Philippine politics

[The Slingshot] The prayer rally that wasn’t about prayer

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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[The Slingshot] The prayer rally that wasn’t about prayer

David Castuciano/Rappler

'Duterte needed a psychological show of support that could overwhelm his giant fear of the ICC. Only obeisant and echo chamber Davao City could easily organize one.'

It was a prayer rally that had more expletives and profanities than prayers. At least three angry and bullying thugs were speakers, all coming from one family, plus one has-been and also-ran former human rights lawyer who probably has to moonlight now for something else.

There is only one way to understand that Duterte family rally in Davao City last January 28: Rodrigo Duterte’s ever-greatest fear, the one that sends him the coldest shivers, is the International Criminal Court.

Duterte had long planned how to evade the ICC.

In the 2022 national elections, it was necessary for him to have a president who will not deliver him to the ICC. That was the principal reason why he had aspired for his daughter to run. When that did not materialize because daughter partnered as vice president instead with Bongbong Marcos, Duterte thought Marcos Jr. would be a president who will never turn him over to The Hague.

After all, he had thought that the Marcoses owed him one big favor – burying the skeletal remains of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The key to understanding Duterte is always – and always – his love of himself. Remember this is a man afflicted with ANPD – Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Throw away all his rhetoric for love of country, no matter how many times he kisses the flag. The man is a master showman even better than the late German Moreno. And he knows many would die for his false rhetoric and his lying dramas.

The other plan was the quid pro quo; the division of spoils after the BBM-Sara tandem had won. And that was to put in his faithful lieutenants in the Marcos cabinet – Vic Rodriguez, Menardo Guevarra, Jose Calida, and even the boobooing tourism secretary who was Sara’s campaign communications secretary, Cristina Codilla Frasco. His secretary of the interior and local governments (and chief of staff of the armed forces) Eduardo Año was retained as BBM’s national security adviser.

The Commission on Appointments bypassed Calida. Guevarra was ineffective as solicitor general – he lost his appeal in the ICC, was ignored and immobilized when the ICC investigators entered the country. Rodriguez was, of course, kicked out after Malacañang discovered he had conspired with Bong Go to fill as many appointees with Duterte loyalists as possible. Malacañang had better watch out on Año.

The marijuana smoker Baste Duterte articulated so well the stinging rebuke and thwarted expectations of his father – “Akong amahan ang nagpalubong sa imong amahan” (It was my father who had your father buried at the Libingan) – addressing it to Marcos Jr. And that is where the Duterte pain has hit the most. They were asking for their return of favor and it wasn’t reciprocated.

That was the reason for the Davao City prayer rally that had no prayer but the gyrating sexy dancers of Willie Revillame who now wants to run for senator (the more reason we should reject the Dutertes).

Duterte needed a psychological show of support that could overwhelm his giant fear of the ICC. Only obeisant and echo chamber Davao City could easily organize one. After all, its scared barangay leaders were on their take. In Davao City, even barangay leaders benefit from the money rewards of extrajudicial killings sponsored by city hall. Arturo Lascañas’s revelations had intimated that.

When that didn’t work, Duterte the father went on a midnight press conference calling for Mindanao’s secession from the rest of the country. Did he mean just ivory tower Davao City? There is no clamor from the rest of Mindanao. Members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority immediately rejected him. “We can’t support such a move. It is us, the Moro people and the non-Muslim indigenous tribes who are the original owners of what is now Mindanao.” Aray! That was a punch in the belly to the Cebu and Southern Leyte migrant Dutertes.

When that didn’t work, Sara Duterte’s followers attempted a rally at Liwasang Bonifacio last February 3. How many came? About 30; well let’s say 50. The disinformative off-the-air media SMNI News (which still maintains an X account) tried to make breaking news out of it, only to be rebuffed by X readers. “30 lang ang pumunta dyan, mas marami pa ang pumupunta sa kasal o binyag!” “Mas marami pa bisita ko nong bday ko.

(Only 30 came, more people come for weddings and baptisms; I had more guests for my birthday.)

The sum and substance is this – the Dutertes are exhausting all means to evade ICC accountability. The Duterte family with the upset expectations is now a dangerous family. They could stage any of the following probable scenarios to escape ICC imprisonment and prosecution.

First, Rodrigo and Sara Duterte will put up a big fight that can be bloody. He has in his arsenal 358 firearms that he manipulated for midnight permits before he bowed out of the presidency. Arresting them will probably entail a combined battalion of police and army manpower. They can fight it out.

Second, escape. Baste Duterte repeated the joke of escaping to Indonesia. That could have been a decoy. It is more likely Red China, their love for which is greater than their love for the Philippines. The national government should keep vigil on the Davao City airport and all other airports in the vicinity.

The third possibility is something that Duterte in fact alluded to in his rally speech. He said, “I ask the military establishment to observe what is happening.” Of course he tried to be polite, but Duterte does not have the talent of cryptic language. It was actually a hope that the military will stage a coup d’etat to remove Marcos Jr. from Malacañang and then install Sara as the rightful successor.

The fourth possibility is something they are not exactly incapable of doing. In fact, it can be the easiest and quickest of all. And that is to assassinate Bongbong Marcos. Presto, Sara Duterte will be president by succession and that will be the end of their ICC woes. Liza Araneta Marcos will then go home to Ilocos Norte a despised widow. There will be one big durian fiesta in weird Davao City. And the city’s pliant media will just report it like it was reading A, B, Cs. Of course, SMNI will then go back on air. However, that will magnify the Dutertes as principal suspects because no one politician now has the interest to eliminate Marcos Jr. by fatal means. Yet, who will investigate them if the president becomes Sara Duterte? The point is, the Dutertes have a cabal of assassins that can do any dirty job. Vengeance is theirs.

These are terrible scenarios. National government misses out on one essential that could cripple the Dutertes – freeze all bank assets of everyone in the Duterte family. That is what powered their distorted supremacy all these years. We start again from the bank accounts that former senator Antonio Trillanes had bared in the Senate.

Where are those bank accounts now? A source who is tracking them says they have since stashed these in Red China (Xiamen and Hongkong) and Singapore.

Remember what happened to Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang who said in 2017 that the bank accounts Trillanes exposed had matched with the records of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC)? That ombudsman was kicked out of office in 2019. The reason? Malacañang said Carandang breached confidentiality.

That means Carandang was telling the truth. The Dutertes have all the money to protect themselves from the clutches of the law. With the power they amassed after more than 20 years in office and several billions of public money in their hands, kid gloves is not the way to corral them. –

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.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Indeed, I agree with writer Antonio Montalvan II: “… kid gloves are not the way to corral them (the Duterte’s).” And I believe President Marcos Jr. is following his wife’s advice – that the right way to treat this competing political dynasty is through an “iron fist in a velvet glove.”

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