By Artchil B. Fernandez
New Year brought the conflict between Team Agila and Team Tigre to a new level of intensity. The clash between erstwhile allies has leveled-up which will make political life in the country more fun and exciting in the next five years.
Last January 28, 2024, both sides held competing rallies in a showdown leading to tense, sharp, and bitter verbal exchange. The Dutertes held a multi-sectoral prayer rally in Davao City entitled “One Nation, One Opposition” as counter to the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally in Manila of the present administration. There, they vented their anger and frustration at the present administration especially with Bongbong Marcos (BBM). The elder Duterte led the charge.
“Bongbong, he’s high. That’s why I’m telling you. Bongbong Marcos was high back then. Now that he’s the president, he’s still high. You in the military, especially those in Malacañang, you know it. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, you know it. We have a drug addict for a president! That son of a whore!” Du30 thundered in a foul-mouthed tirade, his acerbic trademark.
“PDEA showed me evidence back when I was a mayor. You are on their list, but I didn’t say anything because we are friends, if not acquaintances. But this is a wrong move on your part, Mr. President; I am afraid you will follow in your father’s footsteps. I don’t want that to happen to you,” Du30 menacingly declared.
The attack is not only political but deeply personal to BBM. Du30 drove a stake in the heart of his moral and political standing. If the accusation sticks, it undermines his moral standing before the public and carries a heavy political cost. BBM cannot simply ignore the allegations of his predecessor. Despite his allergy to direct confrontation and open clash, BBM has to respond. He fired back the following day.
BBM claimed Du30’s tirade is a product of a fentanyl-soaked brain. “[Former president Duterte] has been taking the drug for a very long time now. When was the last time he told us he was taking fentanyl? Five or six years ago? After five or six years, it has to affect him. Kaya palagay ko nagkakaganyan (Maybe that’s why he is behaving that way). I hope his doctors take better care of him than this – hindi pinababayaan itong mga nagiging problema (and not allow these problems to go unattended),” he added.
Among the issues hurled at BBM during the 2022 election was cocaine addiction with no less than Du30 insinuating. Fentanyl on the other hand is a highly-addictive drug and Du30’s addiction is implied by BBM’s response to Du30’s attacks. Thus breaks out the “cocaine-fentanyl war” heightening the tension between House Duterte and House Marcos. The conflict between them has gone beyond politics and is now personal.
In a counter-rally in their turf, the Dutertes declared themselves as the “opposition” and their attack is very personal. Du30 and his sons spoke vile against the present administration with BBM as the prime object. Davao City Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte dared BBM to resign.
“Mr. President, if you do not have love or have no aspirations for your country, resign,” baste Duterte dared. “You are lazy and you lack compassion… All of these things that he is causing in oppressing the people. So there, he is putting politics first, their self-preservation of their political lives. They are not doing their jobs first,” he added.
Baste Duterte even left a threatening and ominous message to BBM. “Just a simple message sa ating Pangulo: From now on, before you go to bed, think of the Romanovs. Think of Benito Mussolini and his wife. And think of what happened to you in 1986 and maybe you’ll reconsider the direction that you are taking.”
These are strong words, laced with political and personal venom. It appears the rift between Team Agila and Team Tigre has reached a point of no return.
The counter-rally of the Dutertes to the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally of the Marcoses is a perfect counterfoil. BBM re-launched a movement which is basically a rehash of Marcos senior’s “Bagong Lipunan” movement, the backbone of the dictator’s martial law regime. Government employees were “encouraged” to attend and millions of government fund were spent for the activity. BBM hoped the launching will draw national attention to his manufactured “mass-movement.”
BBM’s “Bagong Pilipinas” launching was severely torpedoed by the “One Nation, One Opposition” counter-rally of the Dutertes. Du30 and his sons’ (Paolo and Baste) harangues dominated national headlines, both in the traditional and digital media. The accusation of the elder Duterte that BBM is a drug addict and the youngest son’s call for him to resign dominated the national conversation overshadowing the “Bagong Pilipinas” rally. The re-launching of Marcos movement hardly merited national attention.
In this skirmish, Team Agila had the upper hand, landing a lethal punch on Team Tigre. “Bagong Pilipinas” was reduced to an insignificant footnote to the news of the day while the accusations and issues raised by the Dutertes hooked the nation’s attention.
Currently the Dutertes are on the offensive while Team Tigre is on the defensive. Putting themselves at the forefront of opposition to the charter change move of BBM, Team Agila is on attack mode making it hard for the administration to push its constitutional amendment project. The Dutertes are seizing the initiative and are given the opportunity to recover from the confidential fund fiasco of Sara Duterte. BBM miscalculated with his charter change drive for it provided Team Agila a chance to turn the tables on him.
As the 2025 election nears, the “cocaine-fentanyl war” is bound to intensify. It seems the nation has entered the exciting part of the Duterte-Marcos “squid game.”