LOOKED LIKE Sen. Tito Sotto panicked upon learning that President Duterte was, to put it kindly, unhappy. Or upset about the prospect of the Senate inviting the head of the Presidential Security Group to a Senate hearing. Or outright angry that his guards will be on the dock to shed light on the not-so-mysterious vaccine surreptitiously used for the Palace zealots.
Looked that way because he invoked the highest power, the Heaven, that he be somewhat spared of the brewing wrath of a political dragon spewing fire by the Pasig River.
When one panics, one often times does the wrong thing or asks the wrong question. Who, in Heaven’s name, he cried, gave Nebuchannezar the false information? Of course, he knew whereof he asked the question: Malacanang traffics in that, as did pagan kings in ancient times. For lack of a vision, a modern sage once said, sowing confusion by disinformation or misinformation is a convenient route, lure or vice. Coach Yeng Guiao, when he was still Pampanga’s vice governor, blurted out that the road to hell is paved with good intention.
For someone who heads a co-equal branch of government, the legislative, the right question should have been: Why should anyone, especially the President, take it with vehement, if not violent, objection, our uncompromising adherence to our constitutional obligation to ferret out the truth in governance?
If he did that, Sotto would have quickly discerned what’s happening as the new year unfolds: the President is getting bolder and bolder while other democratic institutions, like Sotto’s Senate, are getting weaker and weaker. Obviously, Sotto felt the threat behind the warning. Like Daniel had a foreboding of an incinerating oven. Someone must have peed in his pants, the way one boxer felt when he met his match on the ring.
To Duterte’s credit, or discredit, it’s not only Sotto. There were others before him. There was the Ombudsman who banned the release of government officials SALN, including that of Duterte, naturally, on the pretext the document is being weaponized. There was Health Secretary Francisco Duque who swore ignorance about the vaccine used for the PSG. There is this palpable sense of fear, favor or fealty to a person more than to time-honored principle in the other branches, supreme at not so, of government. And lately, there was the chief of staff who immediately cancelled the scheduled investigation of the PSG. Prudence is the better part of valor.
I surmise there are people in the current administration who must have watched “The Incredible Hulk” countless times in their younger days, and the spiel sticks. Don’t make me angry, the green monster would say both as a warning and a threat, you wouldn’t like me when I get angry. In times of fear and danger, experts usually point to two natural instincts: fight or flee. There’s a third: follow as told, or else.
So, Sotto and company’s reaction is understandable. But there are still, thank you, a few brave men in the Senate.
Not everybody in the Senate is impressed by Duterte’s default posture. At least, there are three of them in the order of bravery: 1) Senator Drillon who said there was really no need for the President to overwork himself with a not-so-top secret. The Senate committee can extract it from other sources. 2) Senator Pangilinan who reminded all and sundry that there is nothing to fear if there is nothing to hide. 3) Senator Gordon who basically lectured Duterte that he should keep his hands off the Senate mandate, which is to ensure accountability in government, among others, Duterte included.
It’s a good thing that, at the same time that the President was frothing in the mouth, it turned out that no less than 100,000 Chinese workers in gambling joints were already inoculated. Given that number, the Chinese must be hiding their jabbing activities in plain sight.
Undersecretary Eric Domingo must be having sleepless nights in light of his patron’s warning or threat. He either must stand firm on his earlier statement that there’s no authorized vaccine yet in the country and, therefore, what the PSG used was illegal, and risk losing his job, or be a little more pliant and accommodating considering the gathering storm, and be called a hero.
If he eventually clams up under pressure, notunexpected; it’s the zeitgeist in officialdom.
Rufo Colayco, the former president of the Clark Development Corp, who understood former President Joseph Estrada when the latter winked, used to say that when the President’s men are good, the President looks good, too. Good at what, Colayco didn’t elaborate. Apparently, Erap’s men were not up to par. That explains his untimely ejection from the Palace.
Are Duterte’s men good? Maybe they are because he’s still very much in control as his days in office wane. In fact, he seems to tighten his grip on power even more as the finish line approaches.
John Stuart Mills thought that an executive in government, especially the President, is a mere politician. If he is good and with merit, it will be good for the country. If a bad one, the country will have problems one way or the other.
That’s why he suggested that the President must be surrounded by professionals with skills and expertise to help him, for the good of the country they lead and serve. History — ours, for one — has disproved Mills’ theory. The late, unlamented strongman Ferdinand Marcos had the best and brightest of Filipinos of his time. The rest of the narrative was tragic if not a farce.
And here we are, pundits acknowledging Duterte has a Teflon-like image. Even when he is angry. Our pastor pleads Filipinos need to pray more.