FERDINAND E. Marcos and Rodrigo R. Duterte have many things in common. They share the same insatiable drive for power with the ability to control and destroy democratic institutions to ultimately achieve authoritarianism.
The varying methods in attaining their goals widely differ because of the different circumstances of their times. Marcos’s swift and sudden imposition of martial law in September 1972 caught flat-footed millions of Filipinos. In one fell swoop, decades of democratic experiment abruptly ended. All media outlets were closed down; thousands were arrested and detained; Congress was padlocked; the Supreme Court was castrated, and the long night of oppression descended upon our land.
On the other hand, Duterte’s capture of absolute power, unlike Marcos, is not swift and sudden. His acts may not have been logically calculated, yet there are clear signs that they are geared unmistakably towards a creeping constitutional authoritarianism.
Duterte’s minions in the House, instead of passing the much needed Bangsamoro bill, are busy laying the groundwork for the impeachment of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Duterte is not contented that he has now at least nine pliant Justices (his four appointees plus the five appointees of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) as shown by their orchestrated votes in crucial issues like the burial of the late dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and the continued incarceration of Sen. Leila de Lima.
The greatest arsenal of President Duterte to prolong his stay in power is the administration’s frantic effort to shift to federalism by adopting a new Constitution through a constituent assembly. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has announced that Congress would start the New year 2018 functioning as a constituent assembly to adopt a federal system which will be ratified by the people in time for the May 2018 barangay elections. Only a miracle can stop Congress in its blitzkrieg to rush the approval of a new Federal Constitution.
Expect the principled but enfeebled opposition to question before the Supreme Court the acts of a robot Congress. Expect the nine pliant Justices to uphold the stand of the Solicitor General no matter how silly.
I am really worried why Rodrigo Duterte and his minions are in a hurry to ram the federal system down the throats of our people without any clear and sufficient public discussion and debate on the issue of federalism. My educated guess is that Duterte is convinced that the 1987 Constitution is a roadblock to his drive for absolute power.
He desperately needs a new Constitution giving him authoritarian powers with no term limits and the power to declare martial law without any restrictions.
We must unite to expose and oppose this sinister plan before it is too late.–-Democrito C. Barcenas