MANILA, Philippines – Critics on Wednesday, August 15, taunted President Rodrigo Duterte for saying he was ready to quit but would rather have the military-police establishment or his favored politicians run the country, not his constitutional successor.
Lawyer Barry Gutierrez, spokesman of Vice President Leni Robredo, pointed out the irony – that Duterte's choice successors, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr and Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, were defeated in the 2016 elections. And they were not even Duterte's running mate. (READ: Duterte: 'I am ready to step down’)
Gutierrez said: "Pasensiya na siya, pero talo si BBM at Chiz noong eleksyon.... hanggang dito ba naman nakalimutan pa rin si Alan?” (Sorry, but BBM and Chiz lost during the elections.... is he still going to forget Alan here?)
Gutierrez was referring to Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, who was Duterte's running mate in the 2016 race. Cayetano, like Escudero and Marcos, lost to Robredo. But Marcos has filed an election protest.
Erin Tañada, vice president for external affairs of the opposition Liberal Party, said it's not up to Duterte to decide who should take his place. "Our Constitution clearly provides that it should be the Vice President," Tañada said in a statement.
Caloocan City 1st District Representative Edgar Erice, also an LP member, said he did not believe Duterte was serious in wanting to resign.
"We don't think he is serious about that. Mukhang juntahan lang naman 'to, 'di junta talaga. Maraming beses niya na po 'yon sinabing magre-resign siya (It seems this is just a fake junta. He has said many times before that he would resign)," said Erice.
Once again railing against corruption, Duterte said in a speech Tuesday night, August 14, that he was frustrated and ready to step down should the police and the military "find" his replacement.
At a dinner after his speech, he reiterated this but said what's stopping him from doing it is Robredo. He said she's not capable of running the country.
What do Escudero and Marcos have to say? Escudero found it “heartwarming” that the President is eyeing him to be his successor.
“Naniniwala ako na nagpapahayag lamang siya ng kanyang frustration kaugnay sa mabagal na pagtakbo ng mga nais niyang makamit at makita dito sa ating bansa lalo na sa larangan ng korupsyon at kapayapaan,” said Escudero. (I believe that he was just expressing his frustration over the slow progress in terms of fighting corruption and achieving peace.)
Marcos has not made any comment.
Duterte has not hidden his admiration for and friendship with the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos' sister, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, is allied with the regional party that Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio founded.
Can Duterte even choose his successor? No, because the 1987 Constitution mandates the President would be replaced by the duly elected Vice President if he steps down from office.
Is junta an option for a Philippine president? No, because it's extra-legal and violates the Constitution. Some sectors have in the past toyed with the idea of a civilian-military junta, but that's because they wanted to grab power from the state and the elected president.
Duterte's statement is most peculiar and odd – an elected leader considering extra-constitutional means to step down from power and delegate his successor.
Even his generals know this to be illegal.
At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, a top military general was asked by Senator Panfilo Lacson about how he would respond to an order by his commander-in-chief to set up a junta.
Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief Lt Gen Arnel De Vega said, “I would deny the instruction, sir, as it’s against the laws of the land, your honor,” the Inquirer reported. – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com