Marcos Jr. administration

[Closer Look] ‘Join Marcos, avert Duterte’ and the danger of expediency

Inday Espina-Varona

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[Closer Look] ‘Join Marcos, avert Duterte’ and the danger of expediency
There are ways to fight Duterte  without dancing with the dictator’s son.... Trillanes’ solution offers the cold embrace of a continuum representing the worst facets of our recent past.

On June 27, former senator Antonio Trillanes announced  “exploratory talks” for a united front against a comeback of Rodrigo Duterte. 

Trillanes’ wants a coalition between the “kakampinks” and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the dictator whose iron talons ripped the nation for two decades.

Anyone who wasn’t living under a rock in 2022 knows what fueled the kakampinks’ 2022 campaign for then vice president and presidential bet Leni Robredo.

The clearest common denominator: to bar the return of the Marcoses to Malacañang and complete the unfinished business of holding the dictator’s heirs to account for plunder and the brutal suppression of democracy. 

The second binding factor: the desire to bring Duterte, the outgoing president, to justice

The third objective: a vibrant, bottom-up democracy to roll back corruption and policies inimical to human rights and civil liberties.

The contest ended with a big win for the UniTeam, largely fueled by the Marcoses’ prolonged and expensive historical revisionism presenting tyranny as a “golden age.” 

The  “Unity” principals showed both clans believing in the same goals,  including preserving the legacy their patriarchs’ regimes. 

“Never forget” was the kakampink battle cry. Erasure of history was, and remains, the goal of the country’s most powerful clans. 

Desperate move

Cracks now mar the “Unity” mirror. But nothing shows  a real shift in governance principles. 

That doesn’t matter to Trillanes.  

“We have to set aside sensitivities for a larger cause,” he told One News, meaning the “obliteration of the Duterte forces.” 

The “how’s” of a Duterte comeback remains vague despite the trial balloon about three Duterte men running for the Senate in 2025. The “why” gives their goal urgency. (WATCH: Newsbreak Chats: What 2025 looks like after the administration breakup)

Old man Duterte faces judicial mortality on various fronts: his murderous war against the poor, ostensibly to halt the illegal drug trade; the bloodbath that extended to activists; his betrayal of national interest amidst China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea; and rolling out the red carpet for offshore gaming conglomerates now unmasked as criminal cartels

A successful Duterte comeback will bring chaos. The former leader’s contempt for accountability is matched by his malice and vindictiveness towards sectors working for justice. Just look at the travails of former senator Leila de Lima

But is the nation’s salvation Marcos, opening the gates of his fortress of revisionism to dissenters? At what price? Acceptance of principles that hew closely to that of Duterte’s? Silence when he wields those principles against our people?

Where’s change?

Genuine democracy goes beyond the question of who’s up or down on the political carousel.

Marcos’ most dramatic distancing from Duterte is on the disputed maritime waters. It’s a welcome move but was always a given. Ambition meant the UniTeam stood on shifting sand. The Duterte’s have China; Marcos latched on to the United States. 

There has been buzz anticipating the practical expression of the International Criminal Court (ICC) mechanisms against Duterte. 

I don’t believe Marcos will bring the country back to the ICC fold. Neither will his government allow the serving of a warrant on Duterte. He needs the security services, bloated with largesse from Duterte, and sharing his (and the Marcoses’) worldview that some folks are more equal than others and that concepts like human rights are threats to  national security.

For both camps, it’s all about keeping safe or expanding one’s share of the pie. 

Once asked about his father’s human rights record, Junior replied: “There are instances that have fallen through the cracks”.

That’s a helluva number of cracks! His father’s government killed 3,240 people from 1972 to 1981. It threw more than 70,000 in jail and tortured 34,000 others. 

Under Duterte, who cited the late dictator as model, between 7,000 and tens of thousands died in his “war on drugs.” His government also killed more than 400 activists, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan. 

Marcos doesn’t screech out “kill” orders as Duterte did. 

But the University of the Philippines Third World Studies Center’s Dahas Project reported 639 killed in the continuing “war on drugs” as of April 30, 2024.  

At yearend-2023, Karapatan recorded 89 victims of extrajudicial killings of activists since Marcos assumed power in July 2022.

The Duterte government raced to take out activists by filing charges, many bordering on the ridiculous. Those cases have come back to bite the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

As dismissals and acquittals mounted, the Marcos’ government responded with the heavy-handed use of anti-terror laws, from designation to the freezing of legal organizations’ funds. At least 112 activists and rights defenders face anti-terror sanctions. 

There is a current campaign to run after the worst of the criminal POGO operators. But some of Marcos’ supporters are into gambling, with some dragged in the not-so-recent past to scandals involving illegal activities. 

Dance macabre

This country’s woes are partly due to our settling for political versions of musical chairs as solutions. 

There are ways to fight Duterte  without dancing with the dictator’s son. 

Leni Robredo offered genuine solutions: hard work, transparency, a commitment to accountability and democratic processes. We can still work together for the values that bound kakampinks in 2022. We can still work to hold Duterte and his minions accountable for their many crimes.

The opposition isn’t bereft of potential leaders. It just needs to focus on unities and train its combined might at democracy’s enemies.  

Divided we fall. 

Trillanes’ solution just cements this division. What he offers is the cold embrace of a continuum representing the worst facets of our recent past. –

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