That was the reply to my question, “Why do we want an admitted killer, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, to be our President?”
The response was shocking, coming from a middle-aged religious lady who goes to Mass every Sunday, and who studied from kindergarten through college at the Assumption College. I wondered if she knew better, would she even vote for such an admitted killer to be the barangay chairman of the posh neighborhood she lives in? Perhaps she thought that Duterte would simply do the dirty job of killing the kind of people the elite want eliminated so they could feel safer whenever they needed to step out of their mansions.
I suspect that this woman, in her mind, pictured the (suspected) criminals Duterte killed as dirty ugly burly men she sees through her car’s window. But according to documentation by Fr. Amado Picardal, among the 1,424 suspected criminals, none of them has been charged in court, only killed by Duterte’s Davao Death Squads from 1998 to 2015. Of those, 57 were female and 132 were young people – 126 boys and six girls – not more than 17 years of age. All were unarmed when they were taken, with some killed by Duterte himself, according to his boasts.
What has happened to us, that even the educated have abandoned their Christian value of reverence for human life?
But forget religion.
This lady apparently has been unaware that our society has made a leap in its evolution toward a higher form of civilization by outlawing any man from killing another, except, of course, in a real case of self-defense. In fact, 80 percent of 195 nations on earth (including the Philippines) only in the last two decades have outlawed even the state from taking the life of another human being. And this stance is based not on any metaphysical or religious teaching, but totally on rational grounds, supported by empirical evidence: that killing is irreversible, completely unjustified by the risks of killing an innocent and that it is not a deterrent to crime.
If you want to see the kind of society Duterte really is espousing, watch the news footage of how the ISIS beheads, burns, or shoots suspected criminals or violators of the Koran.
Yet even those who should be better informed think that Duterte, who even boasts of, and favors, the killing of suspected criminals without due process, should be President of our nation.
Indeed, he had even boasted that his style was to first order a (suspected) criminal to kneel down before him (to make himself feel like a god?), then he would shoot him in the head.
Crime running amuck
Crime has run amuck under President Aquino’s watch, and this is to a great extent due to the fact that his Cabinet member in charge of fighting crime – Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas, who has the Philippine National Police under him, has not done his job. He has, instead, spent the last four years scheming and amassing funds to win the presidency by hook or by crook.
But we are not Somalia, nor Nigeria, where the rule of law has collapsed, if it was ever set up in the first place. We are not even Colombia, where drug cartels ruled over much of its territory. There has been a consensus that the way to solve crime is not to kill all criminals, as Duterte wants, but to build up an efficient police and legal system, to create safety nets for the poor, and to develop an egalitarian, prosperous economy so that fewer among the people would be pushed to a life of crime because of abject poverty.
Look: There have been so many other cities in Mindanao, among them Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Iligan, which had as many socioeconomic problems that nurtured criminality, yet which were able to contain crime, without the Duterte policy of killing the criminals when captured or found in their hide-outs.
There have also been so many episodes in the past when mayors – even that of Manila as in the first term of Mayor Fred Lim – thought that extrajudicial killings were the most cost-efficient way of ridding their areas of crime. Most of them realized it was a bloody slippery slope, which became obvious when the executioners started to sell their services. Their tough anti-crime episodes have been forgotten.
So how come this killer has, in a few months’ time, managed to portray himself as the country’s messiah?
First is by the fact that obviously he possesses a unique set of antics and behavior many find entertaining, similar to what the convicted grafter Joseph Estrada had, which enables Duterte to effortlessly, almost naturally, fool the masses with the notion that he is one of them, and that he could be their savior. Second, given the existence of a deep resentment among a certain segment of the Filipino public toward the hacendero President Aquino, the masses now adore his anti-thesis. As Duterte himself put it, “The people love me because they hate Aquino.”
The third and probably the most important reason why this beast from Davao has emerged is something hidden from many:
We have an opportunistic, unscrupulous faction of the elite that has cleverly led Duterte by the nose, feeding his ego that he would be so good he would change the country, assuring him of a very comfortable life awaiting him (which is the purpose of his P200 million BPI account), bankrolling a P5 billion campaign kitty for him, and fooling the masses through creative ways that there is now a mass movement for their ‘messiah’ from the South. (A recent example: What easier, clever way is there to fake massive youth support for Duterte than to hold a rock concert by popular singers and bands, with the Davao mayor as the only speaker, as Ramon Jacinto did on Saturday?)
You would have been living abroad, or born just yesterday, if you thought that Duterte’s rise had been spontaneous and you believed his clever lie that his supporters, the “Emilio Aguinaldos” from the provinces, were financing his campaign.
Senator Alan Cayetano quite obviously has been the most visible of these manipulators, as convincing Duterte to take him as running mate was his only way of preventing his political disappearance from these elections, a situation which would have stopped dead in its tracks his ambition to be President by 2022.
But Cayetano is only one among these shadowy oligarchs who thought an opportunity had opened up for them to control a President as a result of the two-year character assassination drive against Vice President Jojo Binay that was intended to weaken his presidential bid; the citizenship case against Grace Poe (who, after all, was politically vulnerable because of her utter inexperience in governance); and the indefensible, weak record of Aquino’s candidate, Roxas.
We’ve seen this before, when the elite managed to rouse a mob in a frenzy of support for a charismatic leader, whom they, however, really owned.
In 1998, there was a “Duterte” in the person of Joseph Estrada (the milder and kinder version, with a less venomous mouth) with his cabal of shadowy Chinese businessmen, who got 40 percent of the votes. And in 2010, the “Duterte” of the time was Aquino, the prince of the recently-departed Yellow Queen, who could do no wrong, and backed up by the country’s richest oligarchs, believed to be the Lopezes and the Ayalas who were terrified that a rival tycoon – Manuel Villar – would be President. (Duterte’s recent 33 percent ratings are still significantly below the 38 percent Estrada and Aquino received a month before the elections.)
And look where these two past “Dutertes” got our country into.
This time, the oligarchs of Mindanao – the Davao property and mining tycoons and banana kings, among them – think it is their turn.
This is not a nation, but a collection of tribes, each with the various factions of the oligarchy playing their real-life game of thrones.