Ex-President Duterte warns of restive military, eyes political comeback

By Beting Laygo Dolor, Manila Editor

MANILA – All of the loose talk about destabilization moves against the government by restless members of the military – confirmed by no less than the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff last month – are aimed not at the Marcos administration, but at the House of Representatives.

This is if former president Rodrigo Duterte is to be believed, as he warned last week that the AFP my move against the House leadership which they perceive to be moving closer to the Left.

The elder Duterte, father of incumbent Vice President and concurrent Education secretary Sara Duterte, at the start of this week accused Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of conspiring with the local communist movement as part of his plan to run for president in 2028.

But the Speaker rejected to claim, saying any such plan was only a rumor and that he prefers to focus on his current job.

Speaking in the vernacular in the TV interview, Mr. Duterte said, “Watch out for the military, as well as the police. I am not scaring anyone, but communists have killed many soldiers and cops.”

The former president continued by saying: “Let’s give the country to them, and let us see what will happen to this country. Go ahead and experiment and vote for them (communists).”

He then addressed the Speaker directly, saying, “You, Romualdez. You want me to campaign for you? You want to be president?” even as he warned that “the military is always there.”

Duterte said Romualdez had become close to the Makabayan bloc of congressmen, led by ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro, who is credited with having forced VP Duterte to give up her confidential and intelligence funds to the tune of PHP650 million (about US$11.6 million).

The elder Duterte insists that all members of the Makabayan bloc are closet communists, and he threatened to kill Rep. Castro, who then filed a lawsuit against him for serious threats.

For its part, the AFP and its major service commands refused to issue a reply or comment to the elder Duterte’s statements.

AFP chief Gen Romeo Brawner Jr had earlier caused jitters in the administration when he said that there were destabilization moves being taken by retired military officers.

Brawner told local media last month that “many were saying to change the President because of many reasons, some are saying there will be a coup’d etat again.”

The AFP later said that their chief was misquoted, or his statements taken out of context.

Whether there is indeed restlessness within the military or not, or whether any destabilization plans were aimed at either President Marcos or his cousin Speaker Romualdez, one thing became clear at the start of this week.

Former president Duterte may be eyeing a return to public office, not unlike former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who ran for Congress after stepping down as president.

Arroyo even had a short stint as Speaker, although in the current Congress she was initially named as Senior Deputy Speaker before being demoted twice, first to Deputy Speaker and more recently as mere member of the House.

Arroyo is known to be a close ally of the Dutertes, although the party she headed – PDP Laban – has lost much of its clout in the House, now having only 15 members from more than a hundred at the start of the Marcos administration.

VP Duterte said this week that she would definitely support her father’s political comeback. The former president is rumored to be eyeing either a return to the House where he once served, or seek a Senate seat in the mid-term elections in 2025.