Work on unifying the nation instead of “glorifying a dictator,” Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday said in a message to President Rodrigo Duterte, reacting to his remarks that the country was better off with a dictator “like (Ferdinand) Marcos” than with her at the helm.
“Instead of continuing to glorify a dictator who stole billions from our country, drove the nation into debt, and presided over the murder and imprisonment of thousands of Filipinos, he can work on truly unifying the nation and assuring our people, especially those at the fringes, that their voices are being heard and that their daily suffering will soon be eased,” Robredo said.
In a speech on Thursday, Mr. Duterte again said he wanted to quit before his term ends in 2022 but that he was reluctant to hand over power to Robredo, who was not his running mate.
“You’re better off with a dictator in the likes of Marcos. That is what I suggested. You can have constitutional succession, (with) Robredo, but she cannot hack it,” he said during the 49th Mandaue City Charter Day in Cebu.
Mr. Duterte earlier said he wanted former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the late dictator’s son who lost in the 2016 vice presidential race, to be his successor. The younger Marcos had filed an electoral protest against Robredo, accusing her of fraud.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President’s preference for Marcos was just his “personal belief.”
“With all due respect to the Vice President, that’s a personal assessment made by the President,” Roque said.
Members of the opposition also slammed Mr. Duterte’s remarks, with former Commission on Human Rights Chair Etta Rosales saying it was time for Filipinos to “wake up” and “not get fooled” by government actions toward the establishment of a dictatorship.
“This is the reason he wants to get rid of the 1987 Charter, a framework of governance that restored democratic rule and its principles of separation of powers, checks and balances, human rights and social justice against a dictatorship under Marcos,” Rosales said.
Diverting public attention
Rosales, a survivor of martial law atrocities, said Mr. Duterte’s words reflected the thinking of a “fascistic leader who does not believe in democratic rule or in human rights.”
She compared the President to Marcos who, she said, “ruled by the sword and did not hesitate to kill in order to enrich himself and stay in power.”
For Senator Francis Pangilinan, the President’s remarks were an attempt to divert the public’s attention from more important issues.
Like Robredo, Pangilinan said the administration should “focus on addressing pressing issues that concern our countrymen,” such as the smuggling of illegal drugs, the importation of formalin-tainted fish, and weevil-infested rice.
“Attacking Leni is another attempt to divert the public’s attention from the tons of missing smuggled ‘shabu’ and missing NFA [National Food Authority] rice from the market,” Pangilinan said.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV warned that the President was “laying the groundwork for an extraconstitutional takeover.”
“He is trying to influence the military leadership by romanticizing an autocratic rule,” Trillanes said. “But it simply won’t work. The military knows right from wrong and will never give in to that.”
Trillanes said the President was demonizing Robredo because he was aware that “in any scenario where there is a constitutional transition of power, he and his minions would surely be made accountable for their actions.”
Roque said Mr. Duterte’s remarks would not affect the election protest against Robredo, who has been critical of the President’s deadly war on drugs.
“The Presidential Electoral Tribunal is conducting what is called the revisions of the ballot. So it’s the ballots that will be speaking and not the justices individually,” he said.
Mr. Duterte’s expressed admiration for the much-vilified Marcos has been controversial, with many Filipinos still tormented by his brutal two-decade rule which ended in his overthrow in a popular, Army-backed uprising in 1986.
Over the years, the Marcos family has regained political power, with Marcos’ widow Imelda now a congresswoman, his son and namesake a former senator, and daughter Imee a provincial governor, widely believed to be running for senator in 2019.
President Duterte had once called Marcos the “brightest” Philippine President and, amid public outrage, had allowed his burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani in November 2016. —WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO, GARBRIEL PABICO LALU; By: Melvin Gascon, Nestor Corrales – @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
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