The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, August 24, 2021 | Photo: EFE / EPA / KARL ALONZO / DOCUMENT

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is going to do one more, apparently. Claiming to make “a sacrifice” and respond to “the clamor of the people,” Duterte has agreed to be the running mate of the Philippine Democratic Party (PDP) in next year’s election. In doing so, he is repeating an old ploy that allows populists and worshipers of the personality cult to stay in power.

Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines with 39.01% of the vote in 2016. No run-off is planned, which in Latin America has already proven to be a problem, when presidents who won without a majority have seen their legitimacy challenged. . These are the cases of Juscelino Kubitschek, in Brazil, and the consequent Movement of November 11, 1955, and Salvador Allende, in Chile.

The six-year term does not allow for re-election under the 1987 Philippine constitution. In other words, it is highly likely that the “sacrifice” of running for office is just a maneuver to stay in power. There are two main reasons for this. First, power itself, even more so in the case of someone with a centralizing profile like Rodrigo Duterte.

Second, maintain a privileged forum against criminal charges because of its “anti-drug” policy. A euphemism for the indiscriminate murder of thousands, including gang conflicts and police feuds. For every dangerous drug trafficker neutralized, several innocent people were also killed. The International Criminal Court has already declared the possibility of opening an investigation against Duterte, via the attorney general at the time, Fatou Bensouda.

And this possibility is not a speculation, or an accusation, by the column, but something aired by Duterte himself. It is therefore not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Duterte, elected vice-president, effectively wields power as a gray eminence. Or that the elected president is doing the “favor” of resigning from office, immediately activating the line of succession. In this case, Duterte.

Eminence brown

Perhaps come to think of it, the likely candidate for the PDP president will be Christopher “Bong” Go. Senator since 2019, he has been Duterte’s personal assistant and right-hand man since the late 1990s, when the current president was mayor of Davao. Without a doubt, he is someone who relies on Duterte’s trust and closeness. At the very least, they would be a tight-knit duo.

Given the time of the mayor of Duterte, this maneuver would not be unprecedented. Duterte was mayor from 2001 to 2010, when he could not be re-elected. He was appointed deputy mayor, the ticket holder being Sara Duterte, his daughter. He resumed his duties after a mandate as deputy mayor. Sara is the current mayor of Davao and previously had her brother Paolo Duterte as deputy. She was also considered a presidential candidate.

Duterte would not be the first chief executive in history to use a similar maneuver to stay in power, or at least close to power. Perhaps the best-known case today is that of Vladimir Putin, Russian president between 1999 and 2008. Unable to be re-elected, he was prime minister in Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency between 2008 and 2012, when Putin returned. as president.

Duterte’s plan, however, runs into two problems. The first is also linked to the history of Brazil. In the Philippines, as in Brazil, the president and vice-president are elected separately. In 1950, Getúlio Vargas, of the PTB, was elected president, with Café Filho, of the PSP, elected vice-president. In 1955, Juscelino Kubitschek, of the PSD, had João Goulart, of the PTB, as vice-president. The same Goulart was elected vice-president of Jânio Quadros, of the PTN, in 1960.

The fact that a conservative president had a Labor vice president was one of the factors in the series of political crises in Brazil in the early 1960s, which culminated in the coup d’état of 1964. In addition to a possible political crisis, it should be noted that, perhaps Duterte can be elected vice-president, but without ally in the titular presidency. This will give you the immunity you want, but it does not necessarily imply your presidential authority.

Manny Pacquiao

The second problem is that Duterte may have a serious contender in the election. Yes, the president is quite popular and would likely be elected, as is a presidential candidate who has his blessing. It is the senator, since 2016, Manny Pacquiao. Of course, “senator” is an asterisk in the biography of one of the greatest boxers in history.

Twelve-time world champion in four different weight classes, Pacquiao is perhaps the most recognizable face of the Philippines. With a long career, he spanned several generations. It is a sum of Romário, Ronaldinho and Neymar, in Brazilian terms. And he has already signaled that he could run for president. Including, by the PDP, the same party as Rodrigo Duterte, which is going through an internal split.

Officially, the party chairman is Alfonso Cusi, with Duterte as secretary general. Cusi is an ally of the current president. Manny Pacquiao, however, claims to be the legitimate chairman of the party, which was removed from office after an internal “coup” organized by Duterte. Since the split between the two, Pacquiao has accused Duterte and his government of corruption and condescension towards China.

It would be a tremendous irony to see Pacquiao elected president and Duterte elected vice president. The result would probably be some agreement between the two, in a realistic universe. This is certainly not the current president’s dream scenario. Until then, however, let’s just hope the Philippines learns from Brazil’s past and mends those electoral structures that are fertile ground for political crises.