To Take A Stand

In a speech before an anti-corruption summit in Pasay City last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said that establishing a revolutionary government at this time was like “looking for a headache.” He announced back in October that he would set up a revolutionary government to nip in the bud a plan to destabilize his administration. He said: “I will clear the streets and I will declare all government positions vacant.”

Establishing the new government necessarily means the scrapping of the Constitution, otherwise some people would invoke the Constitution and declare his government illegal. Scrapping the Constitution would in turn mean abandoning the established organizational and command structure of the old government. He cannot govern 103 million people spread over 7,100 islands in an area of almost 300,000 square kilometers all by his lonesome. He needs a huge complement of deputies and an army of assistants.

A host of high-profile personalities must have scrambled over one another to get his attention and his favor for appointment to the top posts after announcing his plan to set up a revolutionary government, causing him to realize the immense problems he would be confronted with if he established a revolutionary government.

Premier Duterte would not only have to choose his deputies but would have to choose who among them should be the chief deputy or his second-in-command. It would not be far-fetched to think that angling to be No. 2 in the new government would be Alan Peter Cayetano, who after all ran as Mr. Duterte’s vice-presidential running mate last year.

Another likely aspirant as second-in-command would be Bongbong Marcos, arguably the biggest financial contributor to Mr. Duterte’s campaign for the presidency and who delivered the sizable Ilocano vote for him. He also ran for vice-president last year, ostensibly as the prelude to his bid for the presidency in 2022. The coffee shops buzzed with talks of his being Mr. Duterte’s choice for vice-presidential running mate, rumors precipitated by cryptic statements of then presidential candidate Duterte. He could be the chief deputy of Premier Duterte.

Not to be discounted among those possibly eyeing the position of chief deputy in the revolutionary government is Gloria Arroyo. She was a major financial supporter to Mr. Duterte’s successful presidential bid. Her being set free by the Duterte-influenced Supreme Court from hospital arrest and her elevation to a position of considerable influence in the present dispensation are apparently return favors for her generous support. Further, she is rumored to be the prime minister if and when the federal system of government is adopted. She could be No. 2 if a revolutionary government is established instead.

With Vice-President Leni Robredo definitely out of the picture in the revolutionary government, Senate President Koko Pimentel, No. 3 in the order of succession to the presidency under the present Constitution, may feel deserving of elevation to the No. 2 spot. After all, had he not endorsed Mr. Duterte as the official candidate of his PDP-Laban Party, Mr. Duterte would not be president now.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, No. 4 in the order of succession, may feel as the logical chief deputy by virtue of his being the chief of the 234 members of the House of Representatives. It should be noted that it was only his personal closeness to Mr. Duterte that got him that powerful position, not his political clout, as he had none, not like previous speakers Ramon Mitra, Jr., and Jose de Venecia, whose political wiles won the alliance of many congressmen, or Manuel Villar whose fabulous treasury enabled him to “buy” the support of his colleagues. But it is precisely that close friendship with the President that could make Alvarez expect a high position in a Duterte autocracy.

Speaking of Villar, he could be another aspirant for the No. 2 position. He had been No. 4 before and aspired to be No. 1 but was frustrated. His Nacionalista Party supported Mr. Duterte’s candidacy. His wife is in the Senate and his son is in the Cabinet. A revolutionary government would abolish their positions. In their place, Villar might want to be No. 2 chief deputy.

Not to be ignored is Richard Gordon. (Well, he makes sure he is always noticed.) He had also launched his bid for the presidency but it turned out to be a dismal failure. Observers of Senate proceedings refer to him as Papa Bear because he is supposed to get what he wants, a concession he earned presumably because of his servility to the power that be. He is likely to ask for a position of power in the new government as a reward for his servility.

All of them are strong personalities. They will not take being passed over lightly. With the exception of Villar, all of them have shown a streak of vindictiveness. When Speaker De Venecia’s son tangled with President Arroyo’s husband, De Venecia was toppled from the speakership, in spite of his accommodating the party-less Gloria Arroyo as his vice-presidential running mate in 1998.

When cumpadres Cayetano and Makati Mayor Junjun Binay engaged in a tug o’ war over Fort Bonifacio or Global City, Cayetano exposed the Binays’ shenanigans in the construction of an annex of Makati City Hall. Koko Pimentel joined Cayetano in his fight with the Binays because PDP-Laban partymate Jojo Binay wanted Miguel Zubiri, who deprived Pimentel of his Senate seat for four years, included in the PDP-Laban senatorial slate.

Alvarez denounced the supposed anomalous contract between the Bureau of Corrections (penal colonies) and the Floirendo family signed way back in the 1970s because Tonyboy Floirendo and his girlfriend had taken the Masskara Festival seats reserved for Alvarez and his girlfriend. This in spite of the fact Floirendo bankrolled Alvarez’ candidacy for representative in 2016.

By early 2010, the report on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation of the Fertilizer Scam was ready for release. People expected the report to be damaging to then president Arroyo. However, Gordon, then chair of the committee, held off the release of the report, giving rise to the suspicion that he was hoping to be nominated by Arroyo as Lakas-KAMPI’s presidential candidate. When Arroyo named Gilbert Teodoro as her party’s candidate, Gordon released the report and vowed, if elected president, to jail Arroyo for her involvement in the Fertilizer Scam.

So, when Mr. Duterte names his second-in-command, he alienates several people who could cause him trouble much more serious than the placid Liberal Party members are capable of. And that is only insofar as his right-hand man is concerned.

Mr. Duterte has to choose people to be in charge of peace and order, national security, public health, public works, collection of taxes and import duties, national treasury, foreign relations, etc. He has to name someone to regulate the banks, trade, industries, public utilities, transport system, and so on. And he has to find the right person right away for his government to function. For every position there may be as many as 10 vying for it. Every time he fills up a position, nine people of strong personality would be resentful of him.

But who to choose among ardent aspirants for key positions in the revolutionary government would be the least of Mr. Duterte’s problems. His biggest headache would be determining how to moderate the negative impact the establishment of a revolutionary government would have on the economy.

The economy would slow down. Foreign as well as local investors would hold off new investments as they adopt a wait-and-see attitude. What will happen to the existing rules of doing business? Will existing licenses and franchises continue to be valid? Will there be forced sell-out of companies as what happened to the Philippine Daily Inquirer? Will there be closure of business as he has threatened to do to ABS-CBN? Will he give special privileges to his business cronies to allow them to dominate or even control industries?

Foreign companies may not be willing to wait. They will transfer their operations to a more politically stable country. Many foreign countries will issue adverse travel advisories due to the uncertainty of security in the country, reducing influx of tourists. There will be fewer new jobs. Existing jobs will diminish due to slow down of business and transfer of operations outside the country. There will be unrest in the labor sector.

Of course, scrapping the Constitution renders all existing laws unenforceable. Anarchy would engulf the land. The overgrown crybaby Bato dela Rosa and his inept policemen would be crushed by the rampaging Kadamay members. As there are indications that the Armed Forces would stay in their barracks should a revolutionary government be established, the revolutionary government would disintegrate in no time at all.


Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is a member of Manindigan! a cause-oriented group of businessmen, professionals, and academics.