By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday said once he steps down, he prefers the “likes” of Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero or former senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. as his successor over his constitutional successor Vice-President Maria Leonor G. Robredo.
“If you follow the succession and Robredo takes over, hindi niya kaya (she can’t handle it)….That’s my honest opinion. Kung sino lang sana diyan (anybody there), in the likes of Escudero or Bongbong Marcos,” Mr. Duterte said in his remarks at his dinner with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) on Tuesday evening, Aug. 14.
At another event on Tuesday, Mr. Duterte also said he would prefer a military junta to lead the country over Ms. Robredo’s leadership.
“I would suggest to the military… if you want yourselves to be the junta, I said line up here, I’ll put you in your proper place,” Mr. Duterte said at the launching at Malacañang of business advocacy group Go Negosyo’s “Pilipinas Angat Lahat” program.
The President claimed that Naga City, the hometown of Ms. Robredo where her husband, the late former interior secretary Jesse M. Robredo, served as mayor for 19 years, was once a “hotbed” of illegal drugs.
“It was there. And you can ask the Naga guys and the Naga addicts. I’m not saying…but look at Davao,” he said.
He added: “I am ready to step down. Given the right conditions, I will step down. I’m tired. I cannot control…”
In a radio interview Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said, “So dismayado po ang Presidente kaya sinabi niya, ‘Gusto ko nang magbitaw, magbitiw.’ Pero iyon nga po, ang sinasabi nga niya ay wala pa siyang nakikita na tao na tamang maging successor sa kaniya kaya naman po naririyan pa rin ang ating Presidente (The President was dismayed, so he said, ‘I want to resign, resign. But he was also saying that he could not step down because he has not found the right successor yet.)
He also said: “Pero ang sabi nga niya, kapag conditions are ripe at may nakita siyang tao na pupuwedeng magpatuloy ng kaniyang trabaho eh gagawin daw po niya iyan.” (But as he said, if the conditions are ripe and he finds the person who can continue his job, he will do that [resign].)
Mr. Roque added: “Sinabi rin po niya na sa tingin niya ay hindi sapat ang kakayahan ng ating Bise Presidente kung siya ay bababa at magkakaroon ng constitutional succession.” (He also said he thinks that the Vice President’s abilities are not enough if he steps down and there will be a constitutional succession).
Sought for comment, University of the Philippines political science assistant professor Dr. Perlita M. Frago-Marasigan said in a phone interview: “We have to learn to read between the lines, though the President speaks with resolve and finality when he says something. He will not step down if VP will take over. So that means he won’t step down. Yes, it may sound like an endorsement for Senator Escudero but the President is consistent when it comes to (former) senator Marcos.”
Mr. Marcos has a pending protest against Ms. Robredo at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Ms. Frago-Marasigan said the President’s remarks “could be interpreted by some people that he would somehow intervene in the said case.”
She added: “But I don’t think so. It should be treated independently because it’s just an opinion….”
“He questioned the legitimacy of VP Robredo at the outset. I do not think that he will intervene in the case. That lowly strategy will be beneath him. Apparently, he also sees ‘men’ as better successors to the presidency. Either he is a conservative or a chauvinist, or both,” Ms. Frago-Marasigan said further.
Lawyer Ibarra M. Gutierrez, Ms. Robredo’s spokesperson, said when sought for comment: “Tatlong bagay lang. Una, 155,000 na pamilya ang natulungan ni VP Leni, na walang anomalya, walang kurakot, at habang walang puwesto sa Cabinet.” (Just three things. First, VP Leni has helped 155,000 families, without anomalies, without corruption, and without a Cabinet post).
“Pangalawa, pasensiya na siya, pero talo si BBM (Bongbong Marcos) at Chiz noong eleksyon.” (Second, I beg his pardon, but BBM and Chiz lost the [2016 vice-presidential contest].)
“Pangatlo, hanggang dito ba naman nakalimutan pa rin si Alan (Third, even on this point he still forgot Alan)?” Mr. Gutierrez also said, referring to Mr. Duterte’s running mate in 2016 and now his foreign affairs secretary, Alan Peter S. Cayetano. — with Charmaine A. Tadalan