All hell has broken loose. On Oct. 10, former President Rodrigo Duterte went on a verbal rampage on television, threatening to kill the Communists in the House of Representatives, particularly the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) party-list’s France Castro, and as if to prove his capability to do so, he bragged about his having France’s companions in Davao City killed, and accused the House of Representatives as corrupt and Speaker Martin Romualdez as “swallowing” pork barrel funds.
Speaking in Pilipino in his television program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa on Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), Mr. Duterte lashed out at Mr. Castro, who led the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives that opposed vigorously the request for confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) of his daughter Sara, Vice-President and concurrently Secretary of Education. “The first target of your intelligence fund is you, France. I want to kill all you communists.” He admitted using the CIFs of Davao City to finance his vicious “war on drugs.” “My intelligence funds, I used it to buy. I had all of them killed. That’s why Davao is like that. Your companions, I really had them killed. That’s the truth,” said he.
He called the House of Representatives the “most rotten institution” in the country. He said, “There is no limit to their pork barrel.” He also implied that Speaker Martin Romualdez is behind the attacks on his daughter. “This Romualdez… has been feeding congressmen with cash, but I say he should be audited because the Speaker is poised to run for president.”
The broadside immediately drew return fire from the main target, Mr. Castro, as well as from the collateral victims, congressmen who were not party to the reallocation of VP Duterte’s CIFs to defense and security agencies. The blast also roused Mr. Duterte’s old enemies — he made many when he was all-powerful — to launch their offensive against him, now defenseless, his arrogant defenders now impotent, many even in the submissive service of the present dispensation, a number of them in the Cabinet.
ACT, the party-list of Mr. Castro, issued this statement: “This statement by Rodrigo Duterte, who has always been a fascist and a murderer, is deplorable and disgusting. It is clear that this is a direct threat to the life of Rep. France Castro and the progressive groups and individuals who insist and fight only for the legitimate call and rights of the people. ACT chairman Vladimer Queta said, ‘Executioners like Rodrigo Duterte must be held accountable for his crimes against the Filipino people and humanity.’”
Nobody in Congress, not even his most bitter critic, dared call him a murderer when Mr. Duterte was president. A private citizen referring to him as executioner, as Mr. Queta did, would have suddenly disappeared from the face of the earth.
The Makabayan bloc filed a joint resolution urging the other members of the House of Representatives to collectively press President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to allow the International Criminal Court to enter the country to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings carried out by the notorious Davao Death Squad when Mr. Duterte was Davao City mayor and subsequently when he was president of the country.
Former Senator Antonio Trillanes, a mortal enemy of the former president, has joined the fray. “We, the Magdalo group, are urging the Marcos administration to allow the ICC investigators into the country in order to make ex-president Rodrigo Duterte accountable for his crimes against humanity,” said the chairman of the political party.
Another former Senator, Richard Gordon, who is still nursing the deep wounds inflicted on him by Mr. Duterte, indicated he is ready to do battle again against his old adversary. On Mr. Duterte’s threat against a congressman, he said, “In law those are grave threats. He can be prosecuted now, he is not the president anymore.” He added, “I am not finished with Pharmally. I have a paper that says all these people have to be properly pursued… The evidence is very very strong. You have to be an ally of the criminals if you do not prosecute them.” He was obviously referring to the people behind the anomalous purchase of overpriced medical supplies by government officials appointed by President Duterte.
Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto was presiding when VP Duterte’s request for CIFs was being deliberated on and subsequently rejected. Mr. Duterte’s taking a pot shot at Speaker Romualdez intrigued many. They speculate he may have done it for Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo, a major contributor to the war chest of Mr. Duterte when he ran for president in 2016.
Ms. Arroyo was unceremoniously ousted from her position of Senior Deputy Speaker in May this year on suspicion that she was plotting to replace Mr. Romualdez as Speaker. Sometime in the middle of September, Ms. Arroyo invited the former president to an “informal” meeting. He came with Senator Christopher “Bong” Go and former executive secretary Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea.
Having been collectively maligned by the former president, Speaker Romualdez and the overwhelming supermajority in the lower chamber of Congress might be more amenable to the call of human rights advocates and of civil society in general to allow the ICC to enter the country to investigate and prosecute the former president for the extrajudicial killings during his vicious war on drugs. They may have also been provoked to re-open the investigation of the malodorous multi-billion-peso Pharmally deal.
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos, Jr. has prudently stayed away from the firefight. But if the former president ramps up his verbal offensive against Speaker Romualdez, whom he sees as his daughter’s rival in the presidential race in 2028, President Bongbong would be drawn to the side of his first cousin.
It would be interesting to know how prominent personages in the Marcos II administration would react if the word war between Mr. Duterte and Mr. Romualdez turns into a family feud — the Romualdez first cousins against the Dutertes, father and daughter. Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla, Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ben Hur Abalos, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año, Presidential Adviser on Peace Calixto Galvez, Jr., and Ambassador to the Court of St. James Teddy Boy Locsin also held high positions in the Duterte administration.
Special Adviser to the President Antonio “Anton” Lagdameo, Jr. is a bosom boyhood friend of the President. His father, “Tonet” now the ambassador to the United Nations, was appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James by then President Duterte. Anton Lagdameo’s mother Linda belongs to the Florendo family of banana fame. The Florendos have been dear family friends of the Dutertes through several generations. I wonder how Anton will react if the family feud escalates into a bitter political war.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. has been a keen observer of Philippine politics since the late 1950s.