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Dateline Seattle: So What’s New?

President Rodrigo Duterte’s reasons for his “plan” to step down are threefold as reported by the media recently: he is tired, frustration over rampant corruption in government, and unabated illegal drug trade. Except for his being tired, the two reasons he mentioned had been perennial “givens” in Philippine society. So what’s new? Getting tired is part of any job. It’s no easy task to be a president of any country. The tasks are gargantuan. Duterte had known this ever since he ran for the presidency. So what’s new? What’s new is probably his realization that he will not be able to solve corruption and illegal drugs contrary to his campaign promises. That’s what he got when he surrounded himself with the likes of Alvarez, Tulfo-Teo, Uson, Aguirre, Faeldon, Gen. Fajardo, to mention a few, and let suspected drug lords leave the country. And perhaps it is also new that age is beginning to take its toll on him, The realization that he is not the macho man that he has occasionally portrayed himself to be must have hit him hard like a brick. He now realizes that his tough-talking stance does not automatically equate to the elimination of corruption and drugs. His choice, given the situations that he finds himself in, is to float the idea of stepping down, which I consider a form of face–saving. I don’t care if Duterte does not resign. But I care if he decides to step down because the person he wants to succeed him will be worse than him: Bongbong Marcos. Duterte does not believe that Vice President Leni Robredo has what it takes to succeed him. Thus, his wish – and he is quite open about it – is for the young Marcos to win his electoral protest against Robredo and he will become the constitutional successor to the presidency. Then and only then will Duterte step down. Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, explained that the president had a “real, genuine wish to step down” if a qualified leader could replace him. Bongbong is among those he prefers, Roque said. Duterte prefers Bongbong because the former is close to the Marcoses. Duterte allowed the late dictator’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016, in rites held hurriedly away from public eye. Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos is known to have supported Duterte in his presidential campaign. Duterte’s father Vicente once served as a cabinet member of the late dictator. But who is Bongbong Marcos? What’s his pedigree? Bongbong’s father, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, had led a dictatorial regime marked by repression of free speech, plunder, and human rights abuses. But Bongbong continues to deny the existence of documented human rights violations during Martial Law numbering around 100,000, including salvaging and enforced disappearances. Bongbong’s continuous denial of his father’s mistakes is what makes me view him as a threat to democracy despite his attempt to soften such an impression. Declared Bongbong unabashedly, “What is there to fear about us? We are all good–willed people. We are not doing anything to hurt others.” Bongbong was already of age during the Martial Law years. He might not be a direct participant to the atrocities committed by his father being the commander-in-chief, but he was old enough to know what had happened. He even boasted that the martial law years were the “golden years” in Philippine history, although many political observers have condemned Bongbong’s revisionist approach to history. It’s no secret that Imelda Marcos harbors hope that Bongbong will someday become the president of the Philippines. This is the only way for the Marcoses to redeem themselves and build on whatever they think is the legacy of their late father. So for Duterte to say that Bongbong is the most qualified to succeed him is farcical at its best. And this is new.

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