by Vida Gracias
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s power grab on the Speakership of the House of Representatives that stalled Duterte’s delivery of his third state-of-the-nation address on July 23 has highlighted the collusion between the Duterte regime, on one hand, and the Marcos and Arroyo political cliques, on the other. While this turn of event may seem to strengthen and consolidate Duterte’s political clout, in the long term it could loosen his grip on power and hasten his doom.
Ferdinand E. Marcos’ fascist and plunderous dictatorship and Arroyo’s corruption-and-brutality ridden regime that attempted to replicate Marcos’ type of rule were, in their respective times, the nation’s most-hated governments – and Ferdinand and Gloria, deemed as enemies of the people. But President Rodrigo Duterte has taken it upon himself to resurrect and rehabilitate these enemies of the people and restore them (in Marcos’ case, his heirs) to power. This is not at all surprising, given that Duterte has one thing in common with them: an obsession for dictatorship.
Arroyo is a professed ally and confidant of Duterte, and vice-versa. The relationship goes a long way back when Duterte was still mayor of Davao City. A number of Arroyo’s trusted men played important roles in Duterte’s presidential campaign. Duterte was so in awe of Arroyo as an economist and hard-driving chief executive that he put in his cabinet her key people to head his economic and security clusters.
Charged with plunder and other cases after she ended her nine-year presidency, Arroyo parlayed her allegedly serious medical condition and her network of appointees in the judiciary to have herself placed in hospital arrest, then get the case against her dropped. She ran and won the congressional seat previously held by her son, and plotted her rise to power.
But the brazen way in which she became Speaker of the House, which startled even Duterte and almost had him walking out of his SONA, should be fair warning. Arroyo is notorious for her betrayals—talking to the military generals against President Joseph Estrada even before his ouster, lying to the nation that she wouldn’t run for president, and stealing the elections from Fernando Poe, Jr. (via the“Hello Garci” scandal). Thus, staging a coup against former speaker and PDP-Laban partymate Pantaleon Alvarez was, to her, peanuts.
Even before he launched his belated presidential bid, Duterte had been vocal about his love for and idolization of Marcos and his dictatorial ways (hailing Marcos as the country’s “best president”). Amid the nation’s protests, and publicly flaunting that he was merely fufilling a promise he had made to the Marcoses, Duterte authorized the burial of the late dictator’s preserved body in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, with pomp and rites as a “hero”. He also allegedly made a deal with the Marcoses, though he denied it, to have their purloined wealth brought back to the country.
This was “utang na loob” in full display: during martial law, the dictator Marcos rewarded Duterte’s father Vicente with a cabinet post and the governorship of the then sprawling single province of Davao. Marcos’s elder daughter Imee was one of only three provincial governors who openly supported Duterte, shelling out considerable sums for his campaign. More importantly, she delivered the votes of the Solid North to help Duterte win.
Duterte has also been doing everything he can to help Ferdinand Jr. (Bongbong) to wrestle the vice-presidency from Leni Robredo, through a protest filed before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (constituting of all the Supreme Court justices). From day one, Duterte has sought to humiliate, belittle and demean Vice President Robredo, whom BongBong claimed narrowly won over him by cheating.
True, the Marcoses, particularly Imee, supported Arroyo’s power grab. But only in so far as this would also cause the downfall of her arch-enemy in the House of Representatives, former majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, who hounded Imee with investigations regarding the misuse of the tobacco excise tax in their province.
In retrospect, the Marcoses and the Arroyos have an ax to grind against each other. Former President Diosdado Macapagal, Arroyo’s father, reneged on his promise to make Ferdinand Marcos the presidential standard bearer of the Liberal Party in the early sixties (Marcos switched party, became the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate and defeated the reelectionist Macapagal). Later, after he declared martial law in 1972, Marcos harassed and threatened to arrest Macapagal.
It was Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, who markedly brought the Arroyos and Marcoses together, via her regional party Hugpong, in a common bid to demolish the ruling PDP-Laban party (which put up Duterte as presidential candidate) and strengthen their respective political turfs. Their collusion is highlighted at the moment. However, the emerging realignment of largely traditional and dynastic political forces, could give the Marcoses and the Arroyos more elbow room to undercut the power of President Duterte while consolidating their own in the coming days.
Already, Duterte’s draft charter change proposal for a shift to a federal system of government has come under fire from Arroyo’s minions in the Cabinet such as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, and Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana. It is going to be a fiscal nightmare, they chorused. Government is not prepared for it, they said. While Arroyo did push for charter change during her extended term, she batted for a parliamentary system, not a federal one. She wanted to sit as Prime Minister with full powers to again rule the entire nation.
As for the Marcoses, they are not as eager as Duterte’s DDS to promote federalism, as they dream of getting back in Malacañang under the present unitary system. Imee is aiming to be senator while her brother Bongbong is intent on winning the electoral protest for vice president. Federalism will shoot down their ambitions. And should Duterte renege on any of his promises or deals, they can still wield the power of their stolen wealth and political bailiwick to make things difficult for him.
In a recent statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines hit the nail on its head by saying that “the Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos alliance is an uneasy one.” The CPP sees this alliance as a clear indication of the worsening state of the ruling system. “The ruling regime,” the party said, “now represents the starkest icons of fascism, corruption and puppetry,” adding, “it further boosts the anti-Duterte united front.”
Apart from his own sins against the people, Duterte’s maintaining such alliance shall make him jointly accountable for the plague of abuses and crimes that the resurrected Marcoses and Arroyo could inflict anew upon this nation. That said, the people’s progressive and revolutionary movements will have to make sure that when they drive Duterte out of power, the Marcoses and Arroyo shall be dumped along with him. They all must face the wrath of the people.