‘Political gangsterism,’ ‘distortion of the constitution:’ AB profs slam Duterte’s VP bid

photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Communications Operations Office

PRESIDENT RODRIGO Duterte’s decision to run for vice president is an attempt to remain in power that can pose a challenge to the Constitution, professors of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) said.

Late last month, the ruling PDP-Laban party announced that Duterte has “agreed to make the sacrifice and heed the clamor of the people” by accepting its endorsement for him to run in the 2022 elections.

The opposition coalition 1Sambayan has assailed the move, describing it as “legally and morally wrong” but officials and even some experts believe there is no legal impediment for Duterte to seek a lower post.

But political science department chair Asst. Prof. Dennis Coronacion said Duterte would be “a step away” from becoming president again if he bags the second-highest post, a scenario that he said goes against the intent of the Constitution’s framers.

“His (Duterte) decision to run for the vice president position is going to pose a major challenge to the Philippine Constitution, and possibly create a constitutional crisis,” Coronacion told The Flame.

“What they [framers of the 1987 Constitution] had in mind was how to prevent another Philippine president from perpetuating himself or herself to power. And, President Duterte might have found a way to outwit the framers of the 1987 Constitution,” he added.

Sociology instructor and researcher Frederick Rey considered the candidacy a “distortion” of the Constitution and an “underestimation” of the people’s intellect. The gaps and weaknesses of the Constitution should not be taken advantage of to preserve power and influence, he added.

Masyadong ibinaba ‘yung intellectual capacity natin when it comes to politics, parang sila lang ang nakakaintindi (Our intellectual capacity has been underestimated. When it comes to politics, it seems that they are the only ones who can understand),” Rey told The Flame in an online interview.

‘Political gangsterism’

Rey also described Duterte’s bid for vice presidency as a form of “political gangsterism” that would only bring benefit to him and his allies.

Parang tropa-tropa (It’s like a gang) … So power for power’s sake,” Rey said.

Department of Communication and Media Studies instructor Tito Quiling, Jr. shared the same sentiment, saying Duterte’s decision was centered on him and his colleagues instead of the people.

“Given the statements that have been broadcasted, printed, and posted—whether edited or not—their underlying intentions of holding on to the remains of this administration are evident. More than anything, the pandemic has emphasized the weak seams of the current government,” Quiling said.

Asst. Prof. Froilan Alipao of the sociology department believes Duterte is trying to duplicate how his family maintained power in the local level, noting that the president had served as vice mayor next to his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.

“Based on his performance, he has no moral ascendancy to be the vice president because of his thousand human rights violations which are considered crimes against humanity,” Alipao told The Flame.

Administration critics have accused Duterte of endorsing extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, citing his controversial war on drugs, which has so far left 6,000 suspects dead.

While he instructed the police to shoot drug addicts if they feel that their life is in danger, Duterte has denied ordering the execution of suspects and assured the public that he won’t protect abusive law enforcers.

He has also claimed that many of the slain drug suspects were silenced by narcotics syndicates who do not want their illegal activities leaked to authorities.

Coronacion noted that if the Carpio-Duterte tandem wins the 2022 election, it would be the first time a president and vice president would come from one family and could push Philippine politics to its limit.

Carpio, the frontrunner in latest surveys on possible candidates for president, has announced that she is not gunning for the post.

Still popular

Professors have linked Duterte’s decision to seek the vice presidency with his popularity, which has not waned despite criticisms against the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unlike (former president Joseph) Estrada and (former president Gloria) Macapagal-Arroyo, who decided to run for lower positions, President Duterte is eyeing the (position of vice president) because he has remained very popular,” Coronacion said.

Estrada ran for Manila mayor while Arroyo sought a congressional seat in Pampanga after stepping down from the presidency.

Alipao said Duterte is capitalizing on his popularity even if it is not “morally and legally grounded.”

“There is an agenda to keep the power and cover up the cases pushed by the International Criminal Court,” Alipao said, referring to the crimes against humanity complaint filed against the President before the international tribunal.

Last July, Duterte said he would run for vice president to gain immunity from suit, noting that his detractors are planning to file cases against him once he steps down from office. But law experts have noted that the Constitution only extends the privilege to the President.

Rey said Duterte’s contributions to the government would be discredited if he prolongs his stay in power.

“His cultural tendency or his physical disposition is no longer fit for public office, especially national position,” the sociology instructor said.

Right to vote

Rey said Duterte’s decision to join the race for vice president should prod everyone to “wake up from political dormancy.”

Makialam tayo, sayang. Nakikita na natin that we are really abused or bastardized, (Let’s get involved, what a waste. We already see that we are really abused or bastardized),” he said.

University of Santo Tomas Central Student Council president Krizia Bricio said young people who are not happy with the state of the country should educate their family and friends about the importance of voting in the coming polls.

Political Science Forum president Paul Olorga echoed the view, saying exercising one’s right to vote can help address the ills of the present system.

“If we want to change the system then we must become the system,” Olorga said. FJhon Dave Cusipag and Karen Renee Nogoy

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