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FROM THE MANILA TIMES

BY FRANCISCO TATAD: THE SACKING OF VICE PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO


DECEMBER 7 -FRANCISCO S. TATAD
Despite her writing a letter of resignation on Monday, which President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly “accepted with a heavy heart,” one cannot deny the fact that Vice President Leni Robredo was sacked from the Cabinet as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and de facto secretary of housing, without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting with DU30. Invoking “irreconcilable differences,” Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. broke the bad news to her on Saturday, saying DU30 did not want to see her anymore at his Cabinet meeting this week nor in any subsequent Cabinet meeting. The meaning was clear. Since DU30 did not want her in any Cabinet meeting anymore, it only meant she had ceased to be part of the Cabinet. One other person to whom the same message was relayed was Dr. Patricia Licuanan, chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education. But Licuanan has a fixed term which expires in 2018, and she is not really a full-fledged member of the Cabinet. She is therefore not being thrown out of the Cabinet because she is not, strictly speaking, a member thereof. READ MORE...

ALSO: EDITORIAL - ‘Delicadeza’ vs life-and-death self-preservation
(De Lima should not be criticized for attending any further Senate hearings. Besides, as a senator she has the right to participate. However, her fellow honorable senators should not support any move she might make to derail the hearings or silence other witnesses.)


DECEMBER 8 -Ethically, delicadeza-wise, Justice Secretary Aguirre is, of course correct. But there is another traditional rule that gives a wide berth for self-preservation to a person who is facing a threat to his or her life. What Senator De Lima is involved in is a struggle to keep herself alive politically and legally.
OUR front-page news item yesterday, “De Lima should not attend Senate hearings – Aguirre” told of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd asking Senator Leila de Lima “to recuse herself from attending the Senate hearings on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.” Secretary Aguirre’s reason was that delicadeza, which he did not mention, should prevail in Senator De Lima’s thinking and decision-making. He said the senator should not participate in the proceedings because she is the very person involved in the investigation, along with her former driver-lover Ronnie Dayan and drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Yen Makabenta - Liberals and yellows face a political power outage. Is Leni the cure?


DECEMBER 8 -YEN MAKABENTA This is what makes politics such an interesting and compelling field to observe and study. One day political power can look invulnerable and impregnable. On another day, power can quickly evaporate and ooze away. The similarity between an electric power outage and a political power breakdown is so compelling, I thought it deserves a column today. Let’s start with a quick lesson on the definition of a power outage (courtesy of Wikipedia): A power outage (also called a power cut, a power blackout, power failure or a blackout) is a short- or long-term loss of electric power in an area. There are many causes of power failures in an electricity network. Examples of these causes include faults at power stations, damage to electric transmission lines, substations or other parts of the distribution system, a short circuit, or the overloading of electricity mains. Power outages are categorized into three different phenomena, relating to the duration and effect of the outage: A permanent fault is a massive loss of power typically caused by a fault on a power line. Power is automatically restored once the fault is cleared. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Ricardo Saludo - The real plot aims to oust Duterte, not Robredo


DECEMBER 8 -Ricardo Saludo
Recently, a well-known astrologer who correctly predicted the presidential election victories of Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump, said the Philippine leader faced uncertainty for some months. “But if he gets through March,” the astrologer allowed, “Duterte will be stronger.” That scenario may now be unfolding. With the resignation of Vice-President Leni Robredo from the Cabinet, the gloves may now be off between the current administration and the previous one. No more mincing words and pulling punches between the Duterte and Aquino camps, just to maintain cordial relations between the President and the VP, who belongs to former president Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party. Now, if Robredo leads protests against Duterte’s bloody anti-drug war and his decision to let the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes), she does not have to feel awkward in Palace meetings. Similarly, Duterte and his officials won’t hesitate in filing graft cases against Aquino-era officials, including thousands named and shamed in Duterte’s lists of local leaders, police officers, and judges allegedly in cahoots with drug syndicates. READ MORE...


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The sacking of Vice President Leni Robredo


FRANCISCO S. TATAD

MANILA, DECEMBER 12, 2016 (MANILA TIMES) BY THE MANILA TIMES ON DECEMBER 7, 2016 OPINION ON PAGE ONE - Despite her writing a letter of resignation on Monday, which President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly “accepted with a heavy heart,” one cannot deny the fact that Vice President Leni Robredo was sacked from the Cabinet as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and de facto secretary of housing, without the benefit of a face-to-face meeting with DU30. Invoking “irreconcilable differences,” Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. broke the bad news to her on Saturday, saying DU30 did not want to see her anymore at his Cabinet meeting this week nor in any subsequent Cabinet meeting.

The meaning was clear. Since DU30 did not want her in any Cabinet meeting anymore, it only meant she had ceased to be part of the Cabinet. One other person to whom the same message was relayed was Dr. Patricia Licuanan, chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education. But Licuanan has a fixed term which expires in 2018, and she is not really a full-fledged member of the Cabinet. She is therefore not being thrown out of the Cabinet because she is not, strictly speaking, a member thereof.

READ MORE...

A superfluous resignation letter

A short letter from Robredo thanking DU30 for allowing her to serve briefly as HUDCC chair, despite her not being a member of his borrowed PDP Laban party, would have been appropriate. After Evasco’s pointed message, she no longer had any position to resign from, so no resignation letter was necessary. Instead of writing, she could have simply invoked former Chief Justice Rey Puno’s famous formula —“constructive resignation” — which he used to describe Erap Estrada’s vacating the presidency in 2001 without a formal letter of resignation.

Or, instead of repeating DU30’s words to Robredo, Evasco could have simply said Malacañang had accepted her resignation. This was standard practice. When I was in the Cabinet, I once announced the President’s acceptance of the resignation of a notorious official. The official protested, saying he had not resigned. “The President was just being polite,” I explained. “You are actually being fired, sir, but he does not want you to lose face.”

In her short letter to DU30, the erstwhile HUDCC head said, “your directive to me to ‘desist from attending all Cabinet meetings’ has effectively made it impossible for me to do my job. Remaining in your Cabinet has become untenable.” She tried to give the impression that, even after Evasco’s message, staying in the Cabinet was still an option for her. It was so no longer. She had been fired. Therefore, she could have said: “Your directive to me ‘to desist from attending all Cabinet meetings’ has effectively removed me from my job. Thank you, sir, and goodbye.” She was obviously not prepared for such an exchange.

Stealing the vice presidency

“With this resignation, you can expect that I will continue to support positive initiatives of the administration and oppose those that are inimical to the people’s interests,” she said in an explanatory statement. “However, as your duly elected Vice President, I will not allow the Vice Presidency to be stolen, I will not allow the people’s will to be thwarted.”

The first part of that statement is neither here nor there, a namby-pamby response to a grave situation. We hear the same thing from politicians who have no strong convictions to fight for and want the best of both worlds at all times.

The second part of the statement is an unmerited assault on former Sen. Ferdinand (Bongbong) Marcos who is an innocent bystander in this Cabinet affair. Marcos Jr. has protested Robredo’s “election” before the Supreme Court acting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal. But he said nothing when DU30 named her to the Cabinet, despite her questionable status.

It is Robredo, as far as the Marcos camp is concerned, who has stolen the vice-presidency, and Marcos is now merely trying to recover what is truly his, through the proper constitutional process. He is not trying to steal back what he believes has been stolen from him.

There is no way he could win his case except by showing that he had more votes than Robredo, despite the earlier official count. Marcos is confident that if the PET could just, for one, examine the votes of ARMM, which normally does not vote for women against men, and where Marcos had zeroes in places where he had extremely strong support, the final results would produce a new vice-president.


Marcos photo by Mark Cristino/EPA. Robredo and voter photos by Rappler

Robredo and her supporters fear that the same 9 to 5 majority that ruled in favor of the burial of Marcos’s remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani could vote to unseat her and install Marcos.

This is not to say that Robredo does not have supporters who would fight to see her keep her post. She has the Liberal Party hard core, the so-called Yellow Cult headed by former President B. S. Aquino 3rd, former presidential candidate Mar Roxas, Sen. Franklin Drilon, and the “celebrated” former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, and they still have access to the money.

Failure and refusal to lead LP



But while many of them were hoping she would seize the opportunity to lead, she has chosen not to. She declined to lead the LP as a party after Mar Roxas lost to DU30 and the LP members who had won majority of the seats in Congress migrated en masse to PDP-Laban to cobble a rubberstamp Congress. And she chose to support rather than oppose DU30.

Thus she lobbied for a Cabinet appointment, even though she did not (as she now says) support many of DU30’s campaign promises which have since become his most controversial policies.

These include the summary killing of drug suspects, now over 5,000 in five months, the burial of the 27-year-old remains of Marcos at Libingan, and the proposed restoration of the death sentence. She wanted so much to be in the Cabinet that she did not mind it when DU30 put HUDCC, together with 11 other agencies, under Evasco, who has since been named to head the agency upon her removal.

On any major issue before the Cabinet, there should be no open disagreement between the President and any member. If such disagreement exists it should be kept within the Cabinet and kept from inflaming the media and the public. Which is what happened in this case.

As a woman, a widow and a political novice, Robredo tends to elicit a lot of sympathy among Filipinos. DU30 himself confessed to being physically attracted to her and openly flirted with her, forcing her to complain about his “tasteless remarks.”

In the Bicol region, where she and two other vice presidential candidates come from, and two others have close family ties, her support seems to be nearly as strong as DU30’s support is in Davao. But even there people recognize that DU30 was within his rights to protect the integrity of his policies when he dismissed her as HUDCC chair.

In the end, she may be proved right and DU30 wrong. Many others may oppose his key policies, as they in fact appear to. But no Cabinet member should openly oppose those policies without first quitting the Cabinet. This is the universal rule. And this is where Robredo failed. For whatever reason, she had naively assumed that as Vice President she could be exempt from the universal practice. After all, the VP is exempt, under the Constitution, from having to be confirmed in her Cabinet post by the Commission on Appointments.

Robredo plotting too?

While Robredo sees a conspiracy of shadows to unseat her as Vice President, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has suggested that Robredo could be the one plotting to unseat the President. At the height of DU30’s war of invectives against US President Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the European Union for poking their noses into the drug killings, Communication Secretary Martin Andanar accused the international currency speculator and “color-revolutionist” George Soros of being behind such a plot. Malacañang has not withdrawn that accusation. In fact, speculations about DU30’s health seemed to have heightened some conspiracy theories about regime change.

In the controversy over the Marcos burial, Robredo has apparently found a blunt weapon to use against Marcos Jr’s electoral protest.

The Left, the LP and the “Yellow Cult” let the cat out of the bag when they described their campaign against the burial of Marcos’ remains as in fact a “Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang” (Carmma).

The apparent ploy is to produce enough noise and smoke in the media and the streets in order to intimidate the Supreme Court not to act on Bongbong’s protest. The Court is apolitical and the most benign of the three co-equal and coordinate branches of government. They are apparently hoping the Justices could be intimidated.

Marcos cannot do much about this. But Robredo could. She could rise in stature if instead of trying to delay or obstruct the swift disposition of the Marcos protest, she would exert the necessary effort to help speed it up, so that the nation would finally see the true definitive results.

Whether she ultimately wins or loses, the electoral process should emerge victorious through the PET. Should she keep her post after all the votes have been validated, we should be prepared to recognize her as a true leader worthy of our support. For now, she must work hard to earn it.

At the beginning of my electoral career in Bicol in 1978, I was favored with the solid, although undeserved, support of my fellow Bicolanos. Young people carried me on their shoulders in political rallies, and amid threats of massive vote buying and cheating by the old pols, who had combined to try to deny me any chance in the election, the Bicolano voters, young and old, put me on top of the winning slate, despite the fact that I was coming from the poorest and smallest of the Bicol provinces and was the poorest of the candidates.

I saw the same explosion of regional support for the young Chiz Escudero when he first ran for the Senate.

In the last election, I had fond hopes for Leni Robredo, who I thought had suffered much as a widow of a dear departed public servant and friend. But amid the intense wooing waged by B.S. Aquino 3rd and Mar Roxas, among others, to conscript her into the LP presidential ticket, I hoped and prayed that she would ask them to tell her and the nation the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about how her husband, the late former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, died, as a precondition to her running for Vice President. Jesse died in a plane crash while rushing home from an official errand in Cebu, but there are those who until now believe he was killed.

What Robredo can do now

Leni Robredo should not imitate the Aquino family whose two well-known members—-Cory and her son PNoy, both former presidents—-never bothered to find out who masterminded Ninoy Aquino’s 1983 murder, during their combined 12 and one half years in office. Instead of preoccupying herself now with the burial of Marcos, she should do what she can to help the nation, and first of all the Bicolanos, uncover the real truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about her husband’s mysterious death.


‘Delicadeza’ vs life-and-death self-preservation BY THE MANILA TIMES ON DECEMBER 8, 2016 EDITORIAL


Ethically, delicadeza-wise, Justice Secretary Aguirre is, of course correct. But there is another traditional rule that gives a wide berth for self-preservation to a person who is facing a threat to his or her life. What Senator De Lima is involved in is a struggle to keep herself alive politically and legally.

OUR front-page news item yesterday, “De Lima should not attend Senate hearings – Aguirre” told of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd asking Senator Leila de Lima “to recuse herself from attending the Senate hearings on the proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.”

Secretary Aguirre’s reason was that delicadeza, which he did not mention, should prevail in Senator De Lima’s thinking and decision-making. He said the senator should not participate in the proceedings because she is the very person involved in the investigation, along with her former driver-lover Ronnie Dayan and drug lord Kerwin Espinosa.

READ MORE....

The Justice secretary cited his own example—saying he had inhibited himself from the case filed at the DOJ because he is the chief of the department. He proudly said that even before Senator De Lima asked for his recusal, he already did the right thing. “Di pa nya hinihingi, nag inhibit na ako dito. (Before she asked for it I inhibited myself),” he said.

Similarly, he believes and reminded Senator De Lima that because she is directly involved in the case, she should also inhibit herself from the Senate hearings.

“She should recuse herself. She wanted me to keep my distance from the cases at the DOJ and here she is, participating in the Senate hearings when what is being discussed is her accepting money from drugs,” he said.

Ethically, delicadeza-wise, Justice Secretary Aguirre is, of course correct.

But there is another traditional rule that gives a wide berth for self-preservation to a person who is facing a threat to his or her life. What Senator De Lima is involved in is a struggle to keep herself alive politically and legally.

Before this scandalous case reached its present pass, two witnesses who appeared at the Senate hearing on the proliferation of drugs and the massiveness of the contraband drug trade in our country, testified how she had behaved recklessly while she was the secretary of justice.

She admitted she committed her indiscretions, or what she called “frailties of a woman.” She had placed her life at risk—not just her soul. She could have been done in by the people she had hurt, including the family of the married driver and security guard she had an affair with.

The investigation—in which she has been pinpointed as an alleged participant in or at least a beneficiary of the illegal drugs industry—will lead to a Senate report of the two committees that jointly carried out the hearings. Senator De Lima will surely be mentioned disparagingly, even if the report merely sticks to the narrations made by the witnesses.

De Lima should not be criticized for attending any further Senate hearings. Besides, as a senator she has the right to participate.

However, her fellow honorable senators should not support any move she might make to derail the hearings or silence other witnesses.


Liberals and yellows face a political power outage. Is Leni the cure? BY YEN MAKABENTA ON DECEMBER 8, 2016 OPINION ON PAGE ONE


YEN MAKABENTA

This is what makes politics such an interesting and compelling field to observe and study. One day political power can look invulnerable and impregnable. On another day, power can quickly evaporate and ooze away.

The similarity between an electric power outage and a political power breakdown is so compelling, I thought it deserves a column today.

Let’s start with a quick lesson on the definition of a power outage (courtesy of Wikipedia):

A power outage (also called a power cut, a power blackout, power failure or a blackout) is a short- or long-term loss of electric power in an area.

There are many causes of power failures in an electricity network. Examples of these causes include faults at power stations, damage to electric transmission lines, substations or other parts of the distribution system, a short circuit, or the overloading of electricity mains.

Power outages are categorized into three different phenomena, relating to the duration and effect of the outage:

A permanent fault is a massive loss of power typically caused by a fault on a power line. Power is automatically restored once the fault is cleared.

READ MORE...

A brownout is a drop in voltage in an electrical power supply. The term brownout comes from the dimming experienced by lighting when the voltage sags. Brownouts can cause poor performance of equipment or even incorrect operation.

A blackout is the total loss of power in an area and is the most severe form of power outage that can occur. Blackouts which result from or result in power stations tripping are particularly difficult to recover from quickly.

What happened to the Liberals and Aquino loyalists last May 9, and since President Duterete’s accession to office, is the equivalent of a political power outage.

A party in disarray

Since President Duterte’s inauguration, power has evaporated quickly for the Liberals and the Yellow loyalists. From a position of domination, wherein Aquino could impound budgeted funds and concoct a fund for himself and his projects, wherein he could detain and charge his predecessor (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), wherein he could impeach a sitting Justice of the Supreme Court, the Liberals and Aquino loyalists have lost all the apparatus and prerogatives of power.

Now, the party is in disarray, and prospective indictments await its erstwhile leaders (notably former president Benigno Aquino III). Yellow loyalists still holding office (like the Ombudsman) could lose their hold on their posts much sooner than they realize.

The party and the cult need to undertake a massive effort of rebuilding its ranks, infusing new leadership, and stopping their decline.

They need to regain credibility as a political force, because unless they are believed, they will not be heard in the age of Duterte.

The fair lady of the Opposition

The question that I pose in my title – is Leni the cure? – is intriguing and it probably is an impossible role for her to fill.

The Liberals-Yellows have become a political grouping that specializes in necro-politics – making political capital out of the death of personages. They have also developed an ability to transform inexperienced widows into politicians.

With the help of the Americans, they turned Cory Aquino into a passable leader in 1986. They repeated that feat with the election of her son, Noynoy Aquino, in 2010.

In the May 9 election, they used the same Cory playbook in fielding Leni Robredo for vice-president to stop Bongbong Marcos, who was running away from the field. This play may succeed if Leni’s election is sustained by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (the Supreme Court) in the Marcos election protest.

The big question now is whether Leni Robredo can be transformed a la Eliza Doolittle into “the fair lady of the Opposition.”

Much as I wish that she could evolve into the role, I will say here that I am skeptical.

This is a political stratagem born out of desperation. The prospective fair lady does not know what she has bargained for.

Having worked with two presidents, and the CEOs of major corporations, and having a done my share of leadership studies, I must say that Leni does not have the tools for political leadership.

She looks to me like more of a follower than a leader. She has not utilized her opportunities well.

After a brief period of uncertainty, she was fortunate to be invited to join President Duterte’s Cabinet as housing secretary. Sadly, she did not have the executive ability and skills to convert this assignment into a significant mission. She looked like just another soul lost in the bureaucracy.

And she did not have the intelligence to recognize that this assignment is probably the biggest government mission she will ever be entrusted.

She did not seize the housing post as a great chance to show and prove her leadership skills, as well as a means to hone her political skills and instincts.

Instead of building from this base toward a future of dignified stability and security – for herself and her family – she allowed herself to be seduced by the delusional politics and false promises of the Liberal Party and the Yellow Cult.

In the major decisions of her fairly short political life, never has Robredo shown the core of a conviction politician, who has strong beliefs and policy ideas, and has a clear idea of where she wants to go.

Stealing the vice-presidency

Robredo’s allegation of “a plot to steal the Vice-Presidency” does not look like something that came out of her mind. It seems like the product of minds advising or using her.

The idea, as one blogger (GRP pundit) has commented: ‘is to preempt the Supreme Court sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal’s decision. It is to force the SC-PET into deciding in her favor. It is to poison the well so that there will be only one acceptable result.

“They will accept a favorable decision from the PET. But if the PET finds that she benefited from electoral fraud, they will protest and claim that she was cheated and that the vice-presidency is being stolen from her.”

But why are Robredo and the LP afraid of the PET? They have a copy of the protest. They have a copy of the evidence against her.

The hard part will come when people start to question whether Leni really and truly believes that she won in the May 9 elections, and whether she knows how she won.

Can she construct a plausible narrative and mathematical model of how she won the vice- presidential contest against Bongbong marcos?

How does a candidate for the presidency or vice-presidency win office without winning a single city or municipality in Metro Manila, the richest trove of votes in the country?

How does she win after losing decisively the Overseas Filipino vote?

The Liberals and yellow loyalists know that an honest recount, superintended by the Supreme Court would return a negative verdict against Robredo.

So the strategy now is to derail the protest and recount.

A weapon against Duterte

In being cajoled and finally persuaded to run alongside Roxas, Robredo allowed herself to be used by former president Aquino and the Liberal/Yellow cult. And now they want to use her as a pretend opposition leader against President Duterte, for an agenda that is not yet known.

Leni will be turned into a weapon for attacks against Duterte, and against the possible march of Bongbong Marcos to the vice-presidency.

It’s not Leni’s fault that the Liberals and the Yellows have lost power. Why should it be her responsibility to solve their political power outage?

It’s time Leni learns to answer such questions herself.


The real plot aims to oust Duterte, not Robredo BY THE MANILA TIMES ON DECEMBER 8, 2016 OPINION ON PAGE ONE


Ricardo Saludo

Recently, a well-known astrologer who correctly predicted the presidential election victories of Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump, said the Philippine leader faced uncertainty for some months. “But if he gets through March,” the astrologer allowed, “Duterte will be stronger.”

That scenario may now be unfolding.

With the resignation of Vice-President Leni Robredo from the Cabinet, the gloves may now be off between the current administration and the previous one.

No more mincing words and pulling punches between the Duterte and Aquino camps, just to maintain cordial relations between the President and the VP, who belongs to former president Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Liberal Party.

Now, if Robredo leads protests against Duterte’s bloody anti-drug war and his decision to let the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos be buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes), she does not have to feel awkward in Palace meetings.

Similarly, Duterte and his officials won’t hesitate in filing graft cases against Aquino-era officials, including thousands named and shamed in Duterte’s lists of local leaders, police officers, and judges allegedly in cahoots with drug syndicates.

READ MORE...

Already, Robredo has accused the administration of plotting to remove her as VP — a grave charge which seems to include the Supreme Court, headed by Aquino-appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and empowered to decide the election protest against Robredo filed by her rival Bongbong Marcos.

Meanwhile, civil society groups supporting Duterte, have filed with the Justice Department a corruption case against Aquino’s Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya and other DOTC officials over the P3.7-billion contract to buy car license plates, which was awarded with no budget allocation.

And if that weren’t enough to signal the end of friendly ties between past and present regimes, the Presidential Spokesperson told media on Tuesday that more investigations and charges may arise, though the government was still more focused on its governance programs.

The LP is reportedly re-examining ties with Duterte’s Pilipino Democratic Party-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which dominates Congress and local governments after dozens of legislators and local leaders switched over after elections.

Moreover, many local, police and agency officials accused or suspected of drug links would be glad to join a revitalized LP-led opposition. Also keen to see Duterte’s name-and-shame campaign against narco-graft stalled by fiscalizing politicians are hundreds of PNP officers and men accused of drug links.

Fight to the finish?

How will this political battle play out? The ongoing Senate and House hearings on drug trafficking and extrajudicial killings, and street protests against EJKs and the Marcos burial give a foretaste of what may be ahead.

Congress and national agencies under Duterte’s sway will likely intensify probes and prosecution of Aquino-era irregularities.

Besides narcotics protection by local officials as well as former Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila de Lima, other anomalies due for investigation are Aquino’s illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, and pork barrel graft involving LP stalwarts. Both have long been in the hands of Aquino-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who, by contrast, had fast-tracked cases against Aquino’s opponents.

For their part, the LP and its activist, academe and media allies would likely step up criticism of the administration in social and mass media, and mobilize more rallies in the hope of eroding Duterte’s record-high public approval ratings.

Plus: The Aquino camp aims to whip up public sympathy, if not outrage over the election protest against VP Robredo.

If her victory is sustained, she would be cheered for defeating the purported scheme. And if she loses, then more demonstrations would be mobilized, partly by capitalizing on the negative sentiment ignited against the Marcoses by the surreptitious burial of the late strongman.

There is talk that the High Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, could come to a decision as early as January. The protest covers a limited number of tallies which swung Marcos’s 1-million-vote lead to a 200,000 deficit overnight, making a speedy PET resolution possible.

And if certain justices claim undue pressures and dubious proceedings in the tribunal, that could provoke public animosity and anger, which could be used to instigate broad dissatisfaction toward Duterte.

The ides of March

So is all this coming to a head in March? Well, the coming holiday season from December to mid-January would be a slow month for protests, especially with school out. Congress would also take a break from its hearings on narco-protectors.

But when universities resume in January, so would rallies. To head off such agitation, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre could file graft charges against Aquino-era officials before then.

The LP would likely try to portray such charges as harassment of the legitimate opposition, just as Sen. de Lima has won sympathy from some religious and university quarters by claiming to be the victim of false accusations for having denounced drug-related killings.

Will the public waver in its support for Duterte? Probably not.

The EJK and Marcos burial issues have not won broad public support. Approval ratings suggest that most Filipinos see Duterte’s tough measures against drugs and crime to be successful and warranted. And the anti-Marcos protests are largely confined to selected Metro Manila universities.

Working-class Filipinos remain satisfied with the administration, and that positive sentiment is likely to continue or even improve with economic growth tipped to accelerate, driven by continued consumer spending and more infrastructure outlays.

A further factor that could help Duterte is the coming takeover of US President-elect Donald Trump. The latter has reportedly expressed support for the former’s bloody anti-narcotics campaign.

Moreover, Trump has said he would like to reduce US military action abroad, which may temper those in Washington who may wish to see regime change in Manila amid Duterte’s shift away from America and toward China and Russia.

If the US won’t support anti-Duterte moves, then the LP would not gain a powerful ally. It would also undercut efforts to mobilize the uniformed services against the him.

Still, while ouster moves don’t look promising, for narco-syndicates and corrupt officials, it’s the only chance to escape prosecution, prison and death.

It’s Digong or them.


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