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VP Leni’s right to the megaphone

The proof of life President Duterte provided last week only fueled further speculation about his real state of health. These speculations got boosted when the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC) snapped out of hibernation and once again called for the formation of a revolutionary government, “setting aside” the 1987 Constitution in favor of the personal rule of Rodrigo Duterte under a parliamentary-federal government system. It appeared they were worried there was no time health-wise or term-wise to fulfill the promises of Mr. Duterte, except through a shortcut.

The clumsy plotters wanted to replicate the Marcos dictatorship gambit but did not know how to execute it. It was so ridiculous citizens on social media tried to help them along with helpful suggestions on how to do it right, like, they needed to have a strategy, a design for the new constitution and government structure, a roadmap to follow, and, most importantly, to get the right stakeholders on their side.

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Well, they did try. They openly invited the Philippine National Police and the Department of National Defense chiefs to participate in their planning and execution events. The invitation to a RevGov was so bizarre that the PNP chief did not know how to respond. Apparently, there is nothing in police and military doctrine to deal with this kind of situation. Reporters cornered PNP Chief Archie Gamboa and wanted to know what he was going to do about the challenge to the constitutional government. The chief said the invitation was somewhere in the PNP bureaucracy and he had not seen it personally. The RevGov meeting passed, and he did not have to decide to attend or not.

The PNP and the DND dribbled the ball, until President Duterte on Tuesday morning dissociated himself from the RevGov initiative, saying he had nothing do with the action and that he did not know the actors.

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This started a round of fact-checking, as citizens and the media republished reports and pictures showing Mr. Duterte as the author of the idea of a revolutionary government, and showing him in the company of the organizers in their RevGov convention in 2018. Prominent among these actors were former vice mayor Bobby Brillante of Makati, current Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño, and Bulacan Vice Gov. Willy Alvarado.

These shenanigans must have goaded Vice President Leni Robredo, the constitutional successor, to come out with a nationally televised address to the nation at 6 p.m. last Monday, hours before President Duterte was supposed to conduct his regular midnight briefing. The VP’s address in Filipino was warm but businesslike. In just 22 minutes, she fired off an agenda for the nation out of the COVID-19 national crisis: 1) Backstop frontliners, 2) use cash-for-work, 3) support the unemployed, 4) promote anti-COVID-19 businesses, 5) get small businesses online, 6) assist MSMEs, 7) reintegrate returning OFWs, 8) subsidize poor families against hunger, 9) support farmers and fishers, 10) enhance equity via wage reform, and 11) build a better digital infrastructure.

While letting off an ever-so-gentle rebuke of the absence of leadership in government, she goaded citizens and communities to do their part. She had five items citizens can do: 1) Take care of your health—don’t be a problem, 2) patronize local business, 3) help your neighbor in need, (4) give debtors more time to pay, 5) volunteer to help your community.

Would the President give a rejoinder in his Cabinet meeting cum press briefing? Mr. Duterte did, saying the Vice President was “adding fuel to the fire” and was turning the people against the government.

But the VP’s speech was well received. So much so that there is a clamor on social media for the Vice President to address the nation at 6 p.m. every Monday. The agenda she broached for the government and for the people has excited the public, and they need more information, organization, and inspiration. Nothing more than a 20-minute talk during the flag ceremony every Monday. How difficult and problematic is that?

This is in the hands of the Vice President. Who is to stop her from continuing what she has started to do—give inspiration to the people? Will she just fold, accepting her place silently in the margins to which Mr. Duterte has consigned her?

The Vice President has as much right to the megaphone as the plotters calling for a RevGov.

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TAGS: governance, leni robredo, politics, RevGov, Rodrigo Duterte
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