Columns

DILIMAN WAY: Power play? Duterte vs Marcos?

“Trust no future however pleasant
Let the dead past bury its dead
Act, act on the living present
Heart within and God o’er head”
– From A Psalm of Life
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It’s all question marks because the events are subject to many interpretations. Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), now congresswoman in one of the congressional districts of the province of Pampanga, was demoted from Senior Deputy Speaker to plain Deputy Speaker. It is a major political move by the BBM crowd with Speaker Martin Romualdez, BBM’s first cousin, as executioner.
Aftermath: The political execution was bloody. It produced cataclysmic results. GMA denied, by way of a well publicized press statement, that she was not planning a coup to oust and replace Romualdez as Speaker. Romualdez is no tyro in power games. He was once upon a time Mayor of Tacloban City and congressman in one of the congressional districts of Leyte. He may not be President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, his uncle, and Governor, Member of Parliament and Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez, his father, but he has been walking in the corridors and bedrooms of power since he was a kid. And this is nothing to laugh at.
On the part of Vice-President Sara Duterte, she got headlines by resigning as member of the LAKAS-CMD party. What does this and GMA’s reaction mean? On the surface, it means a split in the UNITY TEAM – the group that catapulted BBM and Sara Duterte to the presidency and vice-presidency, respectively.
Both President BBM and Speaker Romualdez downgrade the GMA demotion as normal in the process of reorganization. If the great comedian, Dolphy , were alive today, he will tell the duo, “Dassa lot of nonsense.”
Realignment of forces: The GMA demotion, the GMA reaction and the VP Sara Duterte departure from LAKAS TAO-CMD as a member tell a thousand words, just like a picture. What are the obvious meanings? First, that both VP Sara and GMA are enraged by the GMA demotion. If that is so – both the GMA defiant reaction and the VP Sara resignation from her party were done by common agreement by both of them. This could only mean that they are prepared to break from the UNITEAM – that is obvious. The VP Sara statement that both PBMM and she will continue to work together is an exercise of transparent political pretense. In government – yes! In political maneuvering – no! Neither VP Sara nor PBBM is fooling anyone.
Second, the moves of both PBBM and Duterte-GMA camps are in preparation for realignment of forces, for the moment for the mid-term elections in 2025, and finally for the presidential election in 2028. It is fast becoming obvious that the PBBM camp will field Speaker Romualdez as its candidate for President. Equally obvious is VP Sara Duterte will be the presidential candidate of D-GMA camp.
These explain the current political moves of these powerful politicians.
Fate of PBBM and GMA in 2025: If both will be still alive by then, what will be the role of PBBM and GMA in the 2028 elections? PBBM will have a choice of running for Vice-President or for the Senate to eventually become President of the Senate. GMA has more choices – run as Vice-President of presidential candidate VP Sara Duterte or run for the Senate to become Senate President or run in her congressional seat to become Speaker of the House of Representatives again. My guess though is that both PBBM and GMA will run for Vice-President – as it is one breath away from the presidency.
What if the government changers to a parliamentary system? What will be the roles of PBBM and GMA? Both will run for Parliament with the view to becoming Prime Minister.
Intervening events: There are a number of conspiracy theories emerging – the most prevalent is, considering the current economic, political and international situations, there will be a coup d’etat before 2025 which will cancel both the 2025 and 2028 elections. Is it possible? The answer is yes because anything is possible no matter how remote. Is it likely to happen – meaning probable? There are current events that show why it is probable that a coup d’etat will likely happen – sooner that we think.
First, disturbances in the rank and file both in the military and the police occasioned by reshuffle at the top; illegal drug involvement of police, military and civilian government officials; forced resignations veiled as courtesy resignations of top level officials and the problems of military and police pensions. Second, soaring prices of commodities and services, First Lady perceived interference in government and inability of the President to control her; incompetent leadership in the handling of domestic and international affairs.
Second, the clashing political ambitions of top strategic officials in government as shown in the obvious or apparent break in the UNITY TEAM demonstrated in the conduct of the top leaders of the country.. The desire to remain in power for personal and family reasons is too tempting to resist and it is the continuing habit of presidential, economic and political families here.
Third, both the PBBM and DUTERTE-GMA camps have the apparatus, the means, power and influence to pull a coup – considering the people of this country will accept any changes in government leadership as shown in EDSA I and EDSA 2.
Alignment of forces: The PBBM camp, on the surface appears to have an upper hand in a coup confrontation. First, PBBM as President has all the forces behind him – the whole government. Second, he has personalities who have prominently featured prominently in previous coups – Former Defense Minister and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Former Senator and retired Colonel Gregorio Honasan and Former Senator and retired Navy Captain Antonio Trillanes. That is quite a formidable force and not a laughing matter.
On the other hand, the DUTERTE-GMA camp, likewise, has a solid coup experience. On top of this group on matters of pulling successful coups is Former President GMA. She had a solid coup experience with the ouster of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. With the help of the late President Fidel Valdez Ramos (FVR), they mounted a huge rally at the area where the Robinson’s Galleria is located, fronting Edsa. The support of the military was crucial to this move.
FVR was not able to convince Armed Forces Chief of Staff General ANGELO”ANGIE” REYES (CSAFP) to withdraw support from the Estrada government. A group of generals headed by the late Defense Secretary General Fortunato “Tony” Abat and Rebolusyunariong Alyansang Makabayan (RAM) Chairman General Edgardo “Abe” Abenina were trying to persuade CSAFP Angie Reyes to part ways from President but Angie refused. So Generals Abat and Abenina sought the help of a friend to persuade Angie Reyes.
For historical purposes, this is how the conversation went:
Their Friend – My friends, what wind brought you here?
General Abat – We need your help.
Their Friend – For what?
General Abat – To persuade CSAFP to withdraw support from Erap.
Their Friend – Why me? I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me.
General Abat – You see, we tried to persuade him for the past six months but we could not persuade him because he thinks he is better than us as he studied at Harvard University and considers himself as a Harvard intellectual.
Their Friend – But I did not go to Harvard as I refused to apply for an offered Harvard scholarship.
General Abat – You are a UP intellectual and Angie knows that. You are at par with him
The UP intellectual went to see General Reyes with the generals and the UP intellectual was able to persuade General Reyes – and the rest is history. Why is this story relevant to a possible coup? It is, because as events letter developed, GMA showed she is a good tactician and strategist – she outmaneuvered all of them. How?
She avoided a probable coup. She precipitated the suicide of General Reyes, did not appoint Generals Abat and Abenina to positions they expected, and she had the UP intellectual arrested for three criminal charges – conspiracy to commit a coup, swindling to finance a coup and obstruction of justice. All cases were dismissed in three separate jurisdictions for lack of evidence – considering the UP intellectual is a tried, tested and topnotch trial lawyer.
Even forces: So the possible contending coup forces are even. If one of them pulls a coup, it is anybody’s game. As a poet once wrote, “Only the events will teach us in each hour.”
The article that will succeed this next week will define what will happen -if a coup takes place. What will be in it for the people and the country? What will it be for the Opposition? What will happen to the rising political stars who want to be President in 2028? Follow, watch and see.
(Editor’s Note:  Homobono (Bono) A. Adaza of Misamis Oriental, is a lawyer, prolific writer, columnist  and author. He has published several books like  “Diliman Way” and “Leaders from Marcos to Arroyo” which are available on Amazon. He served as Governor of Misamis Oriental, Assemblyman of Batasang Pambansa, and Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, among others.