It should come as no surprise to anyone – fans and foes alike –that the Duterte administration is currently in a state of flux. Even officials close to DigongDuterte himself have either been lying or were kept in the dark about his whereabouts in the past few days.
First there was the rumor that turned out to be true that he had been rushed to a hospital last week at around 3:00 am. The official Palace line was that he had taken some tests like a colonoscopy, among others.
Usually, colonoscopies are no big deal. But the fact that Mr. Duterte had to be rushed to the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in the wee hours of the morning, or if you prefer in the dead of night, indicates that something is amiss.
Both his spokesman Harry Roque as well as his special assistant Bong Go initially insisted that the president was in the pink of health and that the visit to the hospital was fake news.
So who made the decision to head for one of the most expensive hospitals in the country? Nobody knows for sure, it seems.
Speaking of the universally disliked Roque, the former party list congressman and human rights lawyer went on leave this week, apparently without informing the president.
Right. He did not tell his boss. Only in the Philippines, folks.
This is the same Roque who was once an ardent supporter of Senator Antonio Trillanes and who publicly warned the country not to vote for Duterte in the last elections.
The president told him last week to abandon his dream of running for senator since he was sure to lose anyway. That must have been a most bitter pill to swallow considering Roque had turned himself into a groveling servant of the president for which he expected to be rewarded with a slot in the administration party’s senate line-up.
One other Duterte diehard who suddenly resigned her Cabinet post is the controversial Mocha Uson. Once thought to be an untouchable, she dramatically resigned last week, announcing her exit during a Senate hearing.
This was a lie, of course. It turns out that she had been fired by the president, who apparently had gotten sick and tired of her numerous faux pas as well as bad attitude. He sense of entitlement had gone too far and it was Bong Go who informed her that she was no longer part of the Duterte administration.
Uson, however, said that she will still defend the administration and will run for senator in next year’s polls. It is not clear if the administration party PDP-Laban will include her in its line-up.
Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte’s relationship with the Armed Forces of the Philippines leadership continues to remain under question. This, despite the fact that he is the commander-in-chief of the AFP.
It has become quite clear that the president’s nemesis, Senator Trillanes, still enjoys massive support within the AFP, which is not too eager to arrest the opposition lawmaker despite a Makati court issuing an arrest order last week.
It is highly possible that Mr. Duterte’s erratic statements and behavior have finally caught up with him. This week, three probable winning senate bets have refused to be part of the slate of the party headed by the president.
Imee Marcos, Nancy Binay and Pia Cayetano all said they have no intention of joining PDP-Laban and will probably run with another party. A slap on the face of Duterte? You bet.
And speaking of insults to the president, former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo just sponsored a bill which would remove term limits for all elected officials, herself included, of course.
This may not sit well with Mr. Duterte, who is now realizing that he is truly a lameduck chief executive. But what is he to do?
The majority of the Filipino people believe that he has serious health issues. And while he may have a fervent dislike for Vice President LeniRobredo, Mr. Duterte’s publicly stating that he refuses to hand over the presidency to her has not sat well with a lot of people, especially those who know the law.
One does not have to be a lawyer to know that the Constitution says that the only person who can assume the presidency in the event the president dies, becomes incapacitated or impeached is the vice president.
If a lot of the president’s allies are uneasy these days, they have reason to be. Duterte’s hold on power has become tenuous. He is sick, he is old, and his popularity is sinking fast.
One thing’s for sure: The sun is setting on the Duterte era, whether he admits it or not.