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Could Duterte’s federal constitution pave way for return of Marcos dynasty?

A veteran journalist and historian has expressed fears that President Duterte’s plan for a federal constitution could see the return of the Marcos dynasty to power. Raissa Robles believes that the new office of prime minister would inevitably be filled by Bongbong Marcos. The Inquirer reports:

Who is the most likely candidate for President Duterte’s Prime Minister and successor under the parliamentary-federal government being hatched by his administration?

It is former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, according to veteran journalist Raissa Robles.

Speaking at a forum at the University of the Philippines School of Economics, Robles, a correspondent for The South China Morning Post and author of the book Marcos Martial Law: Never Again, said the son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was the likely choice of Duterte, a “Marcos loyalist and admirer of the strongman.”

“Who do you think Duterte’s Prime Minister and successor is likely to be? Most probably Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos,” she said on Friday.

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Robles cited a remark made by Marcos during the vice presidential debate in April last year, in which he disclosed something that he said Duterte had told him.

“Mayor Digong said, if the problem of crime is not solved in three to six months, he will give the presidency to Bongbong. He didn’t say he will give it to Senator Alan (Cayetano),” Marcos said. Cayetano was then Duterte’s running mate.

Marcos, who lost to Vice President Leni Robredo but is contesting her electoral victory, was the running mate of the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Robles drew parallels between Duterte’s and Marcos’ brand of leadership, noting how the President seemed keen to undermine the legacy of the 1987 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship.

“Why does the Duterte administration look at Edsa that way? Perhaps because Edsa is all about making abhorrent leaders accountable and booting them out if they abuse their power. Perhaps because President Duterte is a Marcos loyalist, and an admirer of the strongman,” she said.

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It seems the President’s dream is “to bring back various aspects of the Marcos rule,” she added.

Under the planned parliamentary-federal model that was presented recently to Congress leaders, the government would have a “dual executive,” Robles said, quoting University of Santo Tomas assistant professor Edmund Tayao.

This means the President would be directly elected by the people for a five-year term and be able to run for reelection for another five-year term.

“At the same time, there would be a Prime Minister who is a member of Parliament who will serve as head of government. He will be elected by fellow members of Parliament. He will run the day-to-day operations of government,” Robles said.

She said such a setup was a copy of the Marcos-Cesar Virata tandem, “where Marcos was a strong president and Virata was the workhorse Prime Minister who ran the government.”

“Under such a setup, what you will have is a very strong President without checks and balances,” she said.
Under the Duterte administration’s plan, there will be no Vice President, Robles said.

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“Marcos was allergic to Vice Presidents, having quarreled with his Vice President, Fernando Lopez, whom he accused of plotting against him,” she said. “Sounds familiar?”

Report by D J Yapp for The Inquirer