Philippines’ Duterte facing coup rumours by opponents

Opponents of Philippine politician Rodrigo Duterte say coup is likely if he wins presidential elections, warning he could turn into a ‘dictator’.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte listens as senatorial candidates Dionisio Santiago and Sandra Cam talk to him during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016.

As the May 9 election is approaching for Philippines, anti-establishment politician Rodrigo Duterte’s opponents said that his rollicking ride to presidential favouritism has triggered warnings of a coup if he wins the election, with warning he is a “dictator” in the making.

Duterte has a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of Monday’s presidential election, but he has made enemies because of his vows to embrace communist rebels and threats to abolish congress or create a revolutionary government that could rewrite the constitution.

"The moment he tries to declare a revolutionary government, that is also going to be the day he will be removed from office," Senator Antonio Trillanes, a former navy officer famous for leading failed military uprisings in 2003 and 2007.

"This guy has no respect for democratic institutions," he added.

Trillanes also stated that some in the military were “strongly averse” to Duerte’s long-standing ties with communists, and a coup was “very likely”.

The Philippines has witnessed a tumultuous democracy since millions of people took to the streets to topple Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, with a succession of leaders having to quell military unrest and one president ousted in another uprising.

Communists in the Philippines are leading one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, with tens of thousands of killed since the rebellion started in 1969.

Dozens of people still die each year, with the communists retaining support among the poor.

Duterte served as mayor of Davao city in the south of the country, which was one of the communist hotspots, for most of the past two decades, ending violence there by forging close ties with the rebels.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor has pledged to offer communist leaders posts in his government.

Duterte has also raised fears about the rule of law under his presidency, promising to kill tens of thousands of criminals and pardon himself for mass murder.

Supporters chant slogans as the motorcade of presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte passes by during election campaigning in Malabon, Metro Manila in the Philippines on April 27, 2016. (Reuters)

Philippines President Benigno Aquino, who is limited by the constitution to a single term of six years, has expressed his concerns about that Duterte could turn into a dictator.

"Now that we are free, people who act like dictators are the ones in the lead," Aquino said on Wednesday, as he warned the gains of democracy were in jeopardy.

Ashley Acedillo, another coup plotter-turned-lawmaker, also said that a "military intervention" was likely under a Duterte presidency.

"The armed forces will stand true to its constitutional duty to protect the people and the state," he said.

Rommel Banlaoi, Manila-based security analyst, said that Acedillo’s warnings are not bluster.

"We will face a Duterte government that is very unstable," Banlaoi said.

On the other side, Duterte’s supporters said that he would not be the disaster that critics fear pointing to his past.

The supporters also said that Duterte waged war on drugs, crushed crime rates, lifted investment levels, improved health and education and delegated policy issued to technocrats.

"He communicates in a very rough way, but he has a policy group, he consults, he listens, there's mitigation after his speeches," said Jesus Dureza, a former congressman who went to school with Duterte and is now involved in his campaign.

TRTWorld and agencies