#ProtectVPLeni from what, exactly?

Published August 21, 2020, 2:42 PM

by Rj Nieto


RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

The Duterte-in-Singapore rumor is precisely what it is – a rumor. While I am glad that the President is fine, the past week is a wake-up call for all of us.

I cannot anymore deny the reality that having a septuagenarian chief executive, with chronic lung issues, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, is no joke.

Suddenly, the Line of Succession lost all triviality.

As they say, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. I hope the President survives past 2022, but we can never know for sure that he will.

The way things are now, should the presidency become vacant, VP Leni Robredo takes over, a vice president whose mandate is in doubt to this day. I find ironic that many of those who describe Duterte as polarizing – the same Duterte who won 2016 by a landslide – are so excited to install Robredo, who won by still a highly dubious hair’s breadth.

I think two things can happen if Leni becomes president: She stays in power with half of the country (or even more) resenting the fact, or a military junta overruns her administration, and we end up being like Thailand or worse, Myanmar. And I bet that the latter is more likely.

Robredo has openly and internationally accused the police and the military of complicity with what she believes to be thousands of extrajudicial killings in the country. Despite this, she has remained mostly silent, if not totally silent, as regards the New People’s Army whose business regularly includes the same thing Robredo accuses overworked and underpaid soldiers of.

Imagine how much soldiers and policemen would hate the idea of having someone who internationally embarrasses them as their commander-in-chief.

The credibility of the Executive Department will be in tatters, be it a Robredo presidency or a military junta. Being that the Executive is the poster boy of the Philippine government as a whole, I surmise that the public’s trust on the entire government will sink into historic lows.

And nobody wants a government they don’t trust.

Both these succession scenarios put the Executive Department in a tough position to regain public trust. With this said, the other two branches – the Legislature and the Judiciary – should take up the cudgels.

The Legislature, for example, can finally pass Senate President Tito Sotto’s Hybrid Election Act. This way, the public will have some reason to trust elections, which are their only real opportunity to directly participate in governance.

The core of democracy is popular representation, so that convincing disenfranchised Filipinos that they indeed are represented is a Herculean task.

Meanwhile, in the not-so-unlikely event that a military junta takes over, legislators and judges might as well bid their jobs goodbye. Every political observer worth his salt will admit that our young democracy still suffers from weak institutions, weak institutions that a military dictatorship won’t find it difficult to conquer. Have we learned nothing from Burma?

The Supreme Court, meanwhile, can finally resolve the much-delayed electoral protest case of Bongbong Marcos. I do not care who wins for as long as the High Court can come up with a logically sound decision hinged on credible evidence, a decision that the public will be willing to accept, even if some will do so begrudgingly.

If the Presidential Electoral Tribunal resolves this case, we can at least hope that the public will have some hope for this allegedly democracy. If it doesn’t, the millions of Filipinos may view Judiciary as complicit to Robredo’s suspicious rise in power.

I find it odd that #ProtectVPLeni trended a few days ago. Leni should be protected from what, exactly?

Should Leni be protected from the resolution of the electoral protest case, despite the right to a speedy trial’s ensconcement in the constitution? Should she be protected from her own speeches that alienated the Armed Forces, whose support she needs to gain and maintain power?

Leni has been mum about this #ProtectVPLeni campaign. Does she fear an adverse Supreme Court decision, despite her supposed certitude of the legitimacy of her 2016 victory? Has she have no faith in the Judiciary and if so, why should the Judiciary expose themselves to risk of replaying 2012?

2020 is bad enough, and I bet none of the Supreme Court will want to relive it. But are they okay with reliving 2012?

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