narratives is that DU30’s vaunted political will may be on the wane. Where earlier in his regime, his impulses and brash language were taken as reflections of political will, as these were amplified by his two ranking mouthpieces in congress, Koko Pimentel and Bebot Alvarez. But these two are no longer there. They have been replaced by two charismatic leaders with solid bases of their own, not dependent on the Deegong’s. GMA and Sotto are his full partners, not subalterns.

With “political will” as it main impetus, federalism, as a flagship is similarly on its death throes, a victim of a conspiracy of the unelected. His appointed ConCom produced a document that his cabinet was permitted to mangle. It was revealed by some quarters that for the past 10 months, federalism was never even discussed seriously in a cabinet meeting.

NEDA stepped in with its 15-year roadmap only recently when it is by function the custodian of long-term programs. As a priority, NEDA should have taken the initiative from the very beginning to embrace it as its own. Either NEDA was not in tune with DU30’s agenda or it was allowed to sabotage this program; in which case the Deegong is complicit.

But all these are water under the bridge now that the political realities are in a flux. DU30 will have to sound the clarion call once more for his DDS/fist pumpers to assemble to get his selected candidates into elective positions this midterm, if he is to salvage what is left of his agenda and avoid being a lame duck. I doubt this time they will heed his call without the traditional enticements. And this could be tragic. It is almost a truism that Philippine polarizing presidents could end their term in perfectly good health – but find themselves incarcerated.000
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