A political analyst sees President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent moves against Manila Mayor Isko Moreno as an example of abuse of authority for political gain.
While conceding that Duterte legally has the power to determine who distributes aid from the national government, equally clear are his motivations in wielding such a power, said Ateneo de Manila political science professor Carmel Abao.
“It’s not only unfair, it’s foul play…. It’s foul play because as sitting President, his job is to ensure that elections are fair and free but he’s obviously just protecting his own interests,” she told Rappler on Tuesday, August 10.
“He’s abusing his authority and using the office of the presidency for his own political agenda. In Tagalog, we call that ‘garapalan (shamelessness),'” she added.
On Monday night, Duterte said he would withhold from Moreno the power to distribute lockdown cash assistance that has already been downloaded for distribution to Metro Manila local governments.
The President justified this by claiming Moreno was “disorganized” and could not pull off an efficient distribution of aid, citing the chaos that ensued in Manila vaccination sites the day before the August lockdown in the National Capital Region. Swarming at vaccination sites happened in other parts of the region, like Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, and Parañaque.
University of the Philippines political science professor Ela Atienza, meanwhile, sees Duterte's words as a "warning" to local government executives who dare to criticize his administration.
"He will attack them publicly, even with accusations that have no clear evidence. This is consistent with his style," said Atienza.
She also pointed out that as of Tuesday morning, or hours after Duterte's outburst, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) is yet to enforce his order against Moreno. This might be another case, said Atienza, of the government backtracking "when they get negative feedback on some occasions."
If Duterte were fair, Abao said, he would have first ordered the DILG to conduct an investigation into the swarming at vaccine sites to determine who is at fault.
Lawyer and political science expert Tony La Viña says Duterte's move, if he pushes through with it, could be illegal.
"That’s arbitrary and because of that, illegal. He cannot exclude an LGU from a national program without basis," he told Rappler on Tuesday.
Moreno’s response to reporters asking for his side on the matter was to send photos of certificates from the national government attesting to orderly distribution of aid by Manila City Hall.
One certificate from the DILG dated June 30 recognized him and Manila for “efficient and timely completion” of pandemic aid. Another, from the social welfare department, dated January 25, recognized Manila for “unwavering commitment and great effort” to implement pension for poor senior citizens.
Duterte had also derided the Manila mayor for his past as an actor in sexy roles. Duterte even said such a background is unbefitting for a future president, establishing clearly that his remarks were about the 2022 elections that will determine his successor.
On Duterte’s digs at Moreno’s sexy photos from his past as an actor and model, Abao thinks the President is just hoping to dent the Manila mayor’s popularity.
“I don’t think he really cares about those pictures or its impact on people’s morals. He’s doing this so that Isko’s popularity ratings don’t go up any further,” said Abao.
"Why hit Isko but not Mocha – for exactly the same situation?" said Abao.
Uson, who leads a group called Mocha Girls and has sex tips videos online, was once presidential communications undersecretary and is currently Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy administrator.
Duterte was not critical of Moreno until recently, when the Manila mayor was floated as a potential presidential candidate in the 2022 elections. In 2018, Duterte appointed Moreno as an undersecretary at the Department of Social Welfare and Development but it was a brief stint as he resigned to run for Manila mayor in 2019.
In September 2019, Duterte even publicly praised Moreno, saying, “Bilib ako sa kanya. Kaya nanonood ako noong nagsasalita siya. Mas mahusay siya kaysa sa akin, sa totoo lang.”
(I believe in him. I was watching him speak. He is better than me, truth be told.)
La Viña said these praises from Duterte precisely make his latest outburst against Moreno "not credible." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.