By Perry Diaz
Every time President Rodrigo Duterte has some health problem, all his political allies get nervous. At his age, 75 years old, he suffers from a multitude of health issues, including an autoimmune disease that can potentially have serious complications. He revealed the condition, myasthenia gravis, while he was visiting in Moscow in October 2019. The condition causes muscle weakness, and can result in drooping of eyelids, blurred vision as well as weakness in one’s extremities. It could cause breathing problems that would require the use of a ventilator.
Duterte also suffers from daily migraines and ailments including Buerger’s disease, an illness that affects the veins and the arteries of the limbs, and is usually due to smoking.
But as early as November 2017, Duterte’s supporters urged him to declare a revolutionary government (RevGov). However, he insisted he would not be doing so and hoped he would not be compelled to do so. “I am a lawyer and I am following the Constitution. [But] only when the Republic of the Philippines is dying, then maybe.” But what if Duterte himself is dying? Would he be compelled to declare a RevGov? This did not bode well with Vice President Leni Robredo who was alarmed over the participation of some government officials to a proposal to place the country under a RevGov.
To quell the growing number of pro-RevGov advocates, Duterte said that establishing a RevGov at this time was like “looking for a headache.” He probably figured out that it’s too soon to talk about RevGov without the solid support of the military.
In August 2017, Duterte said that the Marcos family had offered to return to the government some of the family’s disputed hidden wealth, including “a few gold bars.” Duterte said he would accept the Marcos offer and would appoint a retired justice of the Philippine Supreme Court to negotiate with the family on the government’s behalf. Duterte said the Marcos family did not ask for immunity from suit in exchange for returning their wealth to the government. But nothing came out of the deal due to strong objections from the public.
In December 2017, the Marcoses renewed their proposal to return their hidden wealth. Through the Marcos family lawyer Oliver Lozano, a proposal was made to form a compromise agreement with the Marcos family to declare a “reformist government” to enable Duterte to do acts which are implied but not prohibited by law, including the inking of a “compromise agreement” with the Marcoses.
In a letter sent to Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, Lozano said: “Under a Reformist Government, akin to ‘REVGOV’, the President can exercise all powers impliedly provided and unprohibited by the Law and Constitution in order to promote Public Welfare, Protect the People and give Social Justice for All vis-à-vis your immunity from suit.”
Lozano said that unlike in a RevGov, the Constitution and all existing laws would remain in effect under his proposed reformist government. The compromise deal with the Marcoses would entail the “sharing” of their wealth “in order to promptly give unifying Social Justice for All through Massive Economic Development and World-Class Rehabilitation as well as enable the government to pay its foreign and local debts.” In other words, the Marcoses would turn over a portion of their alleged unexplained wealth that they allegedly stole from the people. And by doing that, they would be absolved from any lawsuit or claim against the Marcoses. They’re basically buying their freedom. Sounds enticing.
But for some reason, nothing came out of Lozano’s proposal. Somehow the Marcoses chickened out and decided to keep their wealth. There is probably a better way to keep their wealth and still reign supreme in government. This came to light in August 2018 when Duterte announced that he could step down if Bongbong Marcos succeeds in overturning his 2016 vice-presidential election defeat to Leni Robredo.
Duterte’s term ends in 2022 but he has spoken often recently about quitting before that, expressing frustration about his failure to tackle illicit drugs and corruption in government.
But he was reluctant to step down because a constitutional succession would mean handing power to Vice-President Robredo. But Robredo belongs to the opposition Liberal Party, which means the entire government bureaucracy would be turned over to the Liberal Party loyalists and their “Yellow Army” if Duterte steps down.
While waiting for the recount ordered by the Supreme Court, a complex process that is expected to be resolved within six months, the question is: Who will win the recount? Robredo says she won fairly. But ultimately, the Supreme Court sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) will make the decision. But Duterte appointed 11 of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, which begs the question: Would they vote impartially without regard to who appointed them? Although, the final tally of the recount will be based on what is deemed acceptable by the PET usually based on the “findings” and recommendations of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), which could be subjective.
While the PET is still in the process of recounting the 2016 vice-presidential votes, a video surfaced on August 25, 2020 from Duterte’s supporters who called to overturn the constitution and form a “revolutionary government.”
Federal System of government
The group called the “Mayor Rodrigo Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee” (MRD-NECC) announced they would march to the Malacanang Palace to announce a “People’s Declaration of a Revolutionary Government” after gathering an unspecified number of signatures on a petition.
According to a letter from the group’s spokesman Bobby Brillante, they would “appeal” to Duterte “to lead” this government until December 31, 2021, after which elections would be held under a new constitution.
The MRD-NECC wants to replace the country’s presidential form of government with a federal system, and it believes the only way to do this is for Duterte to form a RevGov and overturn the 1987 constitution.
But here’s the rub: the RevGov they have in mind could also prevent Vice-President Robredo from taking over should Duterte become incapacitated. With rumors swirling around that Duterte is seriously ill and that he recently visited a medical facility in Singapore, there would be a constitutional crisis on the presidential succession if Robredo were replaced by whomever Duterte anoints as his successor, which would likely be Bongbong Marcos.
But veteran lawyer Romulo Macalintal said that if Duterte were to heed the group’s call it would lead to a situation where there would be “two kinds of government: a revolutionary government headed by Duterte and a democratic government headed by Robredo.”
Which reminds me of what happened on February 25, 1986 during the People Power Revolution. That morning, Cory Aquino – who claimed she won the snap election — was inaugurated as President of the Philippines in a simple ceremony at the Club Filipino in Greenhills.
An hour later, Marcos held his inauguration at Malacanang Palace. On the Palace balcony, Marcos took the Oath of Office. The Marcoses finally emerged on the balcony of the Palace before 3,000 Marcos loyalists who were shouting, “Capture the snakes!”
End of an era
In the afternoon, Marcos phoned U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt asking for advice from the White House. Laxalt told him to “cut and cut clean,” to which Marcos expressed his disappointment after a short pause. Later Marcos talked to his erstwhile Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile – who was the leader of the People Power revolt — asking for safe passage for him, his family, and close allies.
At midnight, the Marcoses boarded a U.S. Air Force helicopter and flew to Clark Air Base. From there, the Marcoses flew to exile in Hawaii. Marcos died on September 28, 1989, a broken man.
On September 7, 1993, Marcos’ remains were flown to the Philippines and kept in a crypt in his hometown, Batac, Ilocos Norte.
On November 18, 2016, the Supreme Court allowed Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery) in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila. Thus the life story of Ferdinand E. Marcos came to an end.
But the saga of the Marcos family continues. Marcos’ son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. wants to follow his father’s footsteps: become president of the Philippines. And he’s pretty close to achieving it. The only thing that would prevent him is Vice-President Leni Robredo who won the election but is being contested by Bongbong. It’s now up to the Supreme Court to decide who won the election. And this is where the MRD-NECC’s proposal to form a revolutionary government comes in.
If MRD-NECC succeeds in doing so, a situation could arise where there would be two kinds of government: a RevGov headed by Duterte and a democratic government headed by Robredo. As a consequence, a civil war could break out between the Duterte and Marcos supporters against the “Yellow Army” of the Liberal Party. It’s déjà vu all over again: a repeat of the 1986 People Power Revolution when Cory Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos held separate presidential inaugurations. However, Marcos fled the country upon the suggestion of US President Reagan, which makes one wonder: Would US President Trump intervene just like Reagan did? And if so, whom would he support: Duterte’s revolutionary government or Leni Robredo?