Santa Banana, the small fire lit by President Duterte when he issued a proclamation revoking the amnesty granted to Senator Antonio Trillanes by former President Benigno Aquino III is fast becoming a conflagration!
The President obviously did not realize that when he issued that proclamation and ordered both the military and police to arrest Trillanes, it would mean a bigger challenge to the administration.
For his part, Trillanes has shown documents and footage of the amnesty when he applied for it. He said he had fulfilled its terms.
As he admitted, President Duterte relied too much on the alleged research of Solicitor General Jose Calida, which showed that the amnesty was null and void from the start.
The President has so much faith in Calida. He thinks he is bright. Calida succeeded in occasioning the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through quo warranto proceedings.
But now Mr. Duterte may discover that Calida is not so smart, after all. The research was sloppy. It was rushed when Trillanes started investigating Calida for alleged conflict of interest given that his security agency has contracts with various government agencies.
Calida did a sloppy job because the amnesty given by Aquino to Trillanes was through the recommendation of the Defense Department and the help of then-Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. He failed to show proof that Trillanes was not honorably discharged from the military.
President Duterte claims that he has the right to revoke that amnesty. But can he just issue a proclamation to do this since the grant of amnesty was done with the concurrence? It is but logical that a revocation should also have the concurrence of Congress.
We go back to the question—why was the amnesty revoked in the first place? It is clear that Trillanes was being a great pain on the Duterte family with his incessant attacks. Is this a way of silencing him?
In doing this, however, President Duterte made clear that he is ready to stop dissent.
I have no love lost for Trillanes. He is arrogant and abrasive. He makes a lot of noise against the President. I wish there would be more outspoken critics in the opposition.
Sadly, I do not see signs of a strong, viable opposition leader. There are no signs of discontent even among the military, and not even with problems in gut issues like rice. At least, not yet.
However, Malacañang should not belittle the adverse effects of inflation and looming food crisis. These could just be the tipping point.
I cannot believe what the President says, that there is an ouster plot against him. How can this happen when his trust ratings remain high?
But if Malacañang cannot rein in inflation, the poor will get even hungrier. And when hunger strikes, anything can happen.
As this column went to press, the Supreme Court had not yet decided on the temporary restraining order sought by Trillanes to stop Duterte from revoking his amnesty.
My sources at the Supreme Court, however, say that instead of just approving the TRO petition, the court en banc may just require him and the government, as respondent, to comment on the issue.
With all the other problems the nation is facing, however, who knows what the President will do?
These are indeed interesting—and dangerous times—for the Philippines!
President Duterte should not blame US President for the country’s high inflation rate. Inflation is within the control of those who need to use their coconuts.
I could be wrong, but somehow with all these happening, history seems to be repeating itself.
In fact, I believe Duterte is facing more problems than President Ferdinand Marcos did when he proclaimed martial law in September 1972.
Marcos was then fighting on three fronts—the communist movement, separatism in Mindanao and civil society marching on the streets demanding his ouster.
President Duterte, meanwhile, has the following: Communism, separatism terrorism and economic problems like inflation and the looming rice crisis.
All these, plus the war on drugs, corruption, and the climate of impunity could compel the President to declare martial law or a revolutionary government.
If this happens, Duterte will be riding a tiger from which he can never get off. If he does, the tiger will devour him.