Stormy September

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

I am writing this as we are getting serious warnings about Typhoon Mangkhut {our Ompong} and as the Eastern Seaboard of the United States brave for their own powerful hurricane. Our rains are not yet that alarming in Metro Manila but several provinces from Bicol and northeastern Luzon are already experiencing worse weather. Shifts in weather pattern are giving us extended rainy months when it’s a wet year and extended hot months when it’s dry. In truth, I don’t understand the technicality of what is called global warming so I refrain from making opinions about it.
But climate change is real. Seven decades in this country has made me experience a steady warming from my boyhood days to senior citizenship today. Plus typhoons becoming more deadly.

August was one stormy month, too. I had hoped that things would be better after that but September is proving me wrong. Storms are not just a wind and rain, not the ones in August and not the ones this month. Our storms can be quite political and economic, too, as they are.

Shortage in rice supply plus steep price increases lead the attack against consumers, especially the middle class and the poor. And almost from nowhere, a presidential proclamation voids an amnesty granted to erstwhile rebel and current senator, Antonio Trillanes. With the proclamation was a presidential order for the arrest of Senator Trillanes, all these happening when the President was on an official trip abroad. Since then, a legal and political storm rages.

At first, I dismissed the presidential proclamation as a joke, maybe a bad one, but a joke just the same. After all, Sen. Trillanes has been in Duterte’s hair since the presidential campaign and has not let up since then. I thought that the President wanted to give the sensor a dose of his own medicine. I thought the intent was to cause some amount of panic but that the issue will self – correct once the necessary documents of a valid amnesty rerouting surface. Of course, without the arrest order, there would be no panic. I was enjoying the ruckus even among my friends and classmates, some of whom are lawyers. I felt sorry for the AFP, though, because they seemed as confused as the targeted senator.

When I read the news in tri-media, I understand how the sources are trying to say in as few words or minutes what they want to report on. This includes netizens and their blogs. In other words, either for brevity or for catchy titles, a comprehensive story has to be compressed in order to hold the fattening of the audience. If any source is partisan, all the more the titles or headlines would be sensationalized. I looked forward then to watching the President in a live, one-on-one live interview. With many concerns affecting the country, I was hoping he would assure Filipinos not to worry about the rising inflation, spiraling food prices, the deteriorating peso exchange rate because the government was in control.

There were many topics mentioned, but I wondered why he spent a lot of time and focus on Trillanes. And instead of showing how the government was addressing an economy that needed boosting just as people’s optimism, the President could not defocus on Trillanes. Additionally, he was talking about a plot against him, even daring disgruntled military people to support his unidentified enemies if they wanted to. He could not have just meant Trillanes because so what if Trillanes was plotting against him.

The President has always enjoyed very positive ratings in popularity trust and approval from the beginning of his terms. Yes, there have been some dips but truly insignificant in the whole scheme of things. It is not only Duterte’s high ratings indicative of a good rapport with the vast majorly of Filipinos but the low ratings of opposition groups and personalities. In other words, the President is in a most enviable position politically – strong support, weak opposition. The AFP and PNP have shown only to be loyal and dutiful as institutions to their highest officer. With a friendly Trump as president of the United States, with improved relations with China and Russia, what threats are serious enough?

Trillanes is not a serious threat. The Liberal Party is not a serious threat. Vice – President Robredo is not a serious threat. The Left is a threat, as is terrorism, but they are not threats to the presidency. Inflation and unstable rice prices are threats but not to the presidency. What, then, are real threats to President Duterte?

Can it be a real plot to eliminate him physically? By whom? By an America governed by President Trump who likes President Duterte? I watched a simple lady who faced daily for at least four years coups and attempted coups yet did not break. And with the rebels were rumors, all of which will be denied anyway, that factions of the CIA were involved. At that time, the military was sadly divided between reformists, loyalists, and opportunists. The AFP today is led by good professional officers – unless their commander-in-chief believes they are already compromised.

I fear only two things for the President that he himself should also fear. The first is the threat of a character weakness, whatever that is, that can blur his clarity and drive him to arrogance. That is the Achilles heel of any person in power. I hope he watches out for that. The second is an illness that threatens imminent death. In arrogance or in this kind of illness, without accepting and preparing for a constitutional succession plan, then Trillanes counts. the Liberal Party counts, the Vice-President Leni Robredo counts, and the military counts. Both these deadly threats, however, are internal to the person. It is the President himself, and only him, that can ease those fears.

Of course, more importantly, we can all face and overcome what threatens us as citizens. This stormy September is not over, and we still have to build the future of our dreams.

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