Marcos-Duterte bickering is ‘all politics’ from which nothing can be gained, says Drilon

Marcos-Duterte bickering is ‘all politics’ from which nothing can be gained, says Drilon
Former senator Franklin Drilon —PHOTO BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos’ snub of Vice President Sara Duterte minutes before she and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. boarded the plane for Vietnam on Monday was very telling, and former senator Franklin Drilon sees tough days lying ahead of her in the Cabinet.

According to Drilon, Sara Duterte’s position in the Cabinet became “more untenable” after her family ganged up on the President, with her father tagging Mr. Marcos a “drug addict.”

But the soured relationship between the Marcoses and the Dutertes, and a possible dent in Mr. Marcos’ confidence in the Vice President, should not prompt her to resign her concurrent post as education secretary, Drilon told in a Zoom interview on Friday.  

The former Senate president pointed out that the education secretary has a lot on her plate—mainly rescuing schoolchildren from further spiraling down in terms of literacy in reading, math and science—as do the rest of the Cabinet officials, and they should focus on addressing these. 

“Given the circumstances, the position of Sara Duterte in the Cabinet becomes more untenable. You can’t deny the fact that there must be an interaction between the President and members of the Cabinet. And I cannot see how such exchange of words can be reason for the continued confidence of the President in Sara,” Drilon said. 

Nevertheless, he balked at adding his voice to calls for the Vice President’s resignation as education chief, saying: “I don’t think it will bring us anywhere.”

Nothing can be gained from the Marcos-Duterte bickering, “which is all politics,” said Drilon, who served as justice secretary in President Corazon Aquino’s administration before getting elected to the Senate.

But whether the President and Vice President can repair the “split” in the “UniTeam” coalition that propelled them to the country’s top two positions in 2022 is a matter that only the two of them can resolve, Drilon said, adding: 

“Their chances of permanently breaking up are very high.”

Insults and invectives

Former president Rodrigo Duterte and his sons, Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte and Mayor Sebastian Duterte, took turns in lambasting the President in speeches laced with insults and invectives at an anti-Charter change rally on Sunday night in their city bailiwick, apparently riled by the investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of the paterfamilias’ “war on drugs.”  

Mayor Duterte called Mr. Marcos “lazy” and pressed him to resign, while Congressman Duterte ranted against a party-list representative leading a people’s initiative campaign in the city to amend the 1987 Constitution.

Rodrigo Duterte detonated the biggest bomb, accusing Mr. Marcos of being “a drug addict President” and claiming that Mr. Marcos had been on the watch list of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. That claim has since been denied by the agency. 

The former president also warned that Mr. Marcos might go the way of his father and namesake, the late dictator who was ousted from office by a people’s revolt in February 1986. 

“I think it’s the fentanyl,” Mr. Marcos retorted the next day, referring to Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier admission of taking the addictive synthetic opioid analgesic to ease the pain in his spine caused by a motorcycle accident years ago.

Putting a humorous spin to it, social media influencer Vicente “Enteng” Romano III wrote on Meta that the unfolding political drama has turned into a “battle between coke and fentanyl—the ultimate DRUG WAR.”

‘Focus on problems’

Instead of bickering, Drilon said, the country’s leaders including the President and Vice President should devote themselves to addressing the woes besetting the education and health sectors, on top of the rising costs of food, fuel and utilities.

“They should focus on these problems. The election is still far away,” he said.

As things stand, Filipino students rank poorly in international assessments on performance in reading, math and science, and 3.3 million children under 5 are malnourished.  

“You can imagine the kind of workforce that we will have 20 years from now,” Drilon said. “These problems must be addressed immediately so that many of our countrymen will have a reasonable opportunity to advance.”

Drilon expressed the belief that the Duterte family’s tirades against Mr. Marcos had been prompted by the reported visit of ICC investigators last December to gather evidence against the former president. 

Rodrigo Duterte is the principal respondent in the crimes-against-humanity case pending at the court based in The Hague, which arose from the thousands of extrajudicial killings committed in the conduct of the war on drugs. 

“I would assume that the Dutertes felt that Marcos is not delivering on the stated policy that they will not cooperate with the ICC,” Drilon said. “If you trace back to the news reports, all of these things started in the recent past, with Duterte being spooked by this ICC.”

During the anti-Charter change rally, which was timed with the President’s kickoff of the governance brand “Bagong Pilipinas” in Manila, Mayor Duterte rued that the ICC investigators “are suddenly here and they want to imprison my father.”

Earlier, the Dutertes had bewailed the scrapping of the confidential funds requested by the Office of the Vice President; the reduction of the budget of the first district of Davao City under Congressman Duterte; and the House-backed campaign to gather signatures for a petition for Charter change through a people’s initiative. 

The Dutertes had blamed Speaker Martin Romualdez, the President’s first cousin, for their “despicable” treatment. Romualdez is rumored to be preparing for a presidential run in 2028 that could pit him against Sara Duterte.

Loyalty to the Charter

Drilon pooh-poohed Rodrigo Duterte’s threat that Mr. Marcos risked ouster if he insisted on pursuing Charter change. He said this should not be taken seriously given the armed forces’ “loyalty to the Constitution.”

He said the current resistance to the fresh attempt at revising or amending certain economic provisions of the Constitution stems from the public’s “distrust” of politicians. 

That is why any similar attempt “is always viewed with suspicion,” he said. “That is why this exercise is going through a difficult process.”

Drilon also described Rodrigo Duterte’s call for Mindanao to secede from the Philippines as “foolish.”

“That will never succeed,” he said.

If there is anything good that can be gained from the Marcos-Duterte conflict, it’s that the system of checks and balances is “working,” Drilon said. 

He added: “I would be the first to admit that the opposition has been decimated, and in the split in the ruling coalition, one side assumes the role of the opposition. “Therefore, the system of checks and balances is needed in a democracy, and this is being performed by Vice President Duterte.”

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