The most dangerous president the Philippines has ever seen

Pres. Duterte voices again his thoughts about resigning but only if Vice President Leni Robredo won’t succeed him at the launch of Go Negosyo’s ‘Pilipinas Angat Lahat’ program in MalacanangAug. 14, 2018. Malacanang photo by Ace Morandante.

The cat is out of the bag. Rodrigo Duterte has given the nation the clearest evidence of his treacherous mind. He has publicly expressed his desire to resign the Presidency because he is exasperated with his own performance, in the face of intractable political, economic, and social problems, after two years in office. He is like a budul-budol or pyramiding operator caught in his own trap.

To me, this is already an admission that he was incredibly naive or incredibly dishonest when he ran for office in May 2016, making grandiose promises he could not keep. I did not vote for him, but I feel for those who had a happy skip in their walk, their children in tow, as they went towards Duterte’s meeting de avance at the Luneta before the May 2016 elections.

The treacherous part is when he openly tempts the military to form a military junta to take over from him, instigating the military to violate the Constitutional provision that the Vice-President is the constitutional successor if the President resigns or is unable to perform the duties and functions of the office of President.

This would be a cause of great alarm, were it not for the fact that Duterte has so grossly misread the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The Armed Forces of the Philippines as an institution has long realized that Rodrigo Duterte is the most dangerous President the Republic has seen, one that could and would destroy constitutional democracy in the Philippines for a narcissistic moment of glory.

The military understood from the time of the Davao bombing in 2016 that this is the President who would court and tempt the military to be his instrument of dictatorial power. From day one, however, the military was not buying. Despite the repeated amorous advances of Rodrigo Duterte, visiting military camp after camp across the breadth of the Philippine archipelago, plying them with Glock pistols as personal gifts, they did not bite.

When he verbally ordered their active participation in the war on drugs, the military through its spokesperson respectfully requested the President to put his order in writing and provide specific guidance. Rodrigo Duterte, the talkative President, was at a loss for words in writing the draconian order. He never did.

What Rodrigo Duterte does not understand is that the military is deathly afraid of itself. Outside the Constitution the military becomes nothing more than an aggregation of military commanders who, shorn of legitimate structure, will be pitted against one another. What are military ranks worth in an illegitimate order? The commander of a fighting unit like the Scout Rangers or the Marines will trump any number of three or four-star ranking generals.

Rodrigo Duterte, in inviting the military to form a junta, is therefore inviting the military to give up the institutional stability and order they have carefully cultivated and sustained since the People Power Revolt in 1986, in exchange for a dangerous structure akin to that of a pack of wolves, where no commander can sleep because other military commanders may violently take over the leadership at any time. The military will be fractured along regional, service, and unit lines. Soldiers will kill soldiers, as what happened during the 1989 and other coup attempts.

All these demented contortions by a President, while the country is beleaguered by an aggressive and covetous China, a posturing CPP-NDF-NPA, and a resurgent ISIS-inspired Islamist insurgency in Mindanao. Military officers, bless their souls, are the only Filipinos trained to give their lives for the motherland, corny as it may sound to Rodrigo Duterte. Shamed by mere charges of corruption, they have, on occasion, taken their lives with their service pistols to regain some honor, unlike politicians who become more resilient and strengthened by each episode of plunder they glibly surmount.

So, the military junta will not happen. I will not be surprised if many patriotic and thinking military officers now seethe in anger the way Rodrigo Duterte has treated them as if they are small gullible children to be manipulated for his selfish interests.

(The author, Dr. Segundo Joaquin E. Romero, Jr. Professorial Lecturer at the Development Studies Program of the Ateneo de Manila University)