On the virtual eve of Halloween almost everyone has themed their activities and businesses with witches, ghouls, vampires and everything scary. Never mind that most lie in the realm of myth, magic and the supernatural. We remember that in every Scooby Doo episode the ghost always turns out to be some living person simply out to scare everyone.
For scary stories, nothing can be as terrifying as politics. Viewing the constant reminders of Rodrigo R. Duterte’s mortality, the questions of his health arrayed against the rigors of a challenging presidency and the constant ill-will heaped upon him by the opposition who stand to gain should he, heaven forbid, suddenly kick the bucket, somewhere in that story lurks a scary movie.
The primary beneficiary is Leonor Robredo. Despite gaining votes from a dubious declaration that shading in the ballots examined in three pilot areas subjected to a recount be accepted at 25 percent rather than the original 50 percent, her tenuous grip on the vice presidency remains speculative. Robredo remains as vice president under the most controversial circumstances unsettled by superficial revisions.
Should the President keel over then the shady questions surrounding Robredo’s grip turns critical, virtually turning her accession to the presidency into a power grab given deep suspicions on her legitimacy.
While the President has been extremely open and transparent about his health and any condition he might be afflicted with, where these impact on his governance and the delivery of promises we rely will be within his term, these concerns do not seem to be grave enough to raise scares and fears that Robredo might suddenly be called to the presidential batting plate.
On that, recent developments in the ongoing protest at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal have suddenly come front and center.
Allow us to analyze the fears raised by the opposition should Robredo lose the protest filed against her. These fears are based on two premises both of which are legitimized more in the realm of imagination rather than reality.
One is that the accession to the vice presidency of Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. would bring him a mere heartbeat from Duterte and, should the worst happen, this might eventually resurrect the terrifying dictatorship his father had inflicted on the country.
The other fear is that the foregoing would lead to the legitimization and cleansing of the Marcos dictatorship as Ferdinand Jr. has technically not owned up to the crimes committed by his father and thus remains in-contrite, unaccepting and unapologetic.
While both fears are speculative, they are understandable. Let us however view the dilemma from the other end where Robredo wins the protest, and again, heaven forbid, she eventually clambers up and sits as Philippine president. Now there’s a scary and frightening thought if ever there was one.
Let’s detail from where those fears of a Robredo presidency emanate.
The most obvious would be a return to narco-politics at the highest levels. Almost certainly, an accused drug trafficker and partymate vital to fattening political coffers would be freed and recirculated. As had been the default under a Liberal Party president, vital transportation contracts and an upheaval in local governments would take place worsened by a freeze in job-creating infrastructure initiatives.
Less conspicuous would be negative impacts on democracy.
Do the arithmetic. An eventual Robredo presidency delegitimizes the validity of suffrage as a democratic instrument to choose leaders. When Duterte won in 2016, he won 39.01 percent of the votes cast. He has then increased his effective mandate to over 80 percent.
Robredo won 35.11 percent compared to Marcos’s 34.47 percent. Since there were as much as 8.7 percent invalid votes in 2016, factor those in and Robredo’s lead vanishes while Duterte’s win, ceteris paribus, remains intact. In other words, Robredo never had a mandate enough for the presidency. Note that no exit poll counted her as a winner. Robredo’s accession to the presidency would thus be a gross assault on the electorate’s will.