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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, September 12, 2018
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with Matè Espina

Losing grip on his soldiers

Rock & Refuge

The much-awaited live address of President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday where he was expected to address major issues, particularly about the worsening economy, became a blame game…all of which points to his number one critic, Sen. Sonny Trillanes.

Palace called the interview a tete-a-tete, with Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, who had to divert the issues numerous times as everything the president answered, goes back to his clear abhorrence of Trillanes.

The president started off defending his revocation of the amnesty granted to Trillanes by the Aquino administration, citing the technicality that it was former Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin who signed and not the head of state which made it null and void.

There was no mention, though, whether the same goes to the other Magdalo mutineers, some of them already active in his administration, as to whether those should be revoked as well, especially in the light of the denial by the Supreme Court of the temporary restraining order filed by Trillanes.

Panelo had to deflect the president countless of times especially when he treaded on dangerous grounds, implying that there is truth to the rumors that there is trouble brewing in the military and the next few days or weeks may turn dangerous.

Talks have been rife that there are members of the Armed Forces who are exasperated with how the country is being run, and yesterday, without directly admitting so, the president challenged the military to join Trillanes, daring them to overthrow or even kill him.

Many times during the interview, Panelo clearly had to save the President from rambling, clarifying his answers and veering away from the suggestion that Duterte is not enjoying the support of the military.

Several times, the President challenged the military to move against his administration “if you think I am not competent,” citing that he has evidence to show that something is really brewing.

He also alluded to a collusion between the communist party and Trillanes, including the Liberals, saying he has taped conversations between the parties mentioned which was provided to him by a sympathetic foreign country.

Duterte said he will ask the court to declassify these intelligence reports so the country will know who are plotting against him.

Though Panelo tried to bring out all contentious issues including the president’s alleged poor health, Duterte did not answer, warranting the lawyer to tell him that clearly there is no need to discuss such since everybody can see he is in good condition.

But while his real physical condition can be hidden from plain view, there is no hiding the fact that the President’s mind is elsewhere….rambling too often….and cannot seem to let go of his plain hatred for Trillanes.

Everything about that interview was clear, there is no solution to the country’s problems unless Trillanes is taken out of the way. What else can we conclude? When he was asked about the rising cost of prices, Duterte answered that the major culprit is our lack of oil resources then went back to the Senator’s issue again, even blaming Trillanes as the cause why our country lost the Scarborough Shoal.

When asked what he has done for the military, he pointed out the firearms he supplied them, doubling their salary “but if you think Trillanes is better, stage whatever you want, go to him.”

Those were dangerous words uttered by the President. He just showed the whole nation, he has no control of his military and with the economy already in doldrums, those pronouncements may further shatter our present state.

The president did not also acknowledge the rice shortage in the country, saying the shortage is artificial and a result of manmade manipulation and leaving him with no choice but – not finishing his sentence anyway, as he had numerous times during the entire interview.

Next to Trillanes, the President blamed God for not giving us oil reserves which is the reason why other neighboring countries are far more advance than us. “God gave oil to others but not to us.”

Duterte also announced one probably solution to get out of this problem is to declare a free for all importation of goods, something that the sugar industry has been fearing about especially since it is just starting to get back on its feet from the situation it was in the last two years.

And probably worse is that he will appoint only one person who will implement what the economic managers will say to get us out of this situation.

Duterte said plenty, among which is how he will circumvent the law to allow a third party to enter the telecommunication industry and how members of the law enforcement who are linked to drugs have ended up dead without naming names.

If Malacanang thought the one-on-one with Duterte would show the nation that we have a sound president leading this country, it failed miserably. All it portrayed was a president who has no grasp of pressing issues, who would use illegal means to get his way, and where the country’s issues are of less importance than his hatred for Trillanes…..and, yes, the military.

These are dangerous times and pray we must that nothing of the kind will happen.*

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