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Opinion

MARIE YUVIENCO | Doppelgangers

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

Donald Trump has taken his crayon and re-colored the American political map.

Nobody saw his victory coming, except maybe President Duterte who in the dying weeks of October appointed Jose E.B. Antonio, the real estate mogul responsible for adding a Trump Tower to Makati’s skyline, to be Malacañang’s special envoy for trade to Washington. So maybe we should give more credit to the President who just may be a political genius for having his finger on the populist pulse; the jury’s still out, though, if he has the makings of a statesman of the first order.

Anyway, Trump’s victory has demoralized Democrats, made smug Republicans, rattled stock markets and compelled world leaders to cautiously welcome the president-elect to their ranks, and it will be a while before post-mortems reveal what really caused the death of Hillary Clinton’s run for history. 

I have my two cents’ worth, but I do not want to commit the mistake of posing as an expert on subjects American the same way the Supreme Court tried to be in Chavez v. Romulo when it interpreted -- wrongly, as it turned out -- the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.

It hasn’t been lost on observers of Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump that the two men seem to be mirror images of each other.

To begin with, both are perceived to be not part of the Establishment when, in truth, both are as Establishment as Establishment can be: Trump was raised in wealth, was educated at Wharton, became a wealthy man (a billionaire, as he likes to boast) and a fixture on the New York social scene; Duterte came from a political family, was educated privately and served as a long-time elective official. 

Both are secretive when it suits them: Trump is the first candidate in American presidential politics never to release his tax returns whereas Duterte refused to disclose the details of that fabled bank account Antonio Trillanes accused him of having before the elections.

Both like women: Trump says he likes to “grab ‘em by the p***y” whereas Duterte says he would have liked to have been the first to rape a beautiful Australian missionary who was held hostage then killed during a prison riot in his city. (I would love to be the fly on the wall when these two jocks banter in the White House locker room, should an invite to visit be extended.)

However, and this is important, whether we or Clinton supporters like it or not, short of death, disability or impeachment, our president and their president-elect will be in office for the years they’re supposed to be there, so all of us best get over it even if we can’t exactly get with their program.

The interesting thing about the Trump victory is that he faces the same legal challenges as President Duterte.

Senator Leila de Lima is in the process of testing the limits of presidential immunity when she filed a petition for habeas data against the president before the Supreme Court.

Authorities hold that a president cannot be sued during his incumbency for the simple reason that as his job brooks no distractions, he must be given unhampered leeway to effectively run the government. I think that over-simplifies: of course a president can be sued because he can be impeached.

The process is sui generis, in a class by itself, as it cannot be judicial because the Constitution reposes judicial power only in one Supreme Court and the lower courts. (I do not buy the argument that because it is not judicial, it must be quasi-judicial, but again, no.) What it is, is a political exercise.

Thus, while a president cannot be sued while he is in office, what will happen to cases filed against him before he assumes office, as Trump’s situation is now? The president-elect is embroiled in a case involving Trump University wherein he attacked the presiding judge’s impartiality because of the latter’s Mexican parentage; it bears noting that the judge in question was born and raised in Indiana and his parents are naturalized Americans.

So what will happen to that case? If Trump thought he could insult a judge’s ethnicity while he was only a candidate, what about now that he is president-elect? And can the judge issue an impartial decision against a President? If President Duterte had hurled accusations like that here, he could have been administratively disciplined as a member of the bar, but note that even if he were subject to disbarment, he still would not be removed from Malacañang, first, because the Constitution does not require Chief Executives to be lawyers, and second, presidents can only be ousted by impeachment.

Then there’s the women problem. A raft of women has come forward accusing Trump of sexually harassing them, some incidents taking place decades before. An ordinary guy would be sweating bullets right now with that many potential plaintiffs, but with his win, Trump is potentially shielded from suit for the next four years. So where does that leave the women? There’s an old chestnut in law that says “for every wrong there is a remedy.” Now I’m not too sure.

Prescinding from the above, Donald Trump’s election is illuminating insofar as it demonstrates that the American electorate is not so different from Filipinos after all -- in their case, reality TV is stranger than fiction, it seems. We can boast, however, that we voted anti-establishment first, so probably for the first time, they’re taking a page from our playbook. Having presidents who share the same character traits is reassuring, not because misery loves company, but because like it or not, we’re all in this together.

 

 

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