Over the weekend, a group called the Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte-National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC)—the same group that supported the 2016 presidential run of the then Davao City mayor—announced a movement calling for a revolutionary government (RevGov).
According to the group’s letter inviting top police and military officials to a meeting, the idea was to convince President Duterte to declare a revolutionary government and initiate revisions in the 1987 Constitution to form a federal-parliamentary system. MRRD-NECC national coordinator Bobby Brillante, a Makati politician, said: “Considering that we only have about one and a half years remaining (in the President’s term), it seems that the promised changes, including the constitutional amendment leading to federalism, do not have enough time to be enacted.”
The idea immediately rang alarm bells, as well it should. Observers noted that it amounted to inciting to sedition, a crime punishable under Article 142 of the Revised Penal Code—and a charge the Duterte administration had conveniently wielded against opposition figures and other perceived enemies, and even against ordinary citizens expressing dissent on social media.
The absurdity of the idea of the current dispensation trashing the Constitution and declaring a revolutionary government—in effect ousting themselves and then replacing themselves with themselves—was such that even the Philippine National Police, which Mr. Duterte has doted on and whose loyalty he has cultivated assiduously, was among the first to declare that it would have no part in the scheme. The PNP “will never support any move to establish a revolutionary government,” it said in a statement. “The PNP remains true and loyal to the Constitution.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana not only disavowed support for the group, but also called for an investigation of the organizers for their “illegal and unconstitutional” move. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra likewise emphatically thumbed down the initiative, declaring: “I certainly do not agree with, much less share such calls, in my capacity as a lawyer, as justice secretary, and as an ordinary Filipino citizen.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, in denouncing the RevGov idea as “repugnant to constitutionalism” and with “no legal, factual, practical or moral basis,” warned that “the persistent and growing ills afflicting our country are better addressed by honest, efficient, transparent, accountable, and democratic governance under the rule of law rather than by questionable shortcuts or adventurism that exacerbate rather than solve the problems.”
Strangely, while the PNP, the Armed Forces and defense establishment, the country’s organization of lawyers, various legislators and other leaders, civil society and the public have all expressed full-throated opposition to the RevGov idea, Malacañang could only muster a conditional, qualified disclaimer. “It does not enjoy any support from government right now,” said presidential spokesperson Harry Roque—“implying,” as former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio pointed out in his column in this paper yesterday, “that there may be government support in the future.”
That is not a far-fetched prospect. Instead of reminding the organizers, for instance, that they are violating the law with their plotting and scheming against the Constitution, Roque excused the proponents as “private individuals” who, he said, were just exercising their right to free expression. And while the uniformed services have vowed to uphold the rule of law, some of their members nevertheless appear reluctant to enforce that law by throwing the book at the proponents—because they are supporters of the President anyway. In a tweet, broadcaster Karen Davila summed up the misguided mindset of at least one such official: “Southern Command Chief Antonio Parlade says no need to arrest this group calling for a revolutionary government as ‘it wants Duterte as the head’ but if it’s another group wanting to topple Duterte, ‘yes they can be arrested.’”
Mr. Duterte himself has said he has nothing to do with the group, much less know its leaders: “Wala akong pakialam diyan, wala akong kilala sa mga taong ’yan.”
If so, he must not know the people in his own government. Among the MRRD-NECC’s prime movers are Interior Undersecretary Martin Diño and Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones. Mr. Duterte, it turns out, also attended the group’s national convention on March 21, 2018, in Pasay City.
The President’s friends want him to declare a revolutionary government “to save the country from crumbling and falling apart.” Apparently, no one told these people that, with that reason, they are in fact declaring a failure of Mr. Duterte’s governance over the last four years.
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