Rodrigo Duterte

[Pastilan] Duterte, defender of the 1987 Constitution? Pfft.

Herbie Gomez

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[Pastilan] Duterte, defender of the 1987 Constitution? Pfft.

Guia Abogado/Rappler

'The ex-president can find himself on the side of what's right at times, but it's for all the wrong reasons, as seen in this resurrected move by congressmen to change the Constitution'

During the November 2023 FactsFirstPH Roadshow in Cagayan de Oro, journalist Inday Espina Varona, Rappler’s Regions head, dropped this gem: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. somehow managed to give the country a wow moment because his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, set the bar so low – or something to that effect.

It was so low, in fact, that Marcos Jr., whose family is behind one of the darkest periods in Philippine history, only had to stroll in and dazzle us with a few coherent sentences. So, we’ve upgraded from “Duterte mumbles” to “Bongbong Marcos wows,” like going from black and white to 4K Ultra HD.

Politics never fails to entertain. Late last year, we saw some politicians from Davao Oriental province doing a little political pirouette. In a sudden maneuver, they switched political parties. It didn’t surprise us anymore because, in this country, politicians are like collecting party memberships, Pokemon-style.

Known allies of the Duterte political dynasty in Davao Oriental jumped ship on November 24, taking their oath as members of the Martin Romualdez-led Lakas-Christian-Muslim-Democrats.

One of the leaders of this political acrobatics troupe is none other than the vice governor, Nelson Dayanghirang Jr.

Now, the Dayanghirangs are no small potatoes in Davao Oriental. Dayanghirang’s father and namesake was the province’s governor during the entire Duterte administration. Like most local chief executives during that bully of a presidency, he just casually rode the Duterte wave. He was all “cooperative” like most politicians.

As for the younger Dayanhirang, well, Nelson Jr. topped the race for provincial board seats in the 2022 elections, only to find himself ascending to the vice-gubernatorial post via automatic succession when Governor Corazon Malanyaon died last June. Malanyaon was succeeded by her vice governor, Niño Uy.

The recent decision of Nelson Jr.’s group was quite telling. First, they come from the Davao region, which is Dutertelandia. Before November 24, they were members of the Duterte bootlicking Nacionalista Party (NP) and Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago Party (HPP).

Second, they took their oath as members of Lakas-CMD, a political party that was used by Duterte’s daughter Sara as her vehicle during her successful 2022 campaign for the vice presidency.

Sara was briefly its chairperson, but she resigned as a member of Lakas-CMD last May, after her major backer, former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria “Hello, Garci” Arroyo, was booted out as senior deputy speaker for allegedly plotting to oust Speaker Romualdez. Arroyo has denied that.

Third, the Davao Oriental group took their oath as Lakas-CMD members before Romualdez, whose face Sara doesn’t seem to like. Those keeping up with this political drama would know that Sara and Romualdez aren’t exactly exchanging holiday cards.

It’s a political soap opera. Gloria got the boot, Sara resigned, and Romualdez was probably thinking, “Maybe this is my chance for the presidency.” If we are to believe Sara’s father, Romualdez has been salivating over the presidency.

Most Pinoy politicians flip-flop more than a fish out of water. It’s not just a Davao Oriental thing. This is a nationwide epidemic. It’s a broken record playing in every nook and cranny of this country, and nobody seems to know when the needle first scratched it.

In the grand Filipino tradition of political flip-flopping, we are starting to see politicians twirling away from the Dutertes to the tunes of the Marcos Jr.-Romualdez group. I can’t wait to see what political dance they’ll be doing next. What is clear is that in politics, the only constant is change… and a bit of a sense of humor.

They’re putting in a little effort to convince us that they think that the Dutertes aren’t these sacred cows anymore. It’s like they’ve taken a break from the six-year marathon of terror and absurdity, and now they’re trying to do damage control.

The years 2016 to mid-2022 were a period when lawmakers – like many other politicians – lost their self-esteem and became court jesters, and Congress turned into a colossal sit-down puppy, which did exactly what Duterte wanted it to do. It followed everything down to the last letter, no matter how glaringly twisted and ridiculous it was.

Now, they’re discussing proposed resolutions about cooperating with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the war on drugs when the realization that Duterte is already a powerless has-been finally sunk in. Something like this would have been unthinkable when the bully was in power.

The ex-president, however, can find himself on the side of what’s right at times, but it’s for all for the wrong reasons, as seen in this resurrected move by congressmen to change the Constitution. One doesn’t need a PhD in political science to see what’s off here.

In a Mindanews report on January 10, my friend and idol, journalist Carolyn Arguillas, wrote that Duterte sees no reason for changing the 1987 Constitution because “we have a good Constitution. I find it in perfect condition. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it.”

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow when I read the report and go, “Really?” The old man once wanted to change the 1987 Constitution like a status on Facebook. Now, he’s singing a different tune, and it’s got me scratching my head.

So, Duterte says now that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the 1987 Constitution. Perfect condition, he says.

Let’s rewind a bit. Didn’t Duterte spend the early years of his presidency attempting to change that very Constitution? The man even squandered hard-earned taxpayers’ money on a 22-member Consultative Committee, mostly made up of lawyers and political experts he handpicked, because he wanted to switch things up from presidential to federal. But now, he’s not into charter change (Cha-cha) anymore.

He was quoted in the Arguillas report as saying that the purpose of his administration in trying to change the Constitution was “a little bit higher, a noble one.” 

Yeah, right, noble. Duterte, the defender of the good ol’ Constitution! Pfft.

Here’s the twist: the only difference now is, it’s not going do the Dutertes any favors. Pastilan.Rappler.com

Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s Mindanao regional head.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Former President Digong Duterte should not be trusted. Remember his “jet ski” promise? His mind easily flip-flops, just like that of most Filipino politicians. What he and most Filipino Politicians care about are their convenience, security, and vested interests.

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