Last week Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte spoke of his personal exasperation and said that if the Vice President was his political ally Bongbong Marcos rather than the Liberal Leni Robredo, he would be happy to resign before the end of his term in 2022. Even at the time, Duterte was cleverly calling the bluff of those engaged in the excruciatingly slow recount of the deeply controversial 2016 Vice Presidential election that Marcos believes was stolen from him due to voting irregularities associated with the Venezuelan owned Smartmatic voting machines. At present rates, it seems as though the re-examination of votes by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) will not be finished for a substantial period of time. Because of this, there is little realistic chance that Leni Roberdo could be removed from office in the near future, thus insuring Duterte’s commitment to serve out a full constitutionally mandated term by the standards he set during his own speech threatening early resignation.
Since his “exasperation” speech, Duterte has come under attack by the usual political suspects. First, terrorist kingpin Jose Sison spread the fake news that Duterte was comatose. Then, Noynoy Aquino, Leni Roberdo and Antonio Trillanes used the occasion of the anniversary of Ninoy Aquino’s death to declare a new salvo in the political war against Duterte and finally, Duterte spoke of his own understanding that the CIA could be on the verge of assassinating him while he also stated that his phone is being tapped, possibly by the US, Indonesia, China, Russia and Israel.
Now, Duterte has stated that contrary to previous suggestions that under certain conditions he would seek to end his Presidential term early, he will instead serve out the full remainder of his term. In explaining his decision, Duterte made reference to a potential illegal coup against his rule stating that he would prefer to be confronted with sedition directly rather than face a proverbial knife to the back. Speaking in his home city of Davao, President Duterte said,
“I’ll be out. If God wills it, it will be in 2022. I was so exasperated, tired. So I said if that’s the situation, why would I sacrifice by being president to serve and I could not even trust anybody. I said it is hard and then I said all those things. I am really tired.
When I said I would resign, it was said after my conference with the generals outside of the room in Malacañang. It was just a sounding board. That was an echo of what I told the soldiers and police during a command conference. I told the generals, if you do not want me and there’s no cooperation, say it now. I am prepared to go down, to step down. I only need somebody to stand up in this room. And if you decide there is someone better, then go ahead.
You just call me and we will have coffee. Do not be like that charlatan Trillanes who was carrying a gun. If you think that I should go, why would you kill your own soldiers? Why would I do that? Why would I waste the lives of my soldiers and police?”
Here Duterte is yet again calling the bluff of would be assassins by raising a commitment not to obfuscate in the face of nor hide from would be lawlessness but to confront it in such a manner that preserves the maximum amount of Philippine lives. Furthermore, it would appear that while Duterte is exasperated with the amount of hard work necessary to execute the reforms he continues to deliver, he nevertheless has been politically reinvigorated by the works of his most outlandish opponents.
Taken in totality, it was always clear that Duterte’s threat to resign was designed more as a wake-up call to future leaders and indeed to future generations whose duty it will be to further the peaceful Duterte revolution long after the current President’s official retirement. Furthermore, it also appears that the more the Liberal opposition and other ill-wishers want Duterte out the more he remains detrmined to finish the task at hand, even while confronting all of the political and the lawless threats to his continually popular Presidency.