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Martial Law 2.0? UP’s Luis Teodoro: Duterte seems close to staging own coup by appointing ex-military men to gov’t posts

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President Rodrigo Duterte appears to be taking a page from the book of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos by appointing former police and military generals to plum government posts, University of the Philippines journalism professor Luis Teodoro said.

In his May 19 column for Businessworld, Teodoro noted that Marcos’ “coup”– otherwise known as the declaration of Martial Law in 1972– succeeded because he had prepared for it as early as 1969, when he won his reelection bid, by packing the government with retired military officers and appointing only trustworthy officials as the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

While Marcos’ decision to pack the Supreme Court with “conservative, pliant” Justices was also a factor for Martial Law’s success, the professor said the late dictator’s plan worked “because he was at the head of his own coup against himself.”

Teodoro sees similarities between Marcos’ strategy and that of Duterte, especially since the President recently joked he only needs one more appointee with a military background to complete his “junta.”

“By appointing enough military men to complete his junta, Mr. Duterte is also putting himself at its head as its creator and prime mover, and he need only declare Martial Law once everything else is in place. He has already said that he can solve all of Mindanao’s problems by declaring Martial Law there, and has implied that he can do the same for the entire country through the same means. He will need total military support to do either,” the professor said.

There are currently 12 ranking officials in government who have military or police backgrounds. These are: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Office of the President Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, National Irrigation Administration chief Ricardo Visaya, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office general manager Alexander Balutan, National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Ricardo Jalad, Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Land Transportation Office chief Edgar Galvante, incoming Interior Secretary and incumbent Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Eduardo Año, and Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Danilo Lim.

More than a move to preempt a coup against himself, Teodoro sees Duterte’s move to appoint former police and military generals as a preparation for declaring a “coup of his own.”

“Mr. Duterte sounds more and more like a herald of the soon to be restored past rather than the socialist visionary he once claimed to be,” he said.