Marcos, Romualdez lash out at Dutertes for ‘drug addict’ accusation

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Marcos, Romualdez lash out at Dutertes for �drug addict� accusation
Incoming Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr (L) and outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte (C) take part in the inauguration ceremony for Marcos at the Malacanang presidential palace grounds in Manila on June 30, 2022. The son of the Philippines' late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was to be sworn in as president on June 30, completing a decades-long effort to restore the clan to the country's highest office.
Francis R. Malasig / Pool / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — In a first, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has rebuked former President Rodrigo Duterte for publicly accusing him of taking illegal drugs, saying that the former leader is suffering from his use of the “highly addictive” Fentanyl drug.

Similarly, House Speaker Martin Romualdez has also publicly called out the former president and his congressman son for levying “wild accusations” against the president during a rally over the weekend that observers believe is ultimately the Dutertes' show of force and political clout.

Marcos said on Monday in an interview with reporters: “It is highly addictive and it has very serious side effects. And PRRd has been taking the drug for a very long time now. When was the last time he told us that he was taking fentanyl?”

Romualdez on Sunday challenged the former president and Rep. Paolo Duterte (Davao City) to present proof of the accusations they flung at Marcos during their Davao City prayer rally, which was held to oppose attempts to change the Charter.

During the Davao event on Sunday, the Duterte patriarch called the president a “drug addict” and repeatedly alleged without basis that Marcos uses illegal substances.

Meanwhile, the younger Duterte called for Marcos’ resignation and ranted about his supposed laziness and inaction on criminality, among others. 

“Unless you have proof backing your alleged reasons for why President Marcos should step down from office, you should think first and show your proof. Because we know that what you’re saying is not true,” Romualdez said Sunday night according to a statement his office sent to reporters.

The House leader added that the Dutertes’ accusations were “budol-budol” messages, which roughly translates to messages that attempt to swindle.

“Sa pamilyang Duterte, siguro konting galang naman sa ating mahal na presidente tsaka sa pamilya n'ya. Noong panahon ng rehimen n'yo, iginalang naman kayo (To the Duterte family, maybe show a little respect for our dear president and his family. During your regime, you were respected),” Romualdez added.

The older Duterte’s accusation against Marcos appears to be in step with a recent coordinated campaign launched by dubious accounts seeking to fuel speculation of an illegal drugs conspiracy about the president.

RELATED: ‘Polvoron’ campaign emerges amid Marcos-Duterte political tussle 

Asked to categorically deny the allegation, Marcos also said that he refuses to dignify the question.

Political science professor Cleve Arguelles told Philstar.com that Duterte's drug use allegations against Marcos is a familiar tactic he has weaponized in the past against his political opponents.

Arguelles added: "This is a really familiar penal populist tactic from Digong. To weaponize the drug list against his political rivals. Did it with De Lima and others. Now Bongbong."

Fentanyl is an opiod that doctors have used for the pain management of cancer patients and those recovering from surgeries. It has, however, also been sold illegally as a powder or in pill form and has led to instances of misuse among persons who use drugs.

Deepening rifts 

Over the weekend, two separate rallies were held by the Marcos and Duterte camps, which drew thousands of supporters respectively and seemed to be a sign of deepening rifts within the Marcos and Duterte families themselves.

While both rallies were attended by Vice President Sara Duterte — daughter of former president Duterte — she was careful to note that her attendance at the government’s “Bagong Pilipinas” rally was in her capacity as secretary of the Department of Education in support of Marcos’ socioeconomic agenda.

Sara also attended the Davao City prayer rally, saying in a statement that she opposes attempts to change the Charter and urged the public to oppose the ongoing People’s Initiative (PI) campaign being pushed by the House.

However, on Monday, the vice president distanced herself from her brother's remarks calling for Marcos to resign. Duterte said she will "stay true to my work at the Department of Education, unless the President says otherwise."

The president’s sister — Sen. Imee Marcos — attended the Davao City rally. She has yet to comment on former president Duterte’s accusations against the president but has already admitted to having strained relations with her cousin Romualdez.

RELATED: Sara Duterte attends ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ rally, supports action vs Charter change 

While Romualdez has repeatedly denied ordering the PI campaign, the president’s sister – along with other Duterte loyalists in government — have claimed that Romualdez is behind the signature drive.

Cracks in the Duterte-Marcos alliance that swept the president and vice president to power in 2022 have been deepening since the start of 2023 but became increasingly public after the House stripped Sara of her request for confidential funds.

RELATED: Romualdez defends House decision to strip Sara of confidential funds  | House leaders take offense at Rodrigo Duterte's tirades on Sara’s loss of confidential funds  

Opposition to PI campaign

Marcos supports amendments to the 1987 Constitution but had, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, tasked the Senate to lead moves to amend the Charter and said the PI campaign was “too divisive.”

Leaders of the House and the Senate have also been trading barbs over the conduct of the PI campaign after all 24 senators last week signed a manifesto opposing the “brazen attempt to violate the Constitution, through the people’s initiatives.”

As a response, Romualdez scored the upper chamber for their “very toxic rhetoric.”

House Senior Deputy Speaker Dong Gonzales told reporters in December that the lower chamber was exploring the use of the people's initiative to help takes its Charter change plans off the ground  this time after the House's constitutional convention proposal was shot down at the Senate. 

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