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MY article last January 23 delved into the US conspiracy claims precipitated by an op-ed piece in the prestigious Washington Post. Insinuations about US President Donald Trump’s being a Russian spy are made more believable by his comportment during these past two years as president. His bending over to accommodate Russia, the former Soviet Union, and his kowtowing to the Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin, has been perceived not only by the Americans but NATO allies as an overly pernicious massaging of a perverted personal relationship. It gives a certain amount of credence to the suspicion of Putin’s stranglehold over Trump. And it did not help that the two have conducted several personal talks with only their interpreters in attendance, with no aides present. To top it all, Trump embargoed his interpreter’s notes. This conduct where a summit meeting is held between leaders of competing countries is unprecedented, leading to suspicions of surreptitious agreements inimical to American and democratic interests.

This aberrant bond goes back to long before the elections where Trump lost the plurality votes. Were it not for the byzantine electoral college, Hillary Clinton could have been the first American woman president. This complexity allowed Russia’s meddling into the 2016 electoral process, placing Trump’s legitimacy in question, prompting the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s comprehensive investigation into the Donald’s campaign group’s collusion with Russia. Close to two dozen of Trump’s campaign advisers, colleagues and operators have been indicted and awaiting sentencing by US courts. Campaign manager Paul Manafort has been found guilty of subsidiary crimes. And Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen has been “spilling the beans,” so to speak, to Mueller. Cohen too, pleaded guilty to ancillary charges and has been meted jail time.

And an FBI investigation on the allegations of the Donald being a Russian spy is ongoing, separately from the Mueller investigation. The noose is tightening around Trump’s neck as Mueller and the FBI are closing in on their prey (“A Russian Spy in the White House?” The Manila Times, Jan. 23, 2018). The Donald is perceived to be in panic mood as his defense is crumbling in the face of the “fact checking” being conducted by the liberal American media. His lies are being proven to be just that — lies!

Predictably, Trump’s strategy to face a political crisis head-on is to create another one. This is probably the cause anterieure immediate for the US government shutdown that has gone on for more than a month and has impacted not only 800,000 unpaid US federal employees but the US economy itself. The repercussions have gone far and wide and has negatively affected US tourism. My family had a firsthand experience when my grandkids went to Yosemite in California for the holidays. Some parts of the park were closed. The few park employees I talked to were either paid by privately managed resorts, or as in the case of the federal park rangers were technically on furlough and were simply unpaid volunteers. On our way back to Manila, US airports were inadequately manned by immigration officers. After more than a month of this shutdown, the air traffic control employees responsible for guiding planes to take off and land at US airports could be adversely affected and travel safety jeopardized.

But conspiracy theories are not exclusive to Washington. Closer to home is one involving the Deegong, Malacañang and Congress. In the best tradition of Filipino “tsismis cum conspiracy,” rumors are rife and currently circulating in social media, no doubt exacerbated by the election circus.

The dramatis personae are those on the top echelon of the country’s political leadership. The plot centers around the Deegong with Congress, the cabinet and the military playing all sorts of supporting and adversarial roles. The storyline starts with the pronouncements lately of DU30’s frustration with the pervasive corruption not only in the bureaucracy but even among his small coterie. His attendant acts of firing people on a “whiff of corruption” without undergoing serious investigation or following the protocols of fairness and justice, is eating into his political innards, wasting his political capital. His rants against the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that initially found some adherents for their boldness and warped charm, have begun to run their course and are now simply prosaic. And his declaration that “I am not Catholic, I am Islam” has left many of his admirers even more befuddled.

This preoccupation and frustration with mundane and irrelevant matters are impacting negatively on his ability to govern; creating a dangerous vacuum in the running of the ship of state, further fueling a general perception that the Deegong is tired of it all. Perhaps he is. The public allusions to his failing health and his proclivity to repair to the confines of the comfortable and the familiar in Davao – could be misconstrued as a forfeiture of his presidential duties.

It does not help too that his alter egos in the bureaucracy have been reluctant to take the cudgels for him or, not surprisingly, his alpha-male trait may have intimidated them into acting logically as they should.

Thus are emboldened the political opportunists hovering over the presidency. Foremost among which is the House of Representatives where a battle for control over the country’s development is being fought, using the budget as the weapon of choice. The ultimate political survivor who now heads the HOR has her loyalists fighting a surrogate battle for the country’s agenda. They want Budget Secretary Diokno out. They may yet have their wish.

But the conspiracy theory doesn’t end here. The conjecture is that the chief sentinel of the economy and protector of its financial lifeblood must go. A traditional political component needs to be injected into this post and logically lodged on the speaker who is now on her last term.

Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, the professional and independently wealthy technocrat, is much more needed by PRRD as his Chief of Staff — the primus inter pares — to impose a certain sense of managerial discipline to the Office of the President (“The Gatekeepers Parts 1 & 2,” The Manila Times, Sept. 28 & Oct 5, 2017). And what to do with the ES? Appoint him to the Supreme Court where his father had served honorably.

And if one follows several articles I wrote about Gloria, (Game of Thrones, The Manila Times, March 15, 2018 and “Gloria en excelsis,” March 22, 2018) the “kuro-kuro” was for the constitutional revisions to happen and a transition to a parliamentary form of government before the mid-term elections. Now it’s too late. The Senate thwarted this plan and thus the presidential government under the unitary system continues: no constitutional changes, no parliamentary government and above all no prime minister — and the hell with federalism! Guess who was gunning for the prime minister post?

Thus, the importance of the finance and the budget portfolios. The other cabinet departments and agencies are presumably now being put under the effective control of GMA’s group — still totally loyal to DU30 — a paradox. The conspiracy continues…000
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