(Composite photo)

The government’s final posturing on the investigation of former President Rodrigo Duterte by the International Criminal Court (ICC) will also determine the fate of “Uniteam”, the Marcos-Duterte alliance forged during the 2022 presidential elections.

Political analyst Richard Heydarian observed that if President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. relents to the ICC investigating the Duterte drugs war, it will signal the final breaking of ties already on the brink of collapse between the two allies.

“It all goes down to the decision of Marcos Jr. if he is gonna go and give the green light signal to the ICC. If he does that, that is a total declaration of war,” he remarked.

While President Marcos had already expressed inclination not to cooperate in the ICC investigation, the matter is still under consideration in House of Representatives. Marcos had also indicated the possiblilty of returning to the ICC, overturning the previous administration’s decision.

“Should we return under the fold of the ICC? So that is again under study. So we’ll just keep looking at it and see what our options are,” he said late November.

VP Sarat Duterte for her part, demanded “respect” for the previous administration’s policty that the Philippines “is done talking to ICC”.

Early cracks
Heydarian noted that the alliance showed a crack from the very outset when Marcos did not give Vice President Sara Duterte the post of defense secretary even after the latter had expressed interest on it during the formation of the Marcos cabinet.

He said this was followed through by Marcos’ tacit support to his cousin, Leyte 1st District representative Martin Romualdez for the speakership of the House of Representative over aspirant Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a proven Duterte ally.

“When he (Marcos Jr.) did not give Sara Duterte the defense secretary position and connected to that, when he did not facilitate the speaker of the house position going to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, that was already act number 1,” Heydarian said.

As early as the campaign period, former Sara Duterte spokesperson and now Department of Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco expressed the younger Duterte’s interest in leading the defense department as part of the Marcos Jr. cabinet.

Meanwhile, Arroyo, who was eyeing for the house speakership under Marcos Jr. Administration was overpowered by the president’s cousin, Leyte 1st District representative Martin Romualdez. Arroyo was elected as a Senior Deputy Speaker but was later on removed for not signing a resolution of support to the house leadership and an alleged coup attempt against Romualdez.

Heydarian recalled the incident when Vice President Duterte posted a cryptic post on Instagram in Bisaya stating: “Sa imong ambisyon, don’t be tambaloslos” which can be roughly translated “In your dreams, don’t be thick-faced.” Many had speculated that this was targeted at Romualdez.

“[It is] an explosion whereby Sara and Arroyo versus essentially the president’s right hand man in the Congress and his many supporters right now including the former allies of the former president,” Heydarian said.

Heydarian observed that Marcos Jr. has been “chipping away” at the policy legacy left in place by the elder Duterte before he took over.

“Yung kanyang drug war, hindi kasing bara-bara, yung kanyang red tagging hindi all over the place na hysterical and pangatlo, very importantly, dun sa US-China [issue] clearly nag recalibrate si Marcos Jr. pagdating sa ating polisiya sa West Philippine Sea and clearly, he was distancing himself doon sa pro-China, pro-Beijing policies ni Digong ,” he said.

He said this caused the former president to respond by going to China which Heydarian remarked as a “slap in the face” of Marcos Jr. in terms of diplomacy.

Duterte also retaliated by expleting tirades against the congress calling it as the “most rotten government institution.

Confidential funds
The move by the House of Representatives to strip VP Duterte of her proposed P650-M confidential funds under the proposed 2024 budget of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) was only one of the most recent indications of the worsening political rift within the alliance.

On December 4, the Supreme Court issued an en banc resolution compelling the OVP to explain the transfer of the some P125-Million from the Office of the President’s contingency fund into her own confidential and intelligence fund. The controversy over the transferred had emerged during the budget deliberations in Congress.

“Much will also depend on what Digong will do next,” Heydarian said.

Currently, Duterte’s PDP Laban has shed its members to Romualdez’ Lakas CMD and ally Partido Federal. PDP Laban is now down to only 10 members in the House of Representatives.

VP Duterte herself had come out for the first time openly expressing disagreement with a major policy direction of Marcos, criticizing the administration’s recent decision to resume peace talks with the insurgent National Democratic Front and Communist Party of the Philippines. Duterte brazenly described it ‘an agreement with the devil’.

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