[Newspoint] The oddest ménage in Philippine politics
Leni Robredo must have made President Rodrigo Duterte and his sycophants feel awkward, sitting there among them being her own man.
She was against extrajudicial killing, the death penalty, lowering the age of criminal liability to nine, and burying a heel a hero.
She was just too oddly proper to be accepted into the Duterte club, so that when word came debarring her, even in such a rude fashion of firing someone, it could not have come, knowing them and her, as a surprise.
Of course, there was more to it than debarring and firing, and she knew it; it was all part of a plot to unseat her as the constitutional successor to President Duterte in favor of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
It’s nothing secret, really. Marcos has filed a protest alleging that Robredo won over him as vice-president by fraud. But, even before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) could be constituted to begin hearing his case, Duterte has begun proclaiming Marcos his successor.
But, if he thinks his way has been all cleared with Robredo’s marginalization, Marcos should think again, not only because Robredo has vowed to “not allow the vice-presidency to be stolen,” or because it could take longer than a year for the electoral arbiter to come up with any credible ruling. What should really give him pause is the prospect of a hijack. He should watch Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr.
It was Evasco who fired and also replaced Robredo as housing secretary, a position that would have allowed her to show her well-known popular touch and now gives him an opportunity to mount a political coup by organizing for his own movement at the grass roots.
Evasco had been a priest for only four years when he joined the communist rebellion in 1974, two years into the martial-law regime of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Caught in 1983, he was prosecuted by Duterte, went to prison, and suffered torture. President Corazon Aquino freed him in 1986 with other political detainees.
In 1988, Duterte, who may have become the socialist he now professes himself to be, recruited Evasco to run his campaign for Davao City mayor and for his subsequent reelections, and kept him in his government, as economic manager and, at the last turn, as chief of staff, through his terms. Like Duterte, Evasco also served as mayor of his hometown, Maribojoc, in Bohol province, from 2007 until he rejoined Duterte for his presidential campaign.
He now leads the Left in the most improbable three-cornered coalition Duterte has put together – in a second corner are the dynastic leaders and other members of the patron class in congress, drawn together principally by a common preference for a switch to federalism, and in a corner all their own are the Marcoses, led by Robredo’s rival.
Understandably, it’s the Left and the Marcoses who make for the oddest couple in Philippine politics, and, as it happens, their partnership has come under its first serious test: the burial of Ferdinand Sr. as a hero.
Championed by Duterte himself, an unabashed idolater of the dictator, and sanctioned by the Supreme Court in one of its consistently questionable rulings, the burial has provoked snowballing street protests. The mainstream Left has robustly joined them, but its supposedly hard-core representatives around Duterte are quiet; in fact, along with their elders long in exile in the Netherlands, where peace talks are going on between them and Duterte’s negotiators, they have put the Marcos-burial issue on the agenda, suggesting it was up for bargaining.
This is definitely not the proudest moment for the Left. As if having to take the son weren’t insult enough, it now faces the prospect of having to swallow the father if only to keep its place in Duterte’s power circle – it has never come so close to power, indeed.
But, as plain as it was, the reality could not have escaped the Left: it was submitting itself to a strange one, whose strangeness is reflected in his narcissistic, impulsive, intractable presidency, but, more relevant to the case at hand, in his choice of men and women to most closely surround him – all manner of leftist and feudal characters.
Come to think of it, the one compromise that might just suit the ménage is federalism, another of Duterte’s babies. It divides up the territory and decentralizes and devolves power accordingly.
The freakish genius of Rodrigo Duterte may yet prove to lie in that – breaking up the nation to make everybody happy! – Rappler.com