Duterte’s incapacities — what if?

Duterte’s incapacities — what if? Featured

REPORTS and rumors have been rife lately that President Rodrigo Duterte’s health is deteriorating fast. There is no official medical bulletin, except for interpretations of the curious gleaned from his TV appearances. But the trickles of kuro-kuro is pervasive — perfectly normal against a regime of secrecy. A glimpse of a bandaged arm titillates the chismosos y chimosas to conclude a regimen of kidney dialysis. And his skin goes from pale to dark to yellowish. What is known is what the Deegong disclosed publicly — that he suffers from an autoimmune disease, a condition called “…myasthenia gravis…one of my eyes is smaller. It roams on its own. It’s a nerve malfunction. I got it from my grandfather….” Earlier, he revealed he suffers from“Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs and is usually due to smoking.” He takes Fentanyl, a powerful painkiller to alleviate pain due to a spinal injury from a motorcycle accident.

Methinks the President is in good health. Except for his family and Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, no one is privy to his condition. So, all these speculations are hogwash. I believe the President, at least for people like us who’ve hit the second half of seven decades. But his and our minds are active more than ever, although many of us in the High School Class of 1960 at the Ateneo de Davao (the Deegong and Carlos “Sonny D” Dominguez 3rd were in class ‘61) are a little physically slow, but mentally and psychologically, we are alert, in high spirits and can hold our own. We still have, maybe, 30 more years before we meet our Maker.

The main difference, as Toti M. and Dinky M. aver, is that our bragging rights to our male potency are no longer believable. And so is the Deegong’s. But being the country’s president, he is given that much leeway, or at least his prowess is not questioned — in public, that is.

But this is not an article on the sexual proficiency of the elderly — a fiction at best, let alone a treatise on how to revive “it,” for those that have crossed the mid-70s. This column is about “what ifs.”

What if the Deegong suddenly gives up the ghost tomorrow by natural causes. Then we have a situation that is open to all permutations, subject to interpretations, depending on where you sit. Perspectives are always different from several angles and depending on one’s motivations, invite scenarios painted and perceived through the prism of ones biases. The following is the most possible of alternative realities.

Historical precedents
We have precedents in our history for such situations. President Manuel Roxas, the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth and the first president of the third Philippine Republic died of heart failure at the Clark Airbase in Pampanga on April 15, 1948. Two days after his demise, Vice President Elpidio Quirino assumed the presidency, taking his oath of office as the sixth president of the Philippines. It will be noted that the transition was peaceful and orderly. In the 1949 presidential elections, Quirino won as president, with Sen. Fernando Lopez (of the ABS-CBN clan) as vice president.

In the 1953 presidential elections, Ramon Magsaysay, Quirino’s erstwhile Defense secretary ran against him. A Liberal-turned-Nacionalista, Magsaysay won the presidency. He died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957 after only three years in office. He was succeeded by Vice President Carlos P. Garcia from Bohol. The transition, too, was likewise peaceful and tidy.

Alternative outcomes — dramatis personae
In our what if case, the default path to transition is the legal and legitimate one. Philippine constitutional provisions dictate a presidential line of succession and enshrined in Article VII (Executive Department), providing for a vice president to assume power. In this case, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo assumes the presidency. And the beneficiary here is the rule of law in a democratic process.

Any scenario that short-circuits this is illegitimate and unlawful. In this very partisan climate, the hot-headed, especially those occupying sinecures in government, appointed by Duterte, will perhaps move to prevent an orderly transition from happening and agitate for a drastic alternative, unsure as to their fate in the coming regime. They will use as a pretext the tired line of the “illegitimate vice presidency stolen from Marcos.” They have the DDS or the diehard duterte supporters and fist bumpers to augment as warm bodies. In which case, chaos may reign, paralyzing government services, forcing the state to intervene and exercise its monopoly on violence.

Intervention of institutions
The police will have their hands full restoring order — if they are not themselves partisans. These are the first line of law enforcement that will be called upon. The better trained and disciplined Armed Forces of the Philippines may have to use force as back-up to intervene enforcing the letter and spirit of the Constitution — to which it is bound to protect.

Then again, the question arises on the homogeneity of the Armed Forces and the police. It is obvious that the Deegong has been stacking the civilian bureaucracy with former generals and officers of the military. Will they break their oaths to defend the Constitution? Do these former generals have the balls and the warm bodies and work on a parallel chain of command?

Focus would shift on the Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the uncharismatic and unknown current chief of staff Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Archie Gamboa — perhaps expecting a reprise with a twist on the 1986 scenarios with Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and PNP chief Fidel Ramos playing the dynamic duo, absent the likes of Cardinal Jaime Sin and Corazon Aquino. The Roman Catholic Church this time will prove inutile and will just stand on the sidelines, the way they always behaved from the time the Deegong cursed them and God.

The bureaucracy will search for the next patron or padrino and the strongest group that can assume power. It will not be the Cabinet. This collegial body has long been inflicted, I fear, with political leadership catatonia. The two houses of Congress whose terms are still legitimate would have to seek guidance from their masters — not the electorate but the oligarchy. This is so far the next best group after the military that can enforce a certain modicum of stability. The oligarchy will not tolerate chaos, as this will negatively affect their bottom lines. But they will need the guidance and the deadly hardware of the silent overarching partner to all of these — they who will need stability in the country and in the region. China is not yet too entrenched in the political dynamics to make a dent. In the end, America will come to the rescue of their brown brothers, but with more airtight quid pro quo this time around. I foresee a military junta guiding Leni and the oligarchy through all of these.

The above is predicated on the Deegong’s exit by natural causes or even by the “Covid veerus.” But “what if” it is by assassination?

Then all bets are off. And God help us!

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Read 219 times Last modified on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 14:30
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