Paranoia in Malacañang?
Eight months in power and the Duterte administration appears uneasy about the stability of its governance.
On several occasions, President Duterte has accused the “yellows” (referring to the followers of the past administration) of scheming to remove him from power so that one of their own, Vice President Leni Robredo, can succeed him.
When Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV brought Edgar Matobato, a self-proclaimed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, to the Senate to testify on alleged killings ordered by then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar described Trillanes’ action as part of destabilization efforts against the administration.
Andanar repeated this claim when retired police officer Arturo Lascañas confirmed in a recent media conference the truth about Matobato’s statements.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II shared Andanar’s thoughts when news about the killing of Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in Camp Crame in October 2016 hit the headlines.
Even the celebration of the 31st anniversary of the 1986 People Power revolution was viewed as a ploy to generate adverse public sentiment against the President to justify calls for his ouster.
And yet, the two Cabinet officials who should have first-hand knowledge of security matters—National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana—have denied that there were serious threats to the administration.
The seeming paranoia of some Cabinet officials regarding alleged moves to cut the President’s tenure short is puzzling.
No president in the past has assiduously courted the loyalty of the uniformed service upon assumption to office than Mr. Duterte. Within two months he visited all major military and police installations and promised the soldiers and police personnel higher pay, better medical facilities and protection from cases that may be filed against them in the performance of their duties. He has personally condoled with the families of soldiers and policemen killed in action, and given financial assistance and awarded medals to wounded personnel.
Doubtless, these gestures have endeared him to the men and women who will spell the difference between victory and defeat in any effort to remove him from power.
But considering how past illegal participation in political activities has ruined professional careers, it is doubtful if the present military and police officers will allow themselves to be used by politicians to subvert the existing political structure.
What’s more, recent surveys show that the President continues to enjoy a high approval rating from the public. He has maintained the “good grades” despite domestic and international criticisms about the heavy human toll of his war on drugs.
With the military and police having his back and the public generally appreciative of the way he is running the government, any destabilization effort against Mr. Duterte—at least, at this stage—is wishful thinking.
So why do Andanar, Aguirre and some rabid supporters of the President continue to publicly express apprehension over supposed covert attempts by unnamed parties to make short shrift of his administration?
Simple: They want to keep the fire burning in the hearts of the people who worked hard to have him elected president. After all, unless the change that the President promised during the campaign comes to fruition, and fast, he risks losing the support not only of his dedicated followers but also of the people who voted for him on the strength of that promise.
Thus, it is essential that an “enemy” or “threat” to the President be created to keep his faithful continuously behind him and discourage them from changing their political loyalty.
In the short term, this ploy may work. But in the long run, if the administration fails to deliver on its promises, the warnings on destabilization would have the same effect as those made by the boy who cried “wolf!”: ignored and laughed at.
Raul J. Palabrica (rpalabrica@inquirer. com.ph) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.
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