Highest two officials of the land don’t respect the rule of law

WHAT kind of country have we become that the two highest officials of the Republic don’t respect the law, and even flaunt their disdain for it?

President Duterte the other day made his curses and rape jokes during the election campaign look like convent talk when he said: “I will not allow these police to go in prison. Kahit sabihin ng NBI na murder (Even if the NBI says it’s murder),”

The NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) had concluded that about two dozen policemen led by Chief Inspectors Marvin Marcos and Noel Matira and Chief Inspector Leo Laraga were indictable for the killing of Albuera mayor and alleged drug lord Rolando Espinosa and his fellow inmate Raul Yap—in what the victims had probably thought was the safest place on earth, a tightly guarded cell in Baybay City.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that Duterte even said that he is willing to go to jail in place of those policemen, whose arrogant impunity (Marcos had nothing to do with Espinosa’s case) was matched only by their cowardice (their killing team numbered 21).

I suspect Duterte’s workload has become unbearable. How can he claim, as if he was just being rational: “Who would you believe, word of a criminal or of a police?”

But it wasn’t a criminal, presumably Espinosa, who claimed from his grave that he was killed by the policemen. Several senators—especially Senator Panfilo Lacson who was once national police chief and Senator Richard Gordon, whose father was assassinated— said that it was “clearly a rub-out” while veteran NBI investigators heroically did their job even if Duterte had announced his backing for the ruthless policemen.

The NBI was so meticulous in its investigation that its investigators even found that the witness, one Paul Olendan, who Marcos claimed had told them about the guns and illegal drugs in Espinosa’s Baybay City jail cell on Oct. 28—which became the basis for the search warrant they used to barge into the mayor’s cell—had made it all up. He was almost a hundred kilometers away on that day in Tacloban City, where he was assistant principal in one of the schools there.

How can a President forget that his main task, under the Constitution, is to enforce the law?

CASUALTIES OF WAR. One of the haunting photos in the New York Times photo essay on Duterte’s war vs drugs entitled “They are slaughtering us like animals.” There are more horrific photos there.
CASUALTIES OF WAR. One of the haunting photos in the New York Times photo essay on Duterte’s war vs drugs entitled “They are slaughtering us like animals.” There are more horrific photos there.

The rejection of the rule of law is really as worse as Vice President Leni Robredo’s labelling the Supreme Court ruling allowing the burial of former President Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani “immoral”. She has joined the demonstrations against the ruling, in which protesters hurl invectives at the high court justices.

Doesn’t the vice-president, a lawyer, know that our rule of law is based not only on the body of laws Congress has passed, but on the Supreme Court, which is the last body to decide what is legal or not?

Robredo’s disdain for the rule of law is also evident in her statements that her rival Ferdinand (“Bongbong”) Marcos, Jr. will be “stealing” her post, the vice presidency.

Doesn’t the vice president know that the body which will decide if Marcos’ claims that he was cheated are vaild or not is the Presidential Electoral Tribunal consisting of all 15 members of the Supreme Court, and also chaired by its Chief Justice?

Rather than denigrating the integrity of the Supreme Court, aka the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, why doesn’t she just make sure, with the billions of funds her Liberal Party has, that the alleged evidence of cheating Marcos presents are proven false, rather than declaring again and again that her vice-presidential position will be stolen by her rival?

Pandora’s box
As I wrote here several months back, Duterte’s call to the police to “slaughter them all,” referring to those in the illegal drug trade, is like opening the Pandora’s Box. The term refers to the ancient Greek myth that all the evils of the world were contained inside a box, which the first woman on earth opened and released to the world—defying the chief god Zeus’ warning for her not to do so. Even the all-powerful Zeus was powerless to put back all these seven demons back into the box.

That term has come to mean an action taken in the expectation of some good, but turns out to have several unintended, detrimental and far-reaching negative consequences—which becomes nearly impossible to stop or reverse.

Duterte’s war against drugs, which he said would save generations of Filipinos from misery is indeed turning out to be a Pandora’s box that he has opened. To call on the police to dispense justice on their own has been to allow them to go on killing sprees of suspects, or just “bad characters,” in their areas of responsibility.

They justify such executions on the ground that they have all too often experienced arresting, at the risk of their lives, hardened criminals, only for the latter to get judges to set them loose. They simply post bail or get the charges dropped after witnesses don’t appear in court because of fear of reprisal, or out of mere aversion to the bother of going to hearings.

Such police killings have been going on but kept secret as far as I can remember, and I learned about them from joining other reporters in their police beats. Unlike in American movies, a suspect surviving a police chase, handcuffed, and read his rights is a very, very rare instance. Police almost always shoot dead suspected criminals they corner, after a chase.

However, these police killings have been at a low-level intensity, to use that term, as there is, after all, an announced rule of law. These were also significantly reduced after the establishment of the Commission on Human Rights under Section 18, Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution; the conviction of a number of police officers for human rights violations (mainly in cases of political activists);and the establishment of the Internal Affairs Directorate at the PNP.

Duterte simply told the police to forget this human rights thing since more important was his war against drugs, as this was necessary to liberate our nation from this scourge. He opened the Pandora’s box and released the extra-judicial executioners.

The irony is that out of the 3,500 killings in the streets (as reported by the police) since July when Duterte assumed power, probably 90 percent were killed in some slum area or dumped near there, and were all wearing slippers or cheap basketball shorts— sure signs that these were poor people, hardly drug lords, the lowest level of pushers, or mere addicts who take shabu to forget their utterly miserable lives.

Even alleged drug lord Espinosa was killed in shorts and slippers, indicating as in the case of those other mere users, his utter helplessness when he was killed. Many were reportedly killed by the corrupt police who wanted to clean up their involvement in the illegal drug trade.

An alternative narrative for the war vs drugs would be to read every day that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, with a battalion of NBI investigators and police special action force troopers assigned to it, raiding a shabu laboratory or warehouse, and arresting—okay, even killing—drug lords wearing expensive shoes.

Enough is enough, and a recent New York Times photo essay entitled “They are slaughtering us like animals” shows the horror of what Duterte released from his Pandora’s box. If you’re not convinced, check out that essay (http://nyti.ms/2gCyBBl). Not just because of the horrific photos but the high quality of its journalism, it will become viral not only here but throughout the world, and shaming us as a nation.

What a country! From a do-nothing idiot to a slaughter-them-all president. There must be an alternative.

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