Chief to cheap

By Tonyo Cruz
Manila Bulletin

Rodrigo Duterte started his presidency by asking, among others, to stop addressing him as “Your/His Excellency,” the honorific assigned to the President of the Philippines. Little did we know that he may actually want more than “Mr. President.”

Last week, Duterte oddly dared Chief Justice Sereno and Ombudsman Morales to resign together with him in a solemn ceremony in Congress. It was yet another display of bravado only an aspiring tyrant could pull off.

Let’s assume for a moment that Sereno and Morales would agree with what Duterte wants. What’s next? Vice President Leni Robredo takes Duterte’s place, and she appoints a new Chief Justice and Ombudsman. The corrupt and fascist regime wouldn’t want that.

But the possibility should be thrilling. At the very least, Duterte’s resignation would finally end the war on drugs and his martial law in Mindanao. Robredo could perhaps (and I’m not sure about this) reappoint Morales and Sereno, or maybe finally promote Senior Associate Justice Carpio to Chief Justice.

Vice President Robredo should ask Duterte if he’s serious about resigning, and see if he’s really up to it.

Of course, the entire corrupt and fascist administration won’t allow it. Too much is at stake: Nearly a trillion pesos for the war on drugs and extrajudicial killings. Billions more for the Mindanao war. Oligarchs would lose their advantages and perks under Duterte and would have to renegotiate with a new administration. China would go cuckoo, while the US would have to recalibrate the levers of control on its neocolony and find a replacement for Lorenzana. Mocha Uson and RJ Nieto would lose their jobs, and the trolls would feel orphaned (if they have feelings) and so on.

This “let’s all resign” is another way that Duterte has used to destroy the offices of Chief Justice and Ombudsman – as if they have a direct or shared role in the mess he has brought to the country. In a sense, it is more potent that impeachment complaints. But in another sense, Duterte is daring the public to ask for his resignation alone. He has repeatedly said he would resign if (insert any invented reason from himself), and why shouldn’t the public ask him to just do it.

Together with assaults on the media and human rights, the declaration of all-out war on the Communist Party, his embrace of U.S. imperialism, his sellout to China, his alliance with oligarchs, and his threat to place the entire country under martial law, Duterte’s taunts on Sereno and Morales show his preference for one-man rule. It doesn’t show strength, but a hunger for more power. (Duterte is lusting to appoint a new Chief Justice and Ombudsman who would be pliant and submissive.)

The problem of Duterte is that he is running out of reasons for the public to trust him. More people now question the extrajudicial killings he continues to unleash. The people of Mindanao are running out of patience seeing Duterte spend billions to destroy Marawi, and prepare to give hundreds of billions more to dynasties and oligarchs for “rebuilding”. The overseas Filipino workers are shocked that Duterte blames them for “neglecting” their children and “pushing” them to drug addiction. Entrepreneurs don’t see any remarkable change in infrastructure development. They see Duterte preferring to help multinational corporations and their partner local oligarchs, than to let the SMEs and the patriotic entrepreneurial class lead industrialization. External debt is at an all-time high, and only the corrupt and the oligarchs are happy because they corner most of the proceeds of foreign and domestic borrowing.

Even those who support federalism now have doubts if Duterte is serious about it. They want democratic change, and yet they see Duterte sabotage the federalism project by keeping close to the worst traditional politicians and dynasties, and don’t begin to cut them down in preparation for a more inclusive government under federalism. The genuine democratic federalists are incensed that Duterte wants his daughter to replace him. They don’t want a dictatorship or a monarchy.

There is confusion only in the corrupt and fascist administration. They cannot stop inventing lies about the number of drug dependents, and about the extrajudicial killings. The president has confused himself about Kian and Carl. His administration initially terrorized the Movement Against Tyranny, and then invited them to a dialogue after seeing people defy the fearmongering. The military says it will finish off the Maute by October 15, as to how and why it is able to make such a promise, it cannot say. The confusion of trolls mirrors the confusion in the PCO and PNA. With nothing good to say, they have retired hashtag Partner for Change. Mocha Uson is the de facto presidential spokesman and press secretary.

Duterte inspired a broad united front to rise up and to rally against him. The people look nowadays at the Duterte administration and could only facepalm repeatedly and feel utter contempt. Yes, they see change – from bad to worse.

Thanks to Duterte’s repeated declarations about resigning, people are seriously thinking about it, about making it happen. And they are weighing things and looking at outcomes.

Ask the kids today, and they would tell you what they honestly think: When they see the president, they see a Cheap Executive.

Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz and check out my blog tonyocruz.com