Rodrigo Duterte has felt it. The noose around his neck is slowly tightening.

For decades, Duterte was the law in Davao City and, later, in the country when he was elected president in 2016.

No one has ever challenged him. No one ever dared to question or criticize him for his policies and activities.

Those who dared challenged him found themselves jailed, or worse, killed like his political enemies in Davao City.

Leila de Lima, a former senator, was thrown in jail on trumped-up drug charges. Many of the witnesses against de Lima were coerced and threatened. Some were even rewarded.

But, one by one, the witnesses recanted their testimony. It turned out the evidence against her was also made up to silence her.

De Lima’s incarceraration had a chilling effect on Duterte’s political foes and critics.

For decades, Duterte used to sow fear to fully grasp power. Fear was also his currency to gain popular support.

He has been molding his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, in the same manner he had gained political power – by brute force and fear.

But, in the last several months, Duterte has seen his political influence and power slowly diminish.

A dangerous Sword of Damocles was hanging on his head, ready to cut him down if he continues his tirades against President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Duterte must rein in his attack dogs, vicious vloggers, and political analysts who continue to attack Marcos Jr and his close allies, like House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

The attacks were an indication the alliance in last year’s presidential elections was breaking up as personal and political ambitions and interests go separately.

It was very obvious Marcos has lost all his political interest after winning the presidency, leaving his allies to scramble and fight against each other to advance their interests.

His cousin, Romualdez, has jumped on the situation to push the Dutertes out of power.

If Sara was seen as the candidate to beat in the 2028 elections, Romualdez moved in early to destroy her and cripple her political organizations.

He engineered a move in Congess to defund her two offices – the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education of about 650 million pesos in confidential and intelligence funds.

The money would likely go to grassroot organizations working for her political campaign in 2028.

The former president went berserk after Congress removed the fund and the Senate dared not touch the very unpopular issue.

Duterte attacked Congress, calling it a “rotten” and “corrupt” institution, threatening to kill a member of Congress.

Congress hit back, passing a resolution defending the institution and removing from positions of influence members who were known to be loyal to the Dutertes.

A member of Congress went to court to hold Duterte accountable for his threats.

The former leader obviously forgot he no longer has immunity from suit. He has been in power for too long that he was used to threatening his critics and opponents.

Then, came the local courts’ decision to dismiss two drug-related cases and grant de Lima’s motion to post bail on her third case.

The final straw will come if the Marcos government allows the International Criminal Court (ICC) to come in and conduct an investigation.

Even if the ICC is not allowed to come over, there were speculations a decision to indict Duterte will come by the middle of 2024.

Duterte’s luck is running out. There is a big chance he will be indicted of crimes against humanity.

Contrary to what his daughter said that allowing the ICC to investigate her father was unconstitutional, the ICC has the mandate to come in if the local legal systems failed to do it job.

Duterte and his associates were never investigated for the drug war killings.

Perhaps, the local courts were so afraid to take case. Some judges, prosecutors and lawyers have been threatened and a few were killed during Duterte’s time, a grim reminder of what could happen to judges and lawyers who would dare investigate the former president.

One year after he left politics, there was no longer a climate of fear in the country.

Some lawmakers have started jumping ship from Duterte’s political party. There were legal challenges against Duterte, although none was brought against his war on drugs policy.

Duterte could still face hundreds and, perhaps, thousands of legal challenges for his human rights abuses as well as corruption charges.

All this indicate that Duterte has lost his power and influence. He has threatened to return to politics to get back at his opponents.

He may win but still he remains very vulnerable because he has no immunity from lawsuits.

His only defense will be if his daughter wins the presidency in 2028.

But, that has become a big question mark with her potential opponents ganging up on her this early.

Her ratings on opinion polls have started to fall by two digits and her biggest opponent, the speaker, has started to pick up.

Could the Dutertes recover from the gradual slide in influence and power?
It all depends on Marcos. So far, there’s little indication he has abandoned Sara but changes can suddenly happen. No crystal ball can predict what will happen next.

Marcos’s foreign policy, particularly on the South China Sea issue, has been winning praises internationally.

The issues ran counter to the fiercely pro-China policies pushed by Duterte and his daughter.

Another issue where the Dutertes and Marcos do not agree involves human rights.

Marcos has gained praises for freeing de Lima. He could win more if he allows the ICC to come.

That could nail Duterte’s coffin as well as Sara who also face the same inquiry from the international court for her role in the drug war in Davao City.

It would eventually break up the alliance and spell disaster for Sara’s presidential run in 2028 and an end of Duterte’s reign of terror.