Exes | Inquirer Opinion
The Long View



The other day, Sen. Sonny Angara joked (after saying he was inclined not to seek office after his second Senate term ends next year) that he might run for the House of Representatives, after all, if only to abolish the Senate. With colleagues like Robin Padilla, the surprise isn’t a senatorial half-joke but rather, why Sonny isn’t an alcoholic. After all, it says a lot—and says little—about the Senate, that it’s the House threatening, at least through press releases, to investigate former president Rodrigo Duterte over his supposed “gentleman’s agreement” with the president of China.

In our constitutional setup, it’s really the Senate, which, by design, has a national constituency and perspective, that’s supposed to exercise oversight over the chief executive when it comes to foreign affairs—this is why the Senate alone ratifies or rejects foreign treaties entered into by presidents. Then again, the House can argue that at the rate its membership is going, it has to do something. Exhibit A: ex-speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his invitation to the armed forces to withdraw support from the current Chief Executive.

All because the previous chief executive is blowing hot and cold about that alleged secret deal, a problem caused by his own people, one of whom said there was a deal, and another, that there wasn’t—with the ex-president thundering about the lack of education of the current President, when the latter opined that he was shocked at the idea of a secret deal in the first place.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its part has insisted there was, indeed, a “gentleman’s agreement” and an earlier one besides, to tow away the decaying landing craft whose lonely crew our armed forces keep resupplying. That’s Tiger Diplomacy for you—doing no favors to its own friends and allies.


Gathered in support of the exes—the ex-president and the ex-speaker, to name just two—in the former Promised Land of Davao, were several thousand New Loyalists carrying signs ranging from “Impeach BBM” to “Justice for Quiboloy.” Even in his home turf, the numbers didn’t dazzle, which, combined with the Apollo Quiboloy “prayer rally” in Cebu last February, shows the limitations of the ex-president’s popularity—and drawing power. It may still be the most sizeable, but it seems passive and not active. Put another way: the ex-president who took pride in killing people power so it couldn’t be used against him has also proven he can’t summon it for political purposes. No one doubts the former president’s headline-hogging, viral-causing abilities; but his bark is no longer matched by his bite.

The Vice President, for her part, is speaking softly and wielding a big stick. She has refused to comment on China, while her Hugpong ng Pagbabago has proceeded to expel the Uys from its ranks: the offense of the Uys—Davao del Norte Vice Governor Oyo, Davao de Oro Vice Governor Jayvee, Tagum Mayor Rey, as well as Davao de Oro Rep. Maricar Zamora—was their national affiliation with Speaker Martin Romualdez’s Lakas-CMD. All politics is local and the local “somos o no somos” challenge is already being made a year ahead of the midterms.

Three things seem to be at work here. The first is that there is no one as easily forgotten—or ignored—as an ex-official, and that includes ex-presidents. This isn’t to say they aren’t without influence, but it is to say that we are a society that is pretty hard-nosed when it comes to reminding the formerly powerful that they aren’t top dogs anymore. Writing in The Philippine Graphic in 1967, my father put it this way: “The manner in which we treat our public officials is another indication of an undemocratic mentality—we refer to them very impertinently when they are not around, and yet when they do make an appearance, we practically fall on our faces before them. It is not the dignified respect which implies self-respect.” Nor is it the kind of behavior that rewards losing power by giving those who once had it, a free pass to exercise it in perpetuity.

Having plumbed the depths of public—and surely, private—humiliation, the once-before and now-again First Family can look toward Davao and shrug. “Been there, done that.”



Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @mlq3

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