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Can Sara do a Gloria?

Unlike Gloria, who is an economist, Sara’s incompetence would only exacerbate the country’s current situation.

Jun 24, 2024

Tita C. Valderama


5-minute read

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Now that Vice President Sara Duterte has resigned as Education secretary, many believe that she would go all-out in speaking against the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., much like what her father and brothers have been doing in the past months.

Despite the denials of former president Rodrigo Duterte about his alleged links to destabilization efforts against Marcos, his actions and those of his children and followers show otherwise.

They know fully well that if they succeed in unseating Marcos, the VP will be the first in the line of succession to the presidency. And with less than four years remaining in Marcos’ term, Sara will still be eligible to run for president in the 2028 elections.

We saw a similar scenario in 2001 when then-president Joseph Estrada was forced to leave Malacañan Palace following an aborted impeachment trial, paving the way for then-vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to assume the country’s top post. Because she served less than four years of the remainder of Estrada’s term, she still qualified to run and ultimately won the presidency in the 2010 elections, earning her the record of having served the longest as president in the post-Marcos Sr. era.

Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution says in part: “…The President shall not be eligible for any re-election. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.”

In 2001, many of those at the forefront of Estrada’s impeachment were disinclined to have Arroyo installed as president. However, those who raised the constitutional succession to the presidency prevailed, but many of them eventually dissociated themselves from Arroyo. She was accused of rigging the results of the 2004 presidential election, in which she had a margin of over 1 million votes over her leading opponent, actor Fernando Poe Jr.

The political turbulence that led to Estrada’s downfall in 2001 was far from the current situation where the Dutertes have been sharply criticizing the incumbent president because they are not getting what they wanted or what they expected to get after Sara agreed to slide down to the vice presidency despite showing better ratings than Marcos in the 2022 pre-election surveys.

First, Marcos did not grant Sara’s wish to head the Department of National Defense in view of her plan to make the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps compulsory again but gave her instead the Department of Education (DepEd), where her fitness and competence were put in question. In DepEd, where she asked for confidential funds to strengthen the basic military training in high school and revive the ROTC, allies of Marcos succeeded in realigning not only the P150 million confidential funds in the agency but also the P500 million requested for the Office of the Vice President.

Sara’s closeness to Arroyo has not been a secret. The VP resigned as chairperson of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats in May 2023 after the Romualdez-led House of Representatives demoted Arroyo from being the chamber’s No. 2 post of senior deputy speaker to one of more than 30 deputy speakers. In November 2023, Arroyo was stripped of the title when Romualdez trimmed the number of deputy speakers to nine.

The Dutertes have also not been feeling the protection of the Marcos administration from the threat of investigation by the International Criminal Court in connection with the extrajudicial killings in the bloody war on drugs from 2011 to 2016.

It is clear that the Dutertes’ criticisms of the Marcos administration are for self-preservation, contrary to their claim that they wanted reforms for the country’s sake. Their objection to the administration’s efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution has turned to personal attacks against Marcos, first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and House Speaker Martin Romualdez. That does not make them a legitimate political opposition.

The VP’s brother, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, asked Marcos Jr. in January to resign if he couldn’t show love and aspiration for the country.

During gatherings that they refer to as “prayer rallies,” supporters of the Dutertes have, on several occasions, chanted, “Marcos resign! Marcos resign!” while the former president and his sons, as well as former officials of Rodrigo’s presidency, attacked Marcos, even calling him a “drug addict.” When these were happening, Sara was tight-lipped, although she was present at those gatherings.

While the allegations against Estrada were well documented in the course of the impeachment trial in 2000, the issues that the Dutertes have raised against Marcos have remained mere conjectures.

Because of the Dutertes’ criticisms of the administration, Marcos’ relationship with Sara has turned from being “No. 1 fan and BFF” (best friend forever) to “complicated.” The VP’s quitting the DepEd shows that the relationship between the country’s top two leaders has soured.

At this point, it appears unlikely that Sara Duterte can do a Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an economist who managed to institute reforms toward economic recovery after more than two years of the Estrada presidency. But Sara’s incompetence would only exacerbate the country’s current situation.

Meantime, Marcos should seize the opportunity to show that the VP’s decision to give up the DepEd portfolio is best for the country by appointing someone who is well-suited for the job and could institute effective and meaningful reforms toward reversing the deepening education crisis.

While it may somehow sound like an admission that appointing Sara to the DepEd was a wrong move, Marcos could still make up for the mistake by choosing the right person to succeed her in the department.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.

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