[Newspoint] Ultimate desperado

President Duterte must be, indeed, your ultimate desperado.

Prohibited by the Constitution from seeking reelection, he is running for vice president instead. If elected, he would be, as they say, a mere heartbeat away from the exact same office, the exact same power he has used in his turn at it to shield himself and his confederates from being so much as touched by the law.   

Also, allowed to run, he’d have put one over the framers of the Constitution. They may have made it expressly plain that no president can run for the same office again, but they have not been as plain about him running for some other office even if its holder is first in line for the presidency by emergency succession.

They would have been able to preclude dispute if they had not left the law to operate, even in part, by its invisible and nonspeaking spirit; they should have declared themselves, and also on behalf of the spirit that moved them, in black-and-white: No president may run for reelection; neither for any public office that puts its holder in line for the presidency. Or more reasonably yet, if you ask me: ... for any public office, period. 

Apparently, they had not foreseen such twistedness as can thwart any sense of fair-mindedness in the law, the precise mark of the Duterte regime.

A recent case should have raised an alarm. Gloria Arroyo ran for Congress, won, and became Speaker, moving up to three heartbeats away from a repeat presidency. By then she had been president for nine years, three as an accidental one, taking over from Joseph Estrada after his removal by impeachment, and six as a fraudulent one, assuming on a rigged vote. If she had run for the Senate, won, and become its president, she’d have been a heartbeat closer.

It’s not unreasonable to suspect that Duterte learned from Arroyo. She got him to spring her from jail, where she had ended up detained without bail while on trial for plunder. Soon after, the Supreme Court, which she had been able to pack with her own appointees during her protracted presidency, acquitted her. It was the same court Duterte inherited and coopted to rule in his own interest.   

He also inherited China from Arroyo, whose plunder case had to do with an odious deal with it. Duterte himself treasonably ceded to it our strategic and mineral-rich West Philippine Sea. He has been waiving visa and tax rules for its immigrant workers and businessmen, promoting them as economic boosters – they are actually competitors for jobs and profits. He has allowed a near monopoly of Chinese vaccine makers, despite their higher prices yet lower efficacies.

He took some of Arroyo’s closest lieutenants. His security adviser and his secretary of natural resources had both served as her armed forces chiefs – the first figured in her fraudulent vote, the other as the “pabaon general” of the scandal involving overpayment of his retirement benefits. His health secretary was also her own, now infamous as the chairman of the anomaly-ridden state insurer Philhealth and for his department’s mishandling of the pandemic.

But the one Arroyo conscript whose moment to advance and be recognized has been the latest to arrive is Alfonso Cusi, and it has nothing to do at all with his being energy secretary but as a political operator. That moment began with him supervising a loyalty check for Duterte at a party assembly he had himself called, hurriedly and quite surreptitiously. Upon getting wind of it, the bypassed party president, Manny Pacquiao, tried to stop it, to no avail. He’s been all but shunted since, for his ill-fitting political ambition.

Presently a vice-presidential draft for Duterte began to float around, and within a month – a far shorter period than between declaring his disinterest in the presidency and filing his certificate of candidacy in 2015 – he went from getting ready for retirement to seriously considering running to it being not a bad idea to actually a good idea.

Forthwith, Cusi went public with the prospect of Duterte in tandem with his sidekick and now a concurrent senator Bong Go, for president.  

Cusi may have only run the ports for the Arroyo presidency, a second-rate appointment, but his true value to Arroyo, and her husband, Mike, too, was broadly indicated in testimonies given to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, first in 2005, then again some years later, by a former Shariah circuit judge implicating Cusi in the distribution of bribe money in the 2004 vote, the same rigged one on which Arroyo claimed the presidency.

Thus, for next year’s elections, the nation is left to the mercy not only of a coopted Supreme Court but of practiced poll manipulators. The difference between Duterte and us is that he is a brawling desperado and we are a timid, if not a cowed, one. – Rappler.com