“The election promises to be as entertaining as ever.”
It looks like the coming political exercise next year which many thought would be muted and lacking in fireworks is actually starting to heat up after all.
Politicians gunning for national elective offices are now bolder in confronting President Duterte on an issue that is dear to his heart—corruption. In the past, when the issue of corruption came up, it was the President who dominated the discourse and narrative. His pronouncements somehow defined what and how things should be interpreted. When he vouches for the honesty or dishonesty of public officials, almost everyone keeps quiet. There was hardly anyone disagreeing.
It does not seem to be like that anymore. Something seems to have changed. It is hard to pinpoint when exactly or the events that contributed to the change. Perhaps it’s a series of events culminating when the Commission on Audit flagged the Department of Health for transferring funds to the Department of Budget Management. In one of his TV addresses to the nation, the President ranted against members of Congress who are only good at posturing. He asked the voters to reject certain good-for-nothing legislators back to Congress.
In one of his habitual rants, he defended the DOH, particularly Secretary Francisco Duque, as he always does. He appeared to tell COA, a constitutional commission, the extent of its functions. This provoked some quarters to react. These reactions not only came from the usual suspects from the Senate but also from some retired government bureaucrats who disagreed with what the President said. He also asked whether Senator Ping Lacson is honest and if his answer is yes, he has something on the senator. As to what that something is, skeletons in the closet, perhaps, he did not say.
All these point to an exciting and circus-like upcoming political exercise.
Just when did things start to heat up? These all started after a series of incidents. When it was the usual opposition senators like Senators Leila De Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan and Franklin Drilon attacking the administration, not too many were joining in. When Senator Manny Pacquiao however, started talking about corruption in the administration, the decibels started to go up. This was followed by the continuing anti-corruption crusade by Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon. When the President‚for the nth time—defended Secretary Duque by saying that he is willing to go down defending him, that kind of defense was so mind-boggling that some people started to wonder what Duque has done to deserve that kind of support.
After a few days however, the President issued a statement that he would be willing to accept Duque’s resignation if tendered voluntarily. It would seem that the President must have realized the negative impact of his vigorous defense, but the damage has already been done. The President also went personal by saying that Senator Gordon is fat and by commenting on the way Senator Lacson combs his hair. He appeared to be trying to say something else but settled on the combing of hair.
The response of both senators was measured. Then came the COA flagging the DOH followed by the alleged overpricing of PPEs by the DBM allegedly orchestrated by former Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao. In addition, a Chinese national who has been introducing himself as an adviser of the President for economic affairs and doing business with the government was identified. It turns out that this person has a warrant of arrest in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
All these are not helpful to the administration because the opening given to the political opposition appears to be self-inflicted. With the President’s approval rating remaining sky high, it would have been better for him to have just remained quiet and allowed his henchmen like Secretary Harry Roque and adviser Salvador Panelo to do the talking, but he is the kind of leader who wants to do the talking himself.
Duterte also wants the Philippine National Red Cross, a non-government organization chaired by Senator Gordon, audited.
All these ensure that the coming presidential elections next May will be entertaining and full of the usual political mudslinging. This may be happening too early but it is probably better to distract us from the dreariness caused by the pandemic given that the country is reported to be second to the last in pandemic management among 120 countries surveyed. Whether all these will negatively affect the President or the projected run of his daughter is anybody’s educated guess.