Ex-President Duterte faces raps after threatening Sara critic
Former President Rodrigo Duterte may be facing his first criminal complaint in the country after leaving Malacañang as Makabayan lawmakers are likely to file charges for his alleged death threat against ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro.
Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas on Thursday condemned the recent remarks by the former chief executive and reminded him that he no longer enjoys immunity from lawsuits.
Duterte is under investigation by the International Criminal Court for allegedly committing crimes against humanity in his drug war.
“Threatening the lives of elected representatives is a blatant violation and a dangerous attack on the rights of individuals who are merely pushing for transparency and accountability in government spending,” Brosas said in a statement, referring to the controversial confidential fund request by his daughter, Vice President Sara Duterte.
Castro, who is mourning over the death of her father, did not issue any statement.
Brosas disclosed that the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives was “looking into possible legal actions” against the 78-year-old former president.
Lawyer Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said Duterte may be charged with making “direct and grave threats” against Castro. The offense is penalized by imprisonment of up to six months plus a maximum fine of P100,000.
In an interview on Tuesday with his spiritual adviser Apollo Quiboloy on SMNI television network, Duterte spoke about the secret funds sought by his daughter.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP) is asking for P500 million and the Department of Education (DepEd), which she heads, wants P150 million in confidential funds for 2024, the same amounts she got for this year. She received P125 million in secret funds in her first months as Vice President, spending all of that money in just 11 days in December 2022.
The former president said he told his daughter to be “frank” about where she would use the money.
“Sabi ko kay Inday (Sara Duterte), diretsuhin mo na. Itong intelligence funds na ito is to prepare the minds of the Filipinos itong insurgency na hindi matapos-tapos and the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), para preparado tayo kung magka-giyera (I told Inday to be frank about the intelligence funds. These intelligence funds are to prepare the minds of the Filipinos on this unending insurgency and the ROTC, so we can be prepared in case of a war),” Duterte told Quiboloy, a staunch supporter of his administration and the Vice President.
‘Gusto kong patayin!’
“Pero, ang una mong target sa intelligence fund mo, kayo, ikaw France, kayong mga komunista ang gusto kong patayin (But, the first target of your intelligence fund would be you, France, I want to kill all you communists), he said forcefully.
It was Castro who led the Makabayan bloc’s dogged opposition to confidential funds, particularly for the OVP and DepEd, mainly because the two offices did not have specific peace and order, defense and national security mandates.
“We take his threats seriously, especially with his administration’s bloody legacy of extrajudicial killings and political persecution,” Brosas said, but added: “We will not be silenced by threats and intimidation.”
Makabayan members and government critics have said that they have been Red-tagged by the government, especially during the Duterte administration. Red-tagging is the labeling of individuals and groups as members or supporters of the communist insurgency, opening them to violent attacks by state agents often resulting in deaths.
A “small committee” of the House on Tuesday announced its unanimous decision to remove all confidential funds from the OVP, DepEd and three other departments and diverted the money to agencies directly involved in guarding the West Philippine Sea against Chinese incursions.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Thursday condemned the older Duterte for his “deplorable rhetoric.”
“ACT asserts that the real threat to peace and security are fascists and bloodthirsty tyrants like Duterte,” the group said.
ACT chair Vladimer Quetua said Duterte’s statements were a direct threat not only on Castro but also other individuals and groups who call on the government to be transparent in spending the people’s money.
“We who oppose the confidential and intelligence funds, oppose the embezzlement of public funds, violence and repression,” Quetua said.
The Vice President herself had said that those who opposed confidential funds were against peace and should be considered “enemies of the people.”
But according to Quetua: “The real opponents of peace and enemies of the people are the greedy, fascists and notorious human rights violators like the father and daughter Rodrigo and Sara Duterte.”
Speaking as the education secretary at the National Literacy Conference in Cebu City on Thursday, the Vice President again linked education to national security.
“Education provides individuals with tools to understand and resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner, fostering a culture of dialogue and tolerance. It equips them with critical thinking skills, enabling them to challenge extremism, discrimination and other forms of social unrest,” she said.
Surveillance and intelligence
In August, she said education was “intertwined with national security” when asked about the DepEd’s request for confidential funds for 2024.
She cited the problems faced by DepEd and students like illegal drugs, recruitment by insurgency groups as well as terrorism and violent extremism in justifying her request for confidential funds.
The education chief pointed out that “very good surveillance and intelligence” were necessary to come up with solutions and ensure the success of the department’s projects and programs.
Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, another critic of huge allocations for confidential and intelligence funds, suggested that President Marcos himself give up at least “a great portion” of those funds to boost spending for health and social services.
Lagman cited the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the Solicitor General, which respectively gave up P50 million and P19.2 million in confidential funds.
For 2024, the Office of the President is seeking P4.5 billion in confidential and intelligence funds.