The opposition to President Duterte
by Bingo P. Dejaresco

EVEN BEFORE TAKING OATH as President of the Philippine Republic, there are indications that President-elect Rody Duterte’s 6-year presidency will not be a boring monologue.

Caressed by the bliss of a democracy first served in 1986 after years of throttling Martial Law, some sectors are not about to give up the “freedom to dissent” just because an apparent Duterte juggernaut is rolling past.

First, there is the Supreme Court. It may be headed by a lady but it had shown it has nerves of steel in facing even the Aquino administration exemplified by its anti-Palace stand on the PDAF and DAP controversies. Although four of them: Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno and justices Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe and Lloren are Aquino appointees, they hardly voted as mere lackeys of the palace.

As long as the Judicial Bar Council - remains non-politicized and independent- the next batch of appointees during the Duterte regime (2016-2022) in the Supreme Court should have no umbilical cord tied to the Pasig Palace.

The public should , therefore, scrutinize like an accountant the actuations of the 7 members of the JBC to ensure that the new justice-appointees serve -first and only- the Filipino people . We must note the end of the terms of some justices: three in 2016, two in 2017 and 7 in 2019- 2020.Eleven new SC justices will be appointed in Duterte’s term.

But we, therefore, expect the same rock steady Supeme Court- part of an equal government branch - to remain steadfast when faced eyeball-to-eyeball with the Duterte government. As long as the JBC remains forthright.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), on the other hand, will be at the forefront to ensure no excesses and shortcuts are done in the ambitious odyssey of Digong to end drugs, criminality and corruption in 6 months. Its new chair (vice Etta Rosales), the sober-minded and tough Atenean Chito Gascon has a fixed term of office and will certainly stand the ground for those who are to be defended based on Gascon’s name of office.

CHR will be one, legitimate office, to provide the wall vs. the excesses resulting from the over-fervor of the part of some in the military and officials to show immediate results in order to please their incoming commander-in-chief.

Having the same, mandated timeline (7 years) is Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales whose tour of duty ends in August of 2018. Although related by consanguinity to the Dutertes, the feisty Ombudsman had verbally made warnings against human rights violations even in the legitimate pursuit of justice.

Then, there is the Senate, the almighty senate. It has a long tradition of independence and granite resolve to act like a co-equal part of government. Although the Lower House may appear co-opted by the Duterte charm and aggressive offensive, the Senate is a cut above the rest.

Already, there are at least five senators that will not keep their mouths shut.

One, there is former PNP crime-buster Panfilo Lacson who will not allow even a president to interefer with the “constitutional duties of the senate.” He cited the senate power to subpoena and investigate ( in aid of legislation) as non-negotiable. In the campaign, he had shuddered at the siege mentality of a new Duterte government and hopes his pronouncements and edicts “do not plunge the nation into a civil war.”

Another is senator-elect Risa Hontiveros, social activist from Akbayan, who strongly batted for the continued strong principled stand on policy issues. Leila de lima, moreover, has been a fixture in the pursuit of equitable justice for all and had often engaged Duterte in almost manic fireworks in the past.

Then there are two others, Chiz Escudero and Antonio Trillanes,who chose to remain the opposition conscience bloc of the senate. Trillanes had vowed to run after the president for alleged plunder on the undeclared multi-million Duterte deposits reportedly with BPI.

Finally, there are the two iconic institutions in the land:media and the church.

The media has not blinked from day one about the extra judicial killings of journalists and demand that the “freedom of expression” since it is carved on stone in the Philippine constitution should be respected by the president.

From the Spanish times to the Marcos dictatorship, Philippine media had had a sterling record of standing up for what is just, right and humane. Expect media to give no quarters and take none even in the face of veiled threats against their existence.

Finally, there is a church who may look like in need of a Cardinal Sin today.

Manila Archbishop Antonio Tagle has recently issued an “orata imperata” a prayer to be read in all pulpits and congregations for the faithful to “shun the culture of violence” and avoid unnesseary blood bath in the pursuit of criminals and grafters. It is a nine day of prayer before the presidential inaugural (June 30) and is also actively sponsored by the CBCP under Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

We expect the Church to remain perched in the high moral ground and will demand for righteous pursuit of grafters and drug lords without unnecessary bloodletting.

The unprecedented bluster and braggadocio of an incoming president never before seen in the same intensity and ferocity ever in our history have generated their own contradictions and opposition to these new Duterte pronouncements have been both profound and even spread.

The Duterte government will indeed have its hands full. Democracy will be the true winner.

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