In the final years of President Ferdinand Marcos, the issue of succession became a foremost concern. While promulgating the 1973 Constitution, following the 1972 proclamation of martial law, Marcos abolished the Office of Vice President, thereby creating a real danger that a power vacuum might occur, if ever he should suddenly depart the scene. There were wild rumors that he was suffering from lupus, and that he had executed a secret document naming his wife Imelda and AFP Chief of Staff Fabian Ver as his successors. This was never confirmed, but it disturbed the rank and file.

From Hong Kong, Tokyo, Saigon, New York, London, Brussels, and other capitals , the international press speculated about it endlessly. But one veteran Dutch journalist outclassed all his peers by suggesting that to stabilize the situation, Marcos should make himself King, Imelda Queen, and the rest of his family like the British, Dutch, and Thai royalties who ruled as sovereign, without getting involved in the day-to-day affairs of government. This would raise the First Family above the fray while a second-tier leadership tried to run the government. 

Not surprisingly, no one took this seriously. I read it in the same spirit as I read Jonathan Swift’s 1729 “Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick”—purely as a spoof, a satirical essay. But apparently the author meant every word of it, and after Marcos fell and his entire family was flown to Hawaii in exile in 1986, someone reproached him for not taking the unsolicited proposal seriously.

The EDSA uprising would have thrown out “the government,” as happens from time to time in Thailand, but without touching the Royal family. Precisely because nobody paid attention to the weird idea, the Marcos family has not been able to produce even one Vice President to this day, despite Ferdinand Marcos’s  20 years’ rule, while the Aquinos have produced two successive presidents after Ninoy’s murder, and the Macapagal family has produced a nine-year presidency for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, despite her father’s defeat in the hands of Marcos.

As in the fateful years of Marcos, the matter of succession appears to have become a serious concern for President Rodrigo Duterte today. This can be either constitutional or extra-constitutional, but it appears he would like to be in control, either way. The Constitution provides a Vice President with the right and duty to take over in case DU30 disappears prematurely, and an electoral process to pick his successor if he is allowed to complete his term by 2022.

DU30 is clearly allergic to the idea of Vice President Leni Robredo succeeding him constitutionally. After former senator Bongbong Marcos’s electoral protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) failed to gain any headway against Robredo, the decision to impeach her has reportedly become a fait accompli; it’s only a matter of formulating the necessary charges.

The earlier removal of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has created a precedent for removing DU30’s “enemies.” Instead of being impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate as prescribed by the Constitution, Sereno was removed by her own Supreme Court colleagues through a quo warranto proceeding, initiated by the Solicitor General without mandate of the Constitution, or the participation of Congress. B.S. Aquino 3rd had appointed Sereno first as associate justice, then as chief justice following the removal of the late former chief justice Renato Corona by the Senate after 19 senator-judges had been bribed to convict him with a minimum of P50 million each.

In declaring Sereno’s appointment “null and void an initio,” the SC justices not only declared her not qualified to be named to the Court, they also effectively declared the President not qualified to appoint her to the Court.

The reported plan is to replace Robredo with a Davao clone who would continue DU30’s agenda should he depart before 2022, and would not challenge DU30’s candidate in the next non-election should the President complete his term. The scuttlebutt is that Davao Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio has been anointed to succeed her father. To bolster her chances if the voters find her not ready enough, DU30 could run as her vice-president, just as they had done before, when he ran as her vice mayor after he had been termed out as mayor.

The only problem here is that there are so many political billionaire thieves who are already positioning to become Xi Jinping’s candidate in the next non-election. At the same time, a number of DU30 backers appear convinced the best way to extend the Davao Camelot is not to hold another non-election, but to declare a revolutionary government, which would replace every government functionary with their own choices.

However, this could provoke active resistance among Filipinos who still believe in the Constitution, and it may not be easy to carry out, even with China’s help. The easier option might be to adopt the Dutch journalist’s brainchild by making the DU30 family royal and sovereign, while DU30’s minions run the bureaucracy, the POGOs, the drugs trade, the money laundering and smuggling cartel, and every known addiction of Filipinos.