My attention was caught a few days ago when I read a news report about President Duterte mentioning the possibility, or the promise, of a revolutionary government in case enemies of the state would bring instability or chaos to the land. In the same report, the President was supposed to have said that a revolutionary government was better, in his view, that martial law because it had fewer restrictions. Of course, I do not understand very well how a military rule would be more restrictive on the Commander-in-Chief. It did not deter Ferdinand Marcos from having his way, whatever it was, and I believe that under martial law, President Duterte would also have his way, whatever it would be.
The legality, or the lack of it, of either a revolutionary government or a military regime, is beyond me. That is up to the lawyers to debate and argue no matter how moot and academic it would seem to me. I did not feel that the President was saying something so unusual since he predicated his mention of a revolutionary government or martial law on a condition that would merit the most dramatic or drastic official response. If the security of the people and the state is so disturbed that there is chaos and danger, I believe any President would move in any way that brings back order. Therefore, what the President said did not come across to me as a threat.
What I thought was strange to the point of being comical was his inclusion of the Liberal Party as a probable source of destabilization with the intent to remove him from the presidency. In political intramurals, it is now normal for politicians to wish ill on their rivals. Those out of power but still wishing they were in position would celebrate, privately or openly, if and when their opponents lose their seats, by illness or death, or lose in elections. Somehow, there is a deepening scarcity of what was known then as sportsmanship, of dignity in defeat, and wishing those in office success in their official endeavors. The wish, however, political opponents would not succeed, or to actually fail and lose their positions prematurely, has become part of the political landscape. I would not be surprised if the Liberal Party could possibly be wishing that President Duterte would fail.
But sedition or rebellion is another thing, and ascribing to the Liberal Party the possibility of planning and organizing instability in order to remove President Duterte from power seems not just far-fetched but actually almost silly. The capacity to be seditious, rebellious and actually become a live threat to a presidency would require too many things that are absent from the Liberal Party. And I am not talking about the pre-martial law Liberal Party but the post-martial law version up to the present. In fact, I am talking about all political parties that are not allied with, or political fronts, of the communist Left. Seditionists and rebels are made of different stuff. Their views may be slanted or colored, but they are committed to them – to the point of sacrifice.
Political parties today grow and fall with the fortunes of their principal. All political parties who rose to power after martial law revolved around the president of the moment. They did not evolve or revolve around a set of ideals, of visions and missions. The ruling party collapsed right after their presidential candidate lost. Then, their members would become the new majority of whatever party the new president would favor. The veterans in Congress and the Senate remain mostly the same (or their relatives take over) but their party affiliations change like the habagats and the amihans. Opportunists do not a seditionist and a rebel make. It does not mean that they will not take advantage of the success of seditionists and rebels; they will. But they are not seditionists or rebels, only opportunists.
Now, who can cause chaos, instability and possibly remove a presidency? At the moment to the near future, I see only three forces. Number one is always the people of the Philippines. They have had a history of removing presidents. Number two is the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They always have the power but they seldom have the motivation. Number three is the United States of America. The residual power of our former colonial master remains formidable, albeit more covert now than overt. The Americans, and especially the American military, are long-time allies and benefactors of the AFP. Millions of FilAms and their many more millions of families here further cement that relationship
The Left are the most committed and has a history that proves the depth of that commitment. However, fifty years of struggle yet failing to wrest power from the establishment obviously lessens, even more, the possibility of success. Yes, they can hurt any government but cannot topple it without a major revision of its own identity, purpose, and methodology.
The Chinese are a big question mark. The sheer size, resources and military might of China makes it a formidable enemy, overt or covert. But at the moment, they can more easily attack and conquer the Philippines than remove a sitting president. The Filipino people are not sympathetic to China and may even risk death by the millions rather than willingly hand over the country to them. But if China chooses to woo the Filipino rather than grab an island here or there, they can be the most influential foreign power here in just a few decades.
Of course, the drug trade is an urgent concern. Narco-politics is dangerous. Illegal drugs are not a cause for people to rally around but a scourge that frightens everyone. Its power to corrupt more than its power to remove incumbent officials is the bigger threat.
Indeed, there are serious challenges to the presidency, to any presidency. But Mr. President, the Liberal Party?
Editorial cartoon, November 23, 2017