Notes on Duterte’s Alleged Health Decline

With around 600 days left before his term ends, is President Duterte still fit to lead the country?

Duterte with Bong Go
President Rodrigo Duterte visits Barangay in Guinobatan, Albay that was engulfed by Lahar from Mayon Volcano during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly. | Courtesy: Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

What captures the attention of the public are the simultaneous incidents of President Rodrigo Duterte’s inability to appear regularly, much less perform the primary functions of the head of the Executive Department.

His frequent Davao escapades are also raising concern. And what pretty much summarizes the public anxiety is how Duterte appears in most pictures along with erstwhile Special Assistant to the President and now Senator Bong Go.

Therefore the question has to be asked: Is the president still fit to lead the country, or have we finally reached a point in time wherein the origins of the actual context of the Duterte decision-making body is demystified? Exploring this question in further depth may most probably bring unsettling realities we need to be prepared for in the future.

Let us talk about consequences. Worst-case scenario, Duterte might fall ultimately in the hands of death due to old age or an illness in which the public was not made aware of. Duterte does look so frail and fragile and sickly and weak. In fact, he is starting to get a reputation (although not the best description) as “The Weak Strongman” in an article published in The Diplomat last September 21. The same article written by Mong Palatino also hints on recent social media activity wherein Duterte would frequent international flights to Hong Kong and Singapore, specifically for cancer treatments.

What if Duterte was to die of an unpublicized illness?

The fact that Malacañang Palace is capable of keeping Duterte’s medical records from public perusal proves just how well they can hide Duterte’s well-being. His death will be bad news for them. What may trigger this fear is the SOP in case a president dies of a certain cause: of course, the Vice President would take over.

President Rodrigo Duterte visits Barangay in Guinobatan, Albay that was engulfed by Lahar from Mayon Volcano during the onslaught of Super Typhoon Rolly. | Courtesy: Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr.

A leadership transition would damage the momentum of their Duterte-style operations and would lead to an inevitable conduct of comprehensive investigations in the line of armed personnel, Duterte-allied politicians and authorities, their Chinese ties, and others. A leadership transition would also mean a possible end to all if not many of Duterte’s proclaimed “legacies” which might end up hurting a certain party identity.

Therefore, a leadership transition is not something that the current administration would probably allow, even if Duterte is already in his deathbed.

Here are my assumptions:

  1. Malacañang entities will make all efforts to hide Duterte’s carcass, even the burial per se. All they have to do is keep announcing that the president is alive and well (despite not being so). It is very easy to pre-record videos and pre-shoot photos of the president in his waking life. In fact, the only basis we have as proof of Duterte’s attendance and well-being are photos. It is also very much likely that they will pre-record video conferences together with the president. After all, this administration is renowned for posting pre-recorded addresses to the nation guided by a script. It is very easy to manipulate the theatrics of this display.
  2. Having control over certain parts of the media, facts regarding Duterte’s welfare will be manipulated. Given the rampant influence of Duterte-bloggers and vloggers, online trolls, “fake news” sources, YouTube videos, and others, controlling information is very easy in order to reduce the political man into apathy out of sheer confusion.
  3. In case of a public revelation, there will be a great debate over following the constitutional mandates or simply pushing for an amendment. Doing the latter would most probably lead to a reelection. This is where the divide of the previously slumbering political giants like the Marcoses and Vice President Leni Robredo would be magnified even further, eventually rendering the Duterte party rivaled. Depending on the political climate, the armed forces will most probably hesitate in remaining loyal to the “Duterte brand,” and will be compelled to change loyalties (if not, be divided). In this case, China will also intervene. Based on the quality of China’s under-the-table negotiations and benefits they received under the Duterte administration, they cannot afford the Dutertes to lose (essentially compelling Sara Duterte to run for president). Imperialist powers will most probably be involved here, as well. The most cunning we have yet to feel the pressure of are Russia and the United States.

Ultimately, these possible narratives force us to worry and consider the fact that the Duterte party will not give the sickly president an honorable death. And in order to protect themselves from what is to come, part of their plans might be to leverage over the Duterte legacy, exerting all efforts to take advantage of a political influence that grows weaker over time. At the end of it, members of the Duterte party will eat each other alive, and it will be a battle of who remains in power, who possesses the best skill for deceiving the opposition, and who possesses the best skill to negotiate and form allies.

If anything, what we have to recognize is that the presidency is not represented by a single iron-fist deity anymore: we are now being presented with spokespersons, Cabinet secretaries, heads of the armed forces, and others who are loyal to the Duterte cause and its benefits.

As far as I’m concerned, this is turning out to be a battle of who gets to succeed over the other.

About the Author

John Thimoty Romero is a licensed professional teacher, a graduate of Philippine Normal University – Manila last 2017 as Bachelor of Secondary Education – Major in English. Upon his graduation, he received the Gawad Graciano Lopez – Jaena Co-Curricular Award for Campus Journalism.

He is the founder of Essays Against Mediocrity, a website dedicated to support independent authors, poets, and other content creators.

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