Rodrigo Duterte

[OPINION] Can you hear the drums, Rodrigo?

Joey Salgado

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[OPINION] Can you hear the drums, Rodrigo?
Leaders of the former Uniteam have been firing volley after volley in a circular firing squad. Everyone’s bloodied, but the lone casualty is this thing called unity.

“You don’t need the weatherman to tell you where the wind blows.”

That’s Bob Dylan. I’m almost sure that Senator Ronald de la Rosa is no Dylan fan, but he sure knows that the wind is moving in a different direction. 

De la Rosa was asked to comment on President Marcos Jr.’s statement that his administration is now studying the possibility of rejoining the International Criminal Court (ICC), where de la Rosa and former president Rodrigo Duterte are being investigated for drug war killings. The Duterte administration bolted the ICC four years ago.

De la Rosa was Philippine National Police (PNP) chief during Duterte’s presidency. He was also Duterte’s chief of police when the latter was Davao City mayor. They’re like the Glimmer Twins of EJK, or extrajudicial killings (with apologies to Mick and Keith). 

De la Rosa said he was surprised by the change in tone, but is preparing for “any eventuality.” 

“The political situation in the Philippines is very fluid, so I have to be ready,” he told reporters.

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No matter how you slice and dice it, President Marcos’ ICC posture, from a flat-out no to a maybe, spells trouble for Duterte, de la Rosa and their drug war cohorts.  

It’s a remixed version of post-presidential muscle flexing. Former president Joseph Estrada landed in jail, actually his sprawling Tanay rest house, during the time of his successor, EDSA 2 beneficiary Gloria Arroyo (she eventually pardoned Erap). And Arroyo, neck braces and wheelchair notwithstanding, was locked up in a military hospital during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III. You get the idea. 

Can you hear the drums, Rodrigo? 

We are  not saying Duterte would surely end up in jail in The Netherlands (the late Joma Sison would have snickered at the irony) or wherever the ICC detains its convicts. That “study” might just end up declaring that no, we shouldn’t rejoin the ICC. But during the “study” period – could be days, weeks, months, a year, five years – Duterte would need to be a good boy.   

Regardless, this policy shift coming from no less than the President serves as the Uniteam’s official death certificate.

The Uniteam, ladies and gentlemen, is officially dead. I’m surprised it took this long. 

Despite its facade of formidability presaging the electoral victory of Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte, the coalition has always been shaky from the get-go

Duterte the father has always been the proverbial pebble in the shoe. He didn’t hide his displeasure when his daughter opted to be Marcos Jr.’s running mate instead of gunning for the presidency, a position Duterte seems to regard as a birthright. 

He was a reluctant partner, even after the Uniteam adopted the senatorial candidates of PDP Laban, his political party.  After elections, his party joined the majority coalition in the House of Representatives. It has now replaced the Liberal Party as the Volkswagen beetle party. The LP is now the “padyak” party.  

Duterte is also a troublesome former president. His opinion of the President may have been tempered by the latter’s election (he once called Marcos Jr. a “spoiled child” and a “weak leader”), but he has not been shy about expressing displeasure at several policy reversals, primarily the pivot to the United States. If you parse Duterte’s language and demeanor, its nothing short of an insult.

House attacks like a hound

So far Duterte has singled out the Speaker and the House of Representatives as targets of his verbal abuse. The Speaker is playing it correctly by responding to Duterte in a calm, respectful manner. But the House, far from being intimidated, is attacking like a hound that has discovered its balls. 

After stripping the Office of the Vice President and the education department headed by the Vice President of confidential funds – a popular move – a rumor of impeachment began to circulate, setting off Duterte the father on one of his fevered monologs over SMNI, the network owned by the self-anointed son of god.

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This time, Duterte warned that he will unleash the apocalypse on the House, and will run for senator or vice president if they impeach his unica hija. In response, the Vice President said the family will support their father’s political plans. 

Duterte might do just that, not only to recapture old glory, but as a refuge from accountability for past deeds. The trouble with the former president is that he regards his previous mandate, and the head-scratching and, for many observers, undeserved adulation, as a license to play loose with the law and mangle democracy. He holds on to this illusion until now.

The ambiguous ICC policy is, for now, the big gun. For the administration, it’s political leverage. Some may call it blackmail. 

With weeks to go before Christmas, leaders of the former Uniteam have been firing volley after volley in a circular firing squad. Everyone’s bloodied, but the lone casualty is this thing called unity. This will be an interesting Christmas. –

Joey Salgado is a former journalist, and a government and political communications practitioner. He served as spokesperson for former Vice President Jejomar Binay.

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