[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] The Marcos compromise

Vergel O. Santos
Since Robredo and Sereno are fighting their battles in the same theater, it’s easier to detect the conspiratorial hands at work in their cases

It’s no secret where Ferdinand Marcos Jr  Bongbong falls more or less in the scheme of things: he represents his family in the reigning Gang of Four, with President Duterte and former Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Joseph Estrada. Duterte himself has acknowledged the collaboration.

During the electoral campaign of 2016, without caring to embarrass his own running mate – who seemed himself beyond embarrassment, anyway – he repeatedly declared his preference for Marcos, a rival party’s candidate, for his vice president. 

Then, upon his election, just as unembarrassed for himself, he acknowledged an indebtedness to the Marcoses for having accepted money from them for his campaign; he made no mention, of course, of the corresponding impoverishment suffered by the nation for the plunder perpetrated by the Marcoses and their cronies. And, soon after taking office, Duterte began paying back by getting Supreme Court approval for his wish for a hero’s burial for his professed idol, Ferdinand Sr, the Marcos patriarch and martial law dictator.

But Duterte got neither Bongbong nor his forsaken partner, Alan Peter Cayetano, as his vice president; he got someone out of left field instead, someone who he knew for certain would be a spoiler of the plots he and his gang intended to hatch. He got Leni Robredo. 

Duterte quickly shut her out of his government, and kept her office on a shoestring. Even so, she has managed to do work that makes a difference in the lives of many of the neglected poor, mostly poor in remote island communities, by providing rudimentary amenities of life – small boats for fishing and transportation, artesian wells, ambulances, school materials. She is able to do this through complex arrangements of trust made necessary by laws that restrict dealings between state officials like her and philanthropists.

Her profile thus remaining respectably high, the Duterte regime is not stopping to get her out of the way, completely. Actually, she has been one of Duterte’s 4 misogynistic targets, 4 women with whom his own gang suffers dismally in comparison in character and quality of public service:

  • Senator Leila de Lima, the human-rights champion who has hounded Duterte since even before he became president, has been disposed of to jail to await trial on a trumped-up charge. Still, she could not be stopped firing off her criticisms of the Duterte regime, and, like Robredo, she gains in esteem from her continuous persecution. 
  • The young, assertive, and reformist Chief Justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, after blocking Duterte’s incursions into her jurisdiction, has found herself fighting off her own court’s Duterte-coopted majority, now out to oust her
  • The ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, a former Supreme Court justice herself, and a well respected one, has been threatened with impeachment. Her office is investigating Duterte and some of his family on suspicion of ill-gotten wealth. If he’s not moving on his threat, it’s probably because he reckons time is on his side – Morales’ term ends in 3 months. 

But Leni Robredo is not going away soon or on her own; she has more than 4 years yet on her term, like Duterte. That’s why all sorts of machinations are employed to get her out – out, that is, in favor of Bongbong. 

Driven by a habit of power cemented during 14 years (1972-1986) of family autocracy and by its attendant hatred to lose, he lost no time in taking Robredo to the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, accusing her of – irony of ironies –  cheating him out of the vice presidency. With a suitable gang, a suitable court, indeed a suitably pathologically hospitable setting, how can one lose? 

Made up of the same justices of the same conniving Supreme Court, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal has been quick to indulge him: it not simply bent the rules of the game; it changed them, and changed them not in the middle of the game – which would have been criminal enough, though impossible, the game being long over – but after the game.

The new rule is that the vote does not count if the circle designated for it on the ballot is less than half-shaded. The old rule, applied during the election, required quarter-shading at least. Since the contested votes are those cast in Robredo’s bailiwicks, she has naturally far more to lose than Bongbong under the contrived rule.

Since Robredo and Sereno are fighting their battles in the same theater, it’s easier to detect the conspiratorial hands at work in their cases. 

On April 17, I went to a rally for Sereno in front of the Supreme Court. As early crowds collected on the partly shaded sidewalk by the court’s fence, policemen walked up and down asking that room be made for innocent pedestrians – apparently, the protesters were presumed the guilty ones. Someone from among them pointed to the hordes of red shirts lounging and snacking under sheds along the totally blocked-off sidewalk across the street, Ilocano tunes blaring from their sound system. The reply was that they had a permit and the Sereno partisans had none. 

But it looked to me more like a franchise than a permit. The red shirts actually had been camped there for some time – around 3 months, I learned. Obviously, they were the typical hakot crowd, fed by the same caterer and dressed by the same clothier. And they were shielded from the sun by canvas roofs stamped with the seal of Lungsod ng Maynila, apparently provided by City Hall.

Amid condemnatory conversations among the Sereno crowd, a voice from the red shirts rose, “Hoy, inarkila ‘yan!” Those were rented sheds, he meant, as if that did anything to set anything right: City Hall and those red shirts are run by Mayor Estrada and Bongbong. – Rappler.com