Rodrigo Duterte

[The Slingshot] Layering the dissolution of the Duterte Dynasty

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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[The Slingshot] Layering the dissolution of the Duterte Dynasty

Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

'What do we make of the eventual dissolution of the long-standing Duterte Dynasty?'

At the time of the Vic Rodriguez ouster from Malacañang as executive secretary (he was also subsequently expelled from the president’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas for “conduct inimical to the party’s interests”), the reason floated was Rodriguez’s botched participation in the sugar importation mess.

Yet even that appeared to be a cryptic alibi when Malacañang defended him. A speculation had actually gone around but went unamplified simply because Liza Araneta Marcos was still a novelty at that time. The speculation pointed to the new first lady as having been instrumental in the ouster of Rodriguez because he had gotten too close to Bong Go. On behalf of his master Rodrigo Duterte, Go was said to have cajoled Rodriguez to fill a large number of appointments of Duterte loyalists in the new government. The Marcoses had felt that Duterte was literally breathing down their necks.

Albeit a speculation unconfirmed, the number of Duterte supporters among the new appointments would have proven it true. After Rodriguez’s disgraceful exit, some of the appointees were indeed axed, foremost of who was the Duterte attack dog Jose Calida from the Commission on Audit.

That appeared to be the first layer the Marcos administration took in dissolving the Duterte influence over his government.

What has gone on since then that today we see multiple layers of attacks against the Dutertes? The confidential funds fiasco was one, but it was a very convenient layer. It became simply indefensible. The public opprobrium that developed against Sara Duterte was massive. It was easy to find ways to veto her desire for secret money not subject to audit because the public was in mad furor over her, as it still is until today. Never has a public official been parodized so mockingly in recent years as Sara.

That would have been the last layer had the Dutertes not acted perniciously. From his pygmy’s perch in Davao City, the tyrant attempted to wage an impeachment in the House by way of his dwindling lieutenants, and when it failed, a coup d’etat coursed through his spoiled retired generals.

By all indications, Duterte was sensing the waning of his powers. That is an alarm bell. How could he ask the state to defend him from the International Criminal Court if he had no more influence?

In between these layers, there was the inevitable freedom of Leila de Lima as one distinct layer. It was an international condition that was non-negotiable. That it eventually happened was a big slap in the face of Duterte who had orchestrated, together with Vitaliano Aguirre, the false testimonies against De Lima.

But for the Marcos-Romualdez clique, the name of the game is actually consolidation of power. The vicious Duterte attempts only advanced the fight for the 2025-midterm elections, the aim of which will be to finally dissolve the Davao City dynasty.

Seen in that light, expect more layers to come. One of that, said to be almost certain by now, will be the Marcos government’s grant to the ICC to bring its investigators to come in. Contrary to a popular lawyer’s opinion that that may no longer be useful as the investigation is still on its winding-up stage, the ICC can hold hearings in the country to secure testimonies. As we speak, the ICC is still acquiring sworn testimonies from other witnesses. That is an indication it wants to bolster a very tight case against Duterte et al.

The body language in the Romualdez House is actually a prelude to the Marcos grant to the ICC. Two non-opposition lawmakers, House human rights panel chair Bienvenido Abante and pro-administration party list representative Ramon Rodrigo Gutierrez, have in fact submitted House Bill 1477 “urging” (notice the choice of word) the government to cooperate with the ICC. The resolution passed the first reading and is now in the committee on justice.

What exactly does this bode for the Dutertes? With the Philippine government cooperating with the ICC, it will doom the Dutertes and their allies. Once ICC arrest warrants are out, government can also cooperate by enforcing the warrants.

Who can be arrested? Depending on who ICC decides to indict based on eyewitness testimonies at hand, they can range from Rodrigo Duterte, Bato dela Rosa, Bong Go, Paolo Duterte (these four are already certain to be included in a possible indictment because of their prominence in eyewitness testimonies), to Vitaliano Aguirre and Sara Duterte (eyewitnesses testified she upheld her father’s extrajudicial killings by resorting to abduction and secret execution, then burial in Davao City’s three mass graves, and the use of intelligence funds to support EJKs during her term as city mayor).

If this materializes, none among them will be able to run for public office from their Scheveningen Prison cells in The Hague. No Dutertes will resurrect in the 2025 and worse the 2028 presidential elections. Government can even find ways to unseat Baste Duterte to finally cleanse Davao City of its more than 20 years of slavery and silence.

There have been speculations floated on a possible impeachment of Sara as vice president. The president has said he does not want her impeached. Word from the House, however, differs. An impeachment case is said to be now actually building up. It is in the works for 2024. The president’s statement was just a smokescreen for him to remain non-controversial.

What do we make of the eventual dissolution of the long-standing Duterte Dynasty? Do we thank Bongbong Marcos once that day comes when we shall be in ecstasy? No we don’t. The Dutertes have long committed crimes that have remained unpunished because of impunity. It is but just for any right-thinking sitting president to apply the law on them.

Do we owe Leila de Lima’s freedom to Bongbong Marcos? Neither. A wrongful detention on trumped-up charges is something a right-thinking president must address. As Vergel O. Santos has reminded us, “Leila de Lima owes her freedom to no one.”

Shall we stop holding the Marcoses accountable? Absolutely not. That is a continuing commitment that we have staked our lives to. –

Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.

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