In the history of the Philippine presidency, all Presidents who fought their successors ultimately lost.

One might include Andres Bonifacio in the roster of Philippine Presidents, which most historians don’t, but if one does, then he was the very first to have lost a fight with a successor, Emilio Aguinaldo.

Diosdado Macapagal fought his successor, Ferdinand E. Marcos, after the 1971 Constitution and into martial law and lost. In many ways, including through coup attempts, the same Ferdinand E. Marcos fought his successor, Corazon Aquino, and lost.  

More clearly now, however, Corazon Aquino picked a fight with a successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, even taking to the streets to demand Gloria’s resignation, but lost, despite the legendary Cory popularity.

Today, Rodrigo Roa Duterte challenges his successor, Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. Will Duterte break the pattern of defeat?

Photo Screengrab CTTO

Today too, for starters, the proverbial “invisible forces” at war in Philippine society, namely, the U.S. and China, have intensified their conflict, which in great part explains the early Marcos-Duterte fight.

Under Duterte the Philippines had all but become a “Chinese province” except for the central fact that the defense treaties with the U.S. could not be abrogated without the approval of the Philippine Senate, which at that time would have been well-nigh impossible.

Declaring a “revolutionary government,” meaning setting aside the Senate and the Constitution, was an option that Duterte threatened to take but did not, for fear that he might be the first victim of the American-oriented-and-controlled Armed Forces of the Philippines. In the end, all that Chinese “investment” in Duterte just came to naught.

Thus, it was that the U.S. remained “in possession” of their erstwhile colony while China continued to be in a challenger position. For its part, of course, the Philippines always took the poise of independence, if not in deed, at least in words and more words.

For China, however, “hope springs eternal.” Firstly, their populist friend Duterte continues to be very popular. Secondly, he is mortally threatened by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity, and the U.S., though not an ICC member, enjoys paramount influence in that court. Thirdly, the Philippine state is “failing”, if it has not already become a “failed state,” due in no small measure to the presence and influence of Chinese gambling and drug syndicates. Fourthly, Vice President Duterte, by her position, is just a breath away from the Presidency. Fifthly, it is Duterte’s firm belief that Marcos is on the U.S. and not on his side in his problem with the ICC. Sixthly, Duterte believes he can convince the people that Marcos is an extremely weak president who does not have it within him to be able to govern properly.

Given all these (and probably more), the return of Duterte to the presidency, from this standpoint, has become not only desirable but categorically imperative.

And, indeed, Rodrigo R. Duterte, former Philippine President, lost no time in declaring all-out war on Ferdinand R. Marcos, incumbent President of the Republic. His public declaration included the clear statement that if Marcos would stay on much longer, he, former President Duterte, would prefer taking all of Mindanao with him in secession.

His public admission of a last-minute haul of 500 licensed firearms made some of his die-hard followers remark that arresting him if indicted by the ICC, won’t be a walk in the park.

One may now expect the opposing strategies of consolidation and destabilization to characterize the Marcos administration and the Duterte opposition respectively. It will not be easy for either side.

The first item in the opposition agenda might be the age-old system of corruption that has characterized Philippine governance from the very beginning to date. Has it become unbearable? Or, because it is systemic, have the people again learned to live with it?

Are the moral and military institutions sufficiently aware of what is going on? Will they lead as agents of authentic change?

If they do, they can effectively help TRANSFORM a national exasperation with the status quo into a strong NATIONAL SENTIMENT rejecting all trapos (traditional politicians) and business-as-usual politics, for which a new Coalition of Patriotism must be organized to enable us to make the transition to a patriotically transformed Philippines. (FINIS)