By Artchil B. Fernandez

Barely a week after the 2022 election result became clear, pieces on the board started moving to outflank other partners in the UniTeam. This development shows how fragile the cartel of political dynasties whose goal is only to win the election. Now that the objective has been achieved cracks began to appear.

Once the win became apparent, Martin Romualdez, BBM’s cousin swiftly moved to install himself as the next Speaker of the House. The action was taken to outmaneuver former Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) from regaining her former post. GMA who engineered the marriage of convenience between BBM and Sara Duterte was promised to be Speaker again. That promise, as most political promises are, was made to be broken.

It was the turn of the wily GMA who outfoxed Du30 when she made his daughter her acolyte to be outwitted. The former president was forced to eat humble pie, publicly endorsing Romualdez as the next Speaker after losing her political marbles. Karma came swiftly to this diminutive political operator.

Right after GMA’s political plan was scuttled, it was the turn of her disciple to bare some fangs. Sara Duterte’s spokesperson Liloan, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco announced her principal wanted to be Defense Secretary. “The vice president-elect has indicated that she would be interested in the Department of National Defense and she’s here to fully support the administration of president-elect Bongbong Marcos,” Frasco declared.

As early as January, even before the official campaign period started, Sara Duterte has publicly revealed her desire to be defense chief. “Ang gusto niyang (Sara) puntahan is DND, nagulat kayo ‘no? Nagulat din ako nung sinabi niya sa akin,” BBM told “Sa Totoo Lang” on One PH on January 25, 2022.

Sara Duterte did not get what her heart truly desires when it was evident her partner BBM will be the next president. BBM quickly put Sara Duterte in her proper place when she publicly reiterated once again her preferred cabinet post. In his first cabinet appointments, BBM announced his running mate is the next education secretary. “I think I am already authorized to announce the first nominee that we will be giving to the Commission on Appointments when the time comes should I be proclaimed. And that is that our incoming vice president has agreed to take the brief of Department of Education,” he said. Strike two to team GMA-Sara.

But the hardest slap was reserved for the elder Duterte. He did not endorse the dictator’s son. Worse he called him a “weak leader” and even alluded to his cocaine addiction. BBM has not yet taken his oath but has already delivered a major blow to the post-presidency plan of Du30.

Taking an “independence” stance after years of bowing down to the will of an aging autocrat, Congress through the Commission on Appointments (CA) showed Du30 where power now resides and brutally told him he is now powerless. CA bypassed five appointees of Du30, in effect throwing them out of office.

Du30 had complete control of the Commission on Election (Comelec) since all the commissioners are his appointees. Three, however, including the Comelec chief are recent appointees who have yet to be confirmed by CA. Instead of confirming them, CA forced them out of office.

Heads of two constitutional bodies, the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the Commission on Audit (COA) were also appointed by Du30 early this year. Since they have fixed terms, Du30 would still be controlling these vital offices through them. CA also bypassed the appointment of Karlo Nograles as chief of CSC and of Rizalina Justol as head of COA.

Senate Majority Leader Zubiri admitted that CA rejected Du30’s appointees after officials of the incoming administration approached him and asked that BBM should have his own picks in these constitutional bodies. “We cannot please everybody. This is a political body. We know there is a request from the new administration to give that courtesy,” Zubiri confessed.

Even out of office, Du30 thought he can still retain his political clout by placing his own people in important constitutional bodies. BBM foiled his plan by asserting that it is him and not Du30 who should have a say on this matter.

This early, BBM is sending a strong message to his other partners in the UniTeam – he is now in charge and cannot be dictated upon. He may give some concessions to them but he is drawing the line. BBM may share some of the spoils with them but it is his prerogative which one to give.

Prior to victory, other blocs in the UniTeam assumed that with the pivotal role they played in BBM’s victory, they will get the choicest of the spoils. How naïve. Sara Duterte did not get the defense portfolio, GMA is a mere legislator and Du30’s people in constitutional bodies were shown the door.

This is the problem with a unity based on selfish interests. Once the thin thread of unity is gone, knives are immediately drawn. The season of double-crossing has begun. GMA and her acolyte Sara Duterte were embarrassingly rebuffed and will likely spend the next six years figuring out what went wrong with their perfectly laid plan. What is certain, they will not be key players in the administration of BBM. Crumbs may be thrown at them from time to time but they will not partake in the main course.

The cracks will be apparent in the coming weeks. It is interesting to see who will live with regret in the next six years. The exciting parts are yet to unfold.