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Why Lorenzana will refuse to be OIC

President Duterte has set up the Philippines for a chaotic presidential succession. After four years of failed promises, way off the 3-6 months deadlines he gave himself to solve the problems of drugs and corruption, Mr. Duterte has managed to create unnecessary political complications on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here he is again saying that if he takes a leave of absence from the Office of the President or when things get “topsy-turvy,” he will designate an officer in charge, mentioning Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. Does that include a condition of permanent disability? That Mr. Duterte was med-evacuated to Singapore gained wide credence precisely because people know he is old and sickly. He would give proof of life but not acceptable proof of health. Such a seemingly innocuous statement from the President should alert the whole nation to a likely unconstitutional act that will create a constitutional crisis in the days and weeks to come.

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Perhaps Mr. Duterte is the most comical chief executive in the whole world. Elected through a democratic process, he is unwilling to accept the legitimacy of the Vice President who won through the same electoral process. He has created this specious theory that his Vice President is incompetent. That may have been a plausible hypothesis applicable to both at the start of their terms when they were virtually new and without a track record in their respective offices. Four years after, however, it is very clear that Rodrigo Duterte is nowhere near the level of competence of Vice President Leni Robredo in focusing on the national problems that need to be solved, and doggedly pursuing the resolution of these problems with the available resources at her command.

Mr. Duterte even ran his own experiment, meant to embarrass the Vice President, by tempting her to take on the position of the anti-drug czar. Mr. Duterte had practically admitted he had failed in that department, as tons of shabu were able to enter the country during his watch. But Mr. Duterte was surprised and painted into a corner when VP Robredo called his bluff and accepted the position. In just 19 days in November last year, it became obvious to the public that VP Robredo was gaining traction as anti-drug czar simply by following basic tenets of leadership and management, like holding productive meetings with critical stakeholders such as the UN representatives, which peeved Mr. Duterte. He had to fire VP Robredo as anti-drug czar as she would not resign. He did this before the emerging success of VP Robredo could ripen into an irreversible reputation for effective performance that could never be twisted out of shape even by an army of trolls.

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Where in the world would you find a President who, in lamenting his failures and weaknesses and expressing his desire to resign in August 2018, at just over one-third of his term, would offer the presidency to two persons who are not in the presidential line of succession—to Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (who had lodged a still unresolved electoral protest against Robredo) and to Francis Escudero (who ran for vice president, lost, and conceded to Robredo). Funny, but Mr. Duterte would not offer the presidency to his running mate during the elections, Alan Peter Cayetano. At that time, he also mentioned his daughter Sara Duterte would make good on his promises, presumably as a successor through the next presidential election in 2022.

Unfortunately, Bongbong Marcos has been ravaged by COVID-19. When rumors began to circulate that he has departed this world, he came out with proof of life using a newspaper, exactly the way Mr. Duterte convinced the country he was still alive last Monday.

As soon as any of the tin czars surrounding Mr. Duterte accepts that OIC position in case Mr. Duterte suffers a condition of permanent disability, the group would have converted themselves into a coup junta, fair game to a countercoup from swashbuckling commanders of fairly large maneuver units in the military. The only way the military as an institution can remain united is behind a constitutional successor. Never again would the military side with the illegitimate attempt to grab power the way the 1989 and other coups split the military. Nothing sentimental about this. It is simply they do not want soldiers spilling the blood of fellow soldiers. Which will happen when the soldiers will have to choose between the rightful successor to a permanently disabled President and an officer in charge he has designated. Uphold the Constitution, or the nation goes down in perpetual chaos.

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TAGS: Constitution, Delfin Lorenzana, governance, politics, proof of life, Rodrigo Duterte
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