Retribution

By Artchil B. Fernandez

If there is one thing Du30 feared the most when he left the presidency, it was retribution. He committed horrific acts while in office and feared being held accountable for his high transgressions.

Nothing scared Du30 more than the possibility of Leni Robredo and her supporters, known as the “pinklawans,” winning the 2022 election. Du30 used his vast power to crush the pink movement, expending significant energy demonizing and vilifying it. He knew an investigation into the shenanigans under his rule, especially his brutal, bloody, and gory war against illegal drugs, would be a top priority of a Robredo administration. A pinklawan win was Du30’s biggest nightmare.

Despite his misgivings and disapproval, Du30 reluctantly accepted the reality of the alliance between his daughter and the Marcoses, forged and backed by other powerful political dynasties. Du30 tacitly recognized the UniTeam and grudgingly allowed it to campaign without interference, although he made unsavory remarks about Bongbong Marcos (BBM) prior to the withdrawal from the presidential race of his protégé, Bong Go.

The electoral win of UniTeam gave Du30 a sense of security before leaving office. His daughter is now vice president, and his family is a major partner in the UniTeam, essentially its other half. The fear of retribution receded into the background, and Du30 breathed a huge sigh of relief with the defeat of the pink movement in the polls. He thought he was safe and secure.

However, political reality is complex, and the future is always uncertain, despite the predictions of pundits and experts. Fact is often stranger than fiction.

A little over a year since the victory of UniTeam, the alliance began to unravel. Although the breakup of UniTeam was expected, most political observers and experts believed it would occur toward the end of BBM’s presidency. That it happened so quickly and unexpectedly took pundits and the public by surprise.

As the mid-term election approached, the conflict between House Duterte and House Marcos broke into the open. The Dutertes publicly waged a war in the cyber world through digital mercenaries, directly attacking BBM and highlighting his alleged use of illegal drugs. House Marcos, through First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, publicly expressed their conflict with the Dutertes by singling out Vice President Sara Duterte with acidic and acerbic remarks.

The retribution that Du30 feared the most is now upon him as the “cocaine-fentanyl war” between House Duterte and House Marcos intensifies. The House of Representatives, led by BBM’s cousin Martin Romualdez, made a move that seemed unlikely more than a year ago. The House Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., is currently investigating the extrajudicial killings related to Du30’s war on drugs.

The House probe on Du30’s bloody drug war is centered on whether human rights violations were committed during the campaign and if due process was observed. “We’d like to find out, bakit maraming napatay? Bakit parang walang due process dito? ‘Yan ang hinahanap namin sa Committee on Human Rights,” Abante said. “Why are we conducting an inquiry into the deaths of alleged drug addicts or drug dealers? First, we must begin with the principle that each life is valuable and that each life lost is a profound tragedy,” he added.

How times have changed. Such pronouncements from a ranking member of the House were unthinkable during Du30’s time and not possible at the start of BBM’s presidency when UniTeam was still intact.

Then there is the indictment of Francisco Duque III, Du30’s Health Secretary, by the Ombudsman over the Pharmally scandal. The scandal involves the awarding of P11 billion in government contracts from 2020 to 2021 for face masks and COVID-19 test kits to Pharmally, a company with only 625,000 pesos capitalization and just seven months old at the time of the award. This was one of the biggest scandals during Du30’s rule.

Charged alongside Duque is Lloyd Christopher Lao, erstwhile Undersecretary of the PS-DBM (Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management). “The totality of evidence considered, this Office finds probable cause against Duque and Lao for violation under Section 3 (e) of RA 3019… let the corresponding Informations be filed against them in the proper court,” the Ombudsman order stated.

During the House budget hearing this week, Duque testified that the fund transfer was authorized by Du30. The Ombudsman already ruled that the transfer of “P41 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 supplies in March 2020 to PS-DBM was illegal because it did not fall under common-use supplies (CSE) which the PS-DBM is allowed to procure.” The amount includes the P11 billion cornered by Pharmally.

The retribution is starting. More investigations and indictments are coming as Team Agila and Team Tigre battle in the political arena. The ironic twist is that the retribution is being exacted not by the pinklawans but by Du30’s erstwhile ally.

Fate, karma, or fortune has a strange sense of humor. With the defeat of the pinklawans, Du30 thought he was solidly sheltered from any retribution. An ally who owed much to him was in power. He allowed the Marcos patriarch to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, to the disgust and consternation of the nation. He paved the way for the Marcoses to return to power.

Alas, history plays a cruel joke on Du30. The evils of his administration are being unearthed and exhumed. Little by little, Du30, his officials, and associates are being held accountable for their actions, courtesy of the Marcoses, beneficiaries of his generosity.

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