[OPINION | NEWSPOINT] How long can Duterte wait?

President Duterte's public admission that he has grown "tired and exasperated" at his own inability to curb corruption and that he feels like resigning is certain to inspire some desperate excitement. Actually, his inability cuts across the board: he simply cannot hack the presidency. 

Before he meddled, the nation had been doing well. It had been growing at its highest average rate economically. Poverty incidence had been dropping steadily. Filipinos had been feeling more secure against crime than at any other time in more than a generation. All this is validated by standard measures. 

Enter Duterte, himself validated by clinical and judicial records as a pathological case, a sufferer from some "antisocial narcissistic personality disorder." That notwithstanding, he won the presidency on a decisive plurality; he had campaigned on the pretext of some grave national crisis.

That pretext has been fulfilled. Prices are running away. Official profligacy, itself no small source of corruption, is draining the treasury. Smuggling – notably of illegal drugs, Duterte’s crying concern – is rampant. Nothing gets done, and problems are aggravated by inefficiency and ineptitude. 

But if you think Duterte is really quitting you are fooled again. He cannot quit, not now, because to quit now is to yield power to a non-gangmate and risk retribution. No, he's not going without any assurance of an escape from accountability, and he won’t get it from his legitimate successor, Vice President Leni Robredo.

That’s why he pines for Ferdinand ("Bongbong") Marcos Jr, son of the late dictator he idolizes, whose family he owes as a major financier of his presidential campaign. If Bongbong had not lost to Leni, Duterte would have already handed over the presidency to him. Still, with help from the rest of the gang, whose sway across the institutions is considerable, he hopes to reverse his defeat by railroading the protest he had filed with the electoral tribunal. The tribunal is actually a reconstituted Supreme Court, the same Supreme Court whose rulings have pleased Duterte unfailingly in cases in which he took an interest.  

Curiously, Duterte named Francis Escudero as an alternate choice, however improbable, to succeed him. Having himself lost, even more decisively, in the vice presidential contest, Escudero returned to the Senate to serve the remainder of his term, and has been doing so in uncharacteristic quiet. It's doubtful he delights in being mentioned in the same breath as Bongbong and in the public being consequently reminded of his own lineage: his father, Salvador Escudero III, was Ferdinand Sr’s minister of agriculture and the hardiest of his loyalists. Till his dying day and long after his master was gone, he always wore the most conspicuous emblem of the dictatorship he served – a waist-long white shirt with red, white, and blue epaulets.

Indeed, gang hierarchy and loyalty is the name of the game. If in all this talk of succession Duterte has left out Gloria Arroyo, herself as much invested in him as the Marcoses, and if Arroyo herself is displaying disinterest in it, we’re just being played.

Arroyo has built her career on a boundless ambition that didn't stop at fraud. As vice president to President Joseph Estrada, she took over from him when he was ousted in midterm, for plunder; she would later pardon him. To put party hopefuls off the scent, she publicly announced that, not one to exploit her fortune, she would not run for a regular 6-year term. She not only ran, she rigged the vote. Then, toward the end of her nonrenewable term, she pushed for a rewrite of the Constitution to accommodate a shift to parliament. That way she could remain in power as prime minister. It didn't work out. 

President no longer and bereft of any suitable powers to manipulate, she could not escape her own arrest, for plunder, too. But her tricks still worked in detention to an extent. She spent most of her time as a detainee in the hospital, wearing a brace around the neck, ostensibly to prevent the head falling and rolling off. But once she was freed, early in the Duterte presidency, subsequently to be acquitted, the neck brace went. The head has since been not only holding up but working to full, malevolent capacity. 

Her final term ending as a member of the Lower House, and once again facing the prospect of powerlessness, she deposed the Speaker to take a direct, self-interested hand in presiding over another attempt at constitutional change. The express goal this time is federalization, but the covert one is the same: self-perpetuation in power and self-protection from prosecution, not only for her and Duterte but for their whole gang. 

Time may be running out on that scenario, a cumbersome one admittedly. In any case, waiting in the wings are Bongbong and next to him the President’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara, now undergoing crash grooming for national office – ultimately for the presidency. Arroyo and the Marcoses are, of course, taking no chances: they’re cultivating her.  

But how long can the sick and tired and inept old man wait? – Rappler.com