President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called tete-a-tete with Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo Tuesday highlighted how self-destructive the resident in Malacanang is.
For an hour and a half, President Rodrigo Duterte belabored his own paranoia — an alleged conspiracy between Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, the Left and other political forces. Like a lover about to lose his beloved, he specified all the things he did for the military — higher pay, more budget for hospitals, visits to camps and to fallen soldiers’ wakes, and even the promise of immunity from accountability — and then he sarcastically urged the soldiers to join Trillanes in a mutiny.
Duterte also claimed that there are plans to sabotage him on Sept. 21, the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial law. He even cited alleged intelligence reports purportedly provided by a foreign country to paint a picture of a destabilization plot against the government.
His pronouncements are reminiscent of Marcosian tactics. His idol, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos also cited the threat of communism before he suspended the writ of habeas corpus and when he declared martial law.
Duterte also defended martial law in Mindanao, claiming that it lessened criminality. This despite the fact that the military failed to deter three bombing incidents in different parts of Mindanao.
In fact, Duterte even used the bombings to ask for Israel’s help during his visit there. He said the police and military are expecting more attacks.
Is Duterte setting the tone for more repressive measures against the intensifying people’s unrest?
It’s no accident that a broad gathering of political forces dubbed as United People’s Action against Duterte’s dictatorship will happen on Sept. 21.
His veiled threats are founded on fear. Fear of losing his grip on power, thus, his actions and statements ingratiating himself on the military and the efforts of the administration to tame his tongue. That his administration could not provide solutions to high inflation and rising prices of oil, food and other basic commodities contributes to his further isolation from the broad masses of the Filipino people.
It is obvious by now, despite his repeated claims that he would resign, and despite the image he cultivates that he is not too keen on holding on to his post, Duterte’s behavior actually shows he rather likes to keep the presidency.
His biggest problem, however, is his capacity to self-destruct. If he ups the ante of persecuting his perceived enemies and of further violating the civil and political rights of the people, he might soon find himself in the trash bin of history.