OPINION | FRUSTRATE DUTERTE’S DYNASTIC SUCCESSION BID IN THE 2022 ELECTIONS
By Siegfred Deduro, former Bayan Muna Representative, is a human rights defender, environmentalist, and fair-trade advocate.
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte running for Vice President in the 2022 elections is unprecedented in the country’s history. Political observers view such move as a circumvention of the ban against the re-election of a President under the 1987 Constitution. Duterte claims that, if he wins, he will be gain immunity from suit from the International Criminal Court and local courts.
Mayor Sara Duterte’s public pronouncements as to her uncertainty in running for president does not concur with her own actions. She has been busy visiting potential allies in vote-rich regions, organized a nationwide campaign network, and her supporters have adorned strategic areas with posters and billboards bearing the message “Run Sara, Run!”.
Duterte’s playbook involves confusing the public and his opponents and using squid tactics to obfuscate and deflect politically damaging issues. He played the public by discouraging Sara from running for president, and having Sen. Bong Go chosen as the presidential candidate for the Cusi-led faction of PDP-Laban. Eventually, Bong Go declined the nomination for presidency and offered himself to Sara Duterte as a potential VP candidate, should President Duterte withdraw his own VP candidacy under the Cusi-led faction.
Duterte brags that he would again trounce the Opposition in the 2022 elections, like he did in 2016 and 2019. But can he do it under the present circumstances?
Duterte has a seemingly formidable advantage in terms of the resources and machinery that come with the presidency. He posted high ratings despite so many negative issues against him in dubious poll surveys conducted amidst a climate of fear and impunity and waves of extra-judicial killings and militarized restrictions during the pandemic.
Effectively using pork barrel and intimidation, Duterte controls a supermajority of congressmen in the House of Representatives.
He caused the ouster of former Supreme Court Justice Sereno and the overwhelming majority of the Court are justices he appointed.
Two months before the upcoming elections, after Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas and Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho retire on Feb. 2, 2022, all COMELEC Commissioners will be Duterte appointees, joining Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo and Antonio Kho Jr. – the three incumbent commissioners previously appointed during his term.
Moreover, Dennis Uy, the owner of F2 Logistics and Duterte’s rising crony and biggest campaign contributor in the 2016 elections, won the bidding for a ₱1.61-billion contract with the COMELEC to transport 2022 election paraphernalia.
The Anti-Terrorism Act, though still pending review by the Supreme Court, is now in effect, further aggravating the impunity in red-tagging, persecution, and extra-judicial killings targeting critics of the government.
As the pandemic worsens, militarized lockdowns are used to justify the repression of protest actions.
Duterte has an organized and competent core of personnel effectively playing the public towards their desired goal.
Strategic Communications Laboratories or SCL Group, which owns the political consultancy at the centre of a Facebook data-harvesting scandal linked to the 2016 US presidential race, boasted on its website that it helped get Duterte elected in 2016 by rebranding him as a tough crime fighter.
Facebook has shut down over 100 fake accounts traced to police and military units in the Philippines for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior”, according to Nathaniel Gleicher, cyber-security policy chief of the said social media organization.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Kris R. Ablan confirmed that the PCOO hired 375 contractual employees which cost the office P70 million last year. These contractual employees are suspected to be trolls or people paid to anonymously interfere in shaping political opinion online.
Human rights group KARAPATAN suffered a massive and prolonged Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack for three weeks. The attack came only a month after waves of DDoS attacks targeting the alternative online publications Bulatlat and Altermidya.
Qurium Media Foundation, a Swedish non-profit digital security solutions provider linked the attacks to the Philippine government.
The DDoS attacks are taking place amid the online solidarity campaign #StopTheKillingsPH co-hosted by KARAPATAN, which marks one year since human rights organizations and advocates across the world launched the call to stop the killings in the Philippines and to prosecute Duterte for his crimes against the Filipino people.
On the other hand, Duterte is fast losing his grip on political initiative and is becoming increasingly isolated.
He is now trapped in the quagmire of obviously-fraudulent transactions red-flagged by the Commission on Audit involving executive agencies like the Department of Health, the Department of Social Welfare and Services, the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, among others. The people are aghast with this blatant waste of billions of public funds in the middle of a pandemic, even as the government incurs trillions in debt.
The “smoking gun” goes up to Malacanang!
Like a boxer successively hit by a combination of haymakers, Duterte appears to be “losing his buttons” in his daily press conferences, ranting and vilifying the COA and the Senators conducting a legislative inquiry into these suspicious transactions, and appealing to the people to trust him. Duterte has no moral authority in his avowed fight against corruption.
Duterte is unrepentant and in denial of his administration’s epic failure in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The utter failure to contain the spread of the virus is the hallmark of Duterte and his militarized Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).
As of Sept. 5, there are 20,019 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total infections to 2,080,984 with 157,438 active cases; 20,089 new recoveries bringing the total to 1,889,312; and 173 new deaths, bringing the total fatalities to 34,234.
On September 2, according to the Pharmaceutical Technology webpage, only 13.2% of the country’s population is full vaccinated, five months after first jabs were administered. This is too slow if the target is to vaccinate 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity. The vaccines administered include a slew of various brands, a large portion of which were donated by the WHO COVAX facility and China. The so-called “Vaccine Czar”, ex-General Carlito Galvez, showed his incompetence in ensuring a prompt and steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines. With the current rate of vaccine roll-out, herd immunity may not be achieved until the May 2022 elections. The much hyped “vaccine hesitancy” is a minor problem; the biggest problem is the lack of vaccines.
In a recent congressional budget hearing, a former DOH Secretary and now party-list representative, revealed that “Vaccine Czar” Galvez has been sitting on a multi-party (LGU, private sector, national government) signed purchase order of 10 million doses of vaccines.
The government has now realized the folly of imposing militarized general lockdowns after the Gross Domestic Product decreased by 9.5% in 2020. It is the sharpest dip on record since data dating back to 1947, and also the first GDP decline since 1998 (-0.5%). According to epidemiology experts, general lockdowns is like “burning a house to kill a rat”.
The Coalition for People’s Right to Health asserts that lockdowns are ineffective if contact tracing and mass testing are not effectively undertaken to identify hot spots of infection. Insufficient assistance to affected communities aggravates hunger among the poor.
Before the end of her term, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court sought authorization from The Hague tribunal to open a full investigation into Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs that killed thousands of people, including innocent children. She said preliminary probe that began in February 2018 determined “that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines between July 1, 2016 and March 16, 2019, which was when Duterte ordered that the Philippines withdraw from the court.
As an ordinary citizen, Duterte faces a real possibility of imprisonment for his numerous crimes against the people and the nation, in the same manner that his predecessors – Estrada and Arroyo – were imprisoned.
With Duterte’s tolerance of Chinese incursions into Philippine maritime areas, the latter is getting bolder in claiming portions of Philippine patrimony. Reports now point to the possibility that in crafting a Code of Conduct for all Asian claimants in the West Philippine Sea, China would likely insist on formalizing its claim and military bases in the Spratly islands and Panatag Shoal where it seems intent on setting up similar installations. Duterte has said he will not oppose China if they do that. The vast majority of Filipinos are infuriated at this treasonous collaboration with China.
Defying risks and threats of militarized policies and lockdowns, the people nationwide launched militant protest actions against repressive policies, continuing extra-judicial killings and the persecution of dissenters, and demand just compensation for their work, among others. The ban on rallies is the only reason why gigantic protest actions don’t happen. As direct street protests are banned, the social media and mainstream media is rife with people’s gripes against Duterte’s incompetence, corruption, human rights violations and betrayal in the West Philippine Sea.
The rift among the local elite is widening. Former allies, notably Sen. Pacquiao, Sen. Lacson, Rep. Alvarez and former Sen. Pimentel have joined the opposition. The anti-Duterte broad opposition is increasingly gaining traction.
Political isolation, failed management of the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening economic crisis, treason in the WPS, human rights violations and international isolation, growing strength of the people’s movement and widening rift within the local elite will weigh heavier that Duterte’s advantages. The people will prevail in the 2022 elections. ###