Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Ouster plot rumors hound Marcos gov’t a year before midterms

Dwight de Leon, Bonz Magsambol

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Ouster plot rumors hound Marcos gov’t a year before midterms

CHIEF EXECUTIVE. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the special summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia in March 2024.

Penny Stephens/ASEAN

Former senator Trillanes claims that Rodrigo Duterte is behind a destabilization plot against the Marcos administration, and that the alleged effort stems from the looming threat of Duterte's arrest in connection with the ICC probe into his drug war.

MANILA, Philippines – Rumors of an effort to unseat President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. have begun to circulate a year before the 2025 midterm elections, with former and current lawmakers adding to the noise.

On Tuesday, May 7, former senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed that active senior officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are involved in an ouster plot against the President, adding that no member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has joined the cause.

He went a step further by alleging that Marcos’ predecessor – former president Rodrigo Duterte – is behind the alleged coup effort.

Hindi naman gagalaw itong mga ito pagka walang imprimatur ni Duterte, ‘yung tatay. And makikita natin doon sa kanyang mga public pronouncements (These people won’t move without the imprimatur of Duterte, the patriarch. And we can see this from his public pronouncements),” Trillanes said in a press conference.

Duterte has been attacking Marcos since the start of the year, calling him a “drug addict” at a protest rally organized by his supporters in Davao City on January 28. In a press conference in April, he described Marcos as a “crybaby” for favoring the United States. This was after Marcos latter thumbed down his “gentleman’s agreement” with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Ayungin Shoal.

Trillanes alleged that Duterte sees the urgency to unseat Marcos amid the looming threat of arrest in connection with the International Criminal Court’s probe into his bloody drug war.

Trillanes’ bombshell came just days after some ranking House lawmakers floated the possibility that bad actors are deliberately trying to undermine the Marcos presidency.

In response to the testimony of a former drug enforcement intelligence officer linking Marcos to the drug cartel, House Deputy Majority Leader Jude Acidre was quoted as saying on May 2, “These events are part of a bigger effort to discredit and destabilize the current administration.”

Senate probe

Trillanes claimed that it was Duterte who instructed Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa to hold hearings into the alleged leak of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) documents concerning Marcos’ purported involvement in illegal drugs.

“Itong hearing ni Bato dela Rosa, part ‘yan ng communications plan nila ‘yan (This hearing being conducted by Dela Rosa’s committee is part of their communications plan),” Trillanes said.

The Senate committee on public order chaired by Dela Rosa had conducted two motu propio hearings on the said issue, but the supposed involvement of the President was not established. Still, Dela Rosa is convinced that the leaked documents were not fabricated.

A fuming Dela Rosa faced reporters later on Tuesday to address Trillanes’ claim. “Kung siya puwede madiktahan, kung kapartido niya, kung nagpagamit siya. Me? Never. Kung ikaw ay isang senador na nagpapagamit, ako, huwag ako,” he said.

(If he can be dictated upon or used by his party mate, I cannot, never. If you are the type of senator who can be used by others, not me)

“I can never be used. Nobody dictated [on] me. Nobody. Not even [former] president Duterte. He never called me,” Dela Rosa added.

During a Senate hearing on April 30, PDEA chief Moro Lazo denied the existence of the said document implicating Marcos.

“There are no such documents, your honor. We are very sure of that. There is no such document,” he said.

Senate President Migz Zubiri, a close ally of the President, is not convinced that Marcos was implicated in illegal drugs based on what was presented in the two hearings conducted at the upper chamber.

“While certain claims were made, documentary evidence is yet to be presented. There were no pictures, no corroborating testimonies. In other words, this was solely based on the testimony of one person based on what appears to be hearsay evidence,” he said.

Zubiri then cautioned his colleagues, alluding to Dela Rosa, “to be very careful not to use hearings in aid of political persecution.”

“While legislative inquiries are very liberal in terms of adhering to rules of evidence, it is our opinion that hearings should aim to ferret out the truth using evidence and facts,” Zubiri added.

More denial

The PNP dismissed Trillanes’ claims as baseless, and asked him to spare the police force from the rumors.

“We have not monitored any active police official who is allegedly involved in the so-called destabilization plot,” PNP spokesperson Jean Fajardo was quoted as saying in Filipino.

For Duterte’s former chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo, Trillanes’ claims are “absolute nonsense.”

“The renegade only wants publicity for himself because he has become totally politically irrelevant. He is a discredited in visual. His past misdeeds as a military man and public official speak themselves,” Panelo said.

President Marcos or Malacañang has yet to comment on the matter.

The rumors come as preparations for the 2025 elections kick into high gear in the coming months, with critics expecting a showdown between the camps of President Marcos and the Duterte family.

On paper, Marcos is still allied with his predecessor’s daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte, but infighting within the UniTeam electoral alliance that has spilled into public view indicates she has made an enemy out of the chief executive’s closest confidantes.

The House of Representatives under the leadership of the President’s cousin, Speaker Martin Romualdez, stripped Sara’s offices of hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds for the current year, while First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos has admitted that she was not on good terms with the Vice President.

Sara drew Liza’s ire after the Vice President was supposedly seen laughing after her father accused Marcos of being a drug addict during a rally in Davao City in January.

The former president’s tirades against his successor during that event prompted a feisty response from Marcos, blaming his predecessor’s foul-mouthed, off-script rant on his fentanyl use. – Rappler.com

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.
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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.