If Duterte is unwell, who is in charge?


    ‘He was a disturbing sight. What’s happening?’

    WHILE watching President Duterte address the nation last June 30 and July 3, the question that raced in my mind was, “Who is running the country?”

    Past midnight of June 30, he was holding his weekly briefing on government efforts to deal with COVID-19, which continues to afflict more and more Filipinos despite the four- month lockdown (the longest any country has imposed during the current pandemic).

    The July 3 address was actually directed to the military enraged by the killing of four soldiers who were on an official mission by policemen in Jolo on June 29.

    On both occasions, we see the dispirited chief executive of the country rambling incoherently. The discoloration of his face looked darker than ever.

    June 30 was a challenge-filled day. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet was presenting her report during the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation in the country and the picture she painted was stark.

    Two days earlier, on June 28, a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship hit a fishing boat off the coast of Occidental Mindoro and 14 Filipino fishermen went missing.

    Emotions were high among members of the Armed Forces on the insistence of the Sulu police that the June 29 incident was a “misencounter.” Military officials insisted it was “murder” and they were demanding accountability.

    The public, especially members of media, were waiting for Duterte to say something about those issues after his briefing on COVID-19 related concerns.

    He said nothing about those issues during his almost an hour disjointed talk. He was more concerned about the flawed design of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and the mishandling of parcels by JT Express delivery service.

    He was a disturbing sight. What’s happening?

    Malacañang has always refused to disclose a medical report of the President’s state of health.

    Former senator Antonio Trillanes IV shared with us what he has gathered from his sources and his reading of the current situation:

    He said the government is “running on auto pilot.”

    He said the kind of governance Duterte knows “normally worked for him in Davao where mere department heads can function and manage the whole city government without the need for the regular guidance leadership of the mayor.”

    The former senator, who is now teaching at the University of the Philippines, said Duterte is realizing only now that national governance along with the crises that go along with it are much more complex. He is not up to it.

    But what he lacks in governance skills, he makes up in political cunning.

    “Worse, in his vanity and insecurity, he made sure that the overlapping and confusing organizational set-up he created would ensure that he gets the credit if it succeeds, but gets insulated from any fallout,” Trillanes said.

    “Obviously, in a national crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this did not work as our country is now in a freefall in all aspects,” the former senator said.

    Trillanes further said: “This messy situation is even compounded by the absentee leadership of Duterte. While he is notorious for being lazy and tardy to begin with, according to our inside info, part of Duterte’s absenteeism is caused by his addiction to fentanyl and a powerful sleeping pill brand as a way of escape from the highly stressful nature of his office and also to remedy his severe insomnia. This makes him groggy and drowsy after long sleeping spells. In the meantime, while he is incapacitated or inaccessible, the urgent decisions needed to be made are left hanging, thus the chaotic governance we are in.”

    Let’s pray for our country.