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Friday, September 20, 2019

Alamon: A declaration of war

IN THE immediate moments after Vice President Robredo was fired by President Duterte from his cabinet, a horde of netizens decried the unceremonious manner by which the presidential prerogative was undertaken. Posted on the newsfeeds of many was a screen grab of the text message supposedly sent by Secretary to the Cabinet Jun Evasco to Robredo informing her that she should desist from attending cabinet meetings upon the instruction of the President.

It was, for sure, a harsh way of withdrawing the housing portfolio from the Vice President. And those who side with Robredo, who they lovingly call “Leni”, felt personally affronted by the uncouth manner by which Digong drew sharp political lines.

The medium of the SMS text was the message, in this instance. Without much fanfare, the text message indicated that the Vice President’s walking papers from the cabinet was verbally issued by the President to Presidential Assistant Bong Go, who passed on the command to Secretary to the Cabinet Jun Evasco. No more macho jokes about Robredo’s knees this time. Just a curt relay of information that could fit in a tweet that she is no longer welcome in cabinet meetings.

For them, the act represented everything that was wrong with the Duterte administration. The high degree of personalism in the conduct of the affairs of the Office of the President was on full display here where idiosyncrasy trumps, pun intended, established protocols. But more than another display of a presidential quirk, it was a declaration of war against the Liberal Party and Leni Robredo on whose shoulders the political fortunes the yellow party rests.

If the war on drugs is any indication, Duterte is a tough and ruthless enemy. He practices a scorched-earthpolicy towards his sworn enemies and literally holds no prisoners. In his first few months, he has reconfigured the geopolitical landscape in the region and raised the body count from the collateral damage of his war on drugs, all the while, not caring about the howls of protest that attempted to block his way. The Liberal Party should be forewarned.

Senator Leila de Lima, another Liberal Party stalwart, has been through the Duterte wringer so to speak, although much of the damage may have been self-inflicted with her supposed dalliances with shady characters. Her experience should be a good barometer of the kind of hell the Liberal Party should expect.

One wonders what kind of approach will be undertaken to bring the Vice President to the cleaners so to speak. If Senator de Lima’s ordeal should be measured, the Duterte henchmen are very thorough and do not hold any scruples in their job. They do not care whether the scenarios they build are true as long as they are believable for their volunteer and paid army of trolls. And in a country without the adventures of Kris Aquino to gossip about, politics is the next juiciest thing.

The interesting question now is what precipitated the anger of Duterte against Vice President Robredo. It is doubtful if the attack is directly related to the person of Leni Robredo. The guns are trained, I believe, on the Liberal Party and their continued quest to return to power through whatever route and Robredo happens to be the present figurehead of the dislodged former ruling party.

All these are par for the course in a healthy democracy, as some pundits have observed. To maintain a healthy system of checks and balances, a valid and external opposition is necessary. With Robredo out of the cabinet, she can play this role to the hilt according to some analysts. I am, however, not that optimistic about her effectivity as an opposition figure if she remains under the strings of the Liberal Party and allied political operators who have been discredited for their role in the past administration.

What is worrisome is that Duterte’s sharp drawing of political lines with the removal of Robredo in the cabinet occurs in the wake of the massive protests over the recent dictator’s burial. What many fear is that the move was a counter-offense of the Marcoses against the yellows in a war of families and I think we know which side the President is on. The Vice Presidency is again up for grabs and the battle is now in the Supreme Court where decisions can be skewed on matters beyond legal principles.

If that is the case, then we are in for sordid but interesting times. Let us hope that when the political dust settles in these skirmishes of our elite, they will eliminate each other out so that the nation will finally rid itself of these oligarchs and their champions from all sides of the political fence.
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