Only a voluntary resignation and/or death will stop President Rodrigo Roa Duterte from finishing his term on June 30, 2022. No less than the various groups who have been vocal against the President’s unorthodox style of governance would unwittingly make this happen.
Many people will probably ask how the opposition became a party to this emerging reality as the current political divide shows there is no love lost between the administration and the opposition. The divide has widened with embattled Sen. Leila de Lima going on an international road show, hoping to draw sympathy to her fight against Duterte.
That De Lima chose to bring her fight in the international political theater is in itself a clear manifestation of the losing cause of the opposition. Proof of this is the high satisfaction and popularity ratings of the President.
There are at least three reasons why Duterte will govern throughout his term with nary any doubt, threat nor danger of being ousted. What are these reasons?
First, the situation today is not even near to the situation in 1985 although there are attempts to demonize Duterte in the way the late Ferdinand E. Marcos was demonized by the then US-backed opposition. The opposition to Duterte’s mailed-fist policy is so far led by at least two personalities – Senators Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes – who do not command the kind of respect enjoyed by those who stood their ground against Marcos.
Second, there is an absence of a rallying point. In 1983 the death of Ninoy Aquino served as a rallying point of the opposition.
Today, even the attempt by the opposition to use the extra judicial killings (EJKs) as a rallying point is not supported by the people who have been made aware of the ill effects of illegal drugs and seemed oblivious of the spate of deaths of drug personalities. Furthermore, there is no one among the ranks of the opposition who possess the integrity and credibility of a leader whom the people can look up to.
In the years following the death of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, his widow Cory Aquino became the carrier of the opposition’s banner. The opposition today suffers from an identity crisis as its leaders, for purposes of political expediency, have become part of what is now known in Congress as political supermajority.
Thirdly, Duterte in recent weeks successfully snatched from the opposition the momentum to pursue his governance without distraction. The opposition is as much to blame for this scenario because it failed to muster the numbers needed to present a credible stance against the Duterte administration. This was evident when the opposition organized rallies – on Nov. 25, 2016 in protest of the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng Bayani and on Nov. 30, 2016 when the planned big rally was participated in only by some 3,500 protesters.
A true and tested political warrior, Duterte exploited this apparent weakness of the opposition to generate public support for its cause, launching a counter-offensive with the assistance of the friendly mainstream media and social media.
Up to the present, Duterte has remained in an offensive mode, announcing his administration’s programs to (a) provide free tuition to students in all state universities and colleges; (b) free irrigation water for farmers; (c) complete healthcare benefits for Filipinos covered by the PhilHealth program; (d) free medicines for poor families; (e) graduated increase in benefits for retirees covered by the Social Security System; (f) firing of erring government officials and personnel at the Bureau of Immigration, Land Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board and at the Land Transportation Office; (g) new international airport in Bicol; and (h) P171-billion worth of infrastructure projects. These are being implemented while Duterte is relentlessly pursuing his campaign to finally rid the country of the drug menace.
These positives resulted in a very high satisfactory rating for the President, and political analysts agree that under these circumstances, the chance of President Duterte finishing his term is not only a possibility but is guaranteed. It would be foolhardy even for the most determined opposition leaders to go against a President who has out-performed his predecessors in the first five months of his governance.
And in spite of his habit of spewing out profanities, the public seems consigned to accept the fact that he is the man who he said he is, and the people do not mind what his critics say against him.
In this Christmas season when God in the person of Jesus Christ is born to save mankind from the scourge of sin, let us not just pray for one another (Jam 5:16) but we must also pray for our leaders (1 Tim 2:2) because more than anyone else, our leaders are in need of prayers due to the tremendous responsibilities they carry on their shoulders.