The Manila Times

Election outcome: The rule of law or the gun


HE greatest upset in Philippine presidenti­al elections this past May 9 has been the phenomenal 90-day campaign by the then littleknow­n mayor of Davao City in Mindanao—Rodrigo Duterte, a one-term congressma­n but mayor for more than two decades. He rose to national prominence three months ago by being his own true self.

However bombastic, crude and frightenin­g his threats to impose autocratic rule and kill without trial may have been, one thing is sure—it worked and more than 16 million Filipinos approved and voted him in as presumptiv­e President.

However, 26 million-plus Filipinos did not vote for him but one of the other four candidates. Yet his 40-percent support of the voting public across all sectors of society is astounding. It was a rejection of the Aquino administra­tion, which failed to improve the plight of the poor and the middle-class.

Rodrigo Duterte is the head of a local powerful dynasty, his family and friends have controlled Davao city since 1988. He is frank, honest and unrepentan­t in his oft-repeated admission on television of his human weakness and his crude offensive language and mannerisms. “That’s the way I am, that’s the way I talk,” he explained.

One outrageous statement or vile joke about rape was followed by another yet he was still the darling of the media, as audiences were excited to hear his latest gaffe or dire threat of murder and mayhem that he would bosses and drug lords. He is known as the “punisher.”

The 40 percent of voters who supported him were likely to be angry—the unemployed, the disgruntle­d traders and small business people, the victims of corrupt, bribe-taking the rich, elite-dominated political establishm­ent run by millionair­es. They were the 26 million hungry poor people without hope of a Messiah until Duterte came along.

He, imperfect and flawed, as he humbly confessed in public, was one of them. He talked and cussed like them and threatened the violent retributio­n that they want to be unleashed on their perceived oppressors and exploiters.

The left of center political class see him reluctantl­y as the only alternativ­e leader capable of breaking the strangling grip of political dynasties on the economy and the lives of millions of poor Filipinos.

By declaring himself a socialist, he won over the left, center-left and the poor who experience­d no relief from hunger and poverty despite a 6 percent growth in the economy.

He was said to have approved the extra-judicial killings of over 1,000 suspects in Davao as mayor and, to the delight of the adoring, cheering crowd, he declared, “The 1,000 will become 100,000. It will be bloody” and there will be “no need for more jails—just funeral parlors.” He promised to “eliminate criminalit­y in the entire country within three to six months.” Of course, it was hyperbole but the voters loved it. Yet he seldom, if ever, talked about bringing justice and defending human rights. Many are hoping his talk of threats was just a campaign tactic and as President he will follow the rule of law and respect human rights and the Constituti­on.

He is an outsider and announced at one interview that he was a socialist and seemed to have closer ties to the communist armed groups than to any establishm­ent clique. His campaign manager is a former commander of the New People’s Army (NPA). That fact might cause much discomfort and unhappines­s to the chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippine­s.

Who engineered this amazing political victory? One of the leading architects of his victory is a former Catholic priest, Leoncio Evasco, Jr., ordained a priest in 1970. He joined the communist rebels of the NPA during the oppressive Martial Law regime of Ferdinand Marcos after his parish in Catigbian was raided by the Marcos military. He became a brilliant strategist and leader of the communist undergroun­d resistance in Mindanao.

In 1983, he was arrested in Midsayap and four of his companions were killed on the spot during a wedding. He was tortured and then prosecuted by the then city prosecutor Rodrigo Duterte, found guilty and jailed, but when the regime of Marcos fell, President Cory Aquino released him from prison.

Davao was then plagued by an NPA hit squad called the Sparrows. Whatever deal was made between them, Evasco became the campaign manager of Rodrigo Duterte when he ran for mayor of Davao in 1988.

Years later, Leoncio Evasco ran and won as mayor of his hometown Maribojoc, in Bohol province. They remained good friends and, today, the former NPA commander has engineered an astounding presidenti­al win for his former public prosecutor.

As mayor of Davao City, Duterte created an image of a successful peaceand-order mayor on his reputation as a supporter of vigilantis­m and turning a blind eye to extra-judicial killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad. This supposedly evolved from the NPA hit squad, the Sparrows, and is still active today.

These unproven allegation­s and innuendos will unfortunat­ely follow and overshadow his term as President unless they cease and they do not spread across the nation as a solution to criminalit­y. Thousands of corrupt targeted. He denied any connection with the Davao Death Squad and claims he had no part in the 1,424 documented killings in a 10-year period, although it is claimed he read out lists of suspects over the radio who later were found dead, his critics say, but they cannot connect him to killing anyone.

Yet that is a troubling allegation. Among those allegedly killed by the death squad are 132 children (17 and below)—126 boys and six girls. The youngest was a 12-year-old boy and a (2011-2015), there were 385 victims of extra-judicial killings in Davao—39 of them below 17 years old and 118 young adults (18-25).

Extra-judicial killings, if they happen as claimed, are not a very effective crime control method and no big time drug pushers or crime bosses have been eliminated or put on trial.

According to the data from PNP covering 2010-2015, out of 15 chartered cities, Davao was fourth in terms of Total Index of Crimes: 37,797 incidents. In terms of murder, Davao was No. 1 (1,032 incidents) and in terms of rape, Davao was No. 2 (843 incidents).

Whatever the propaganda about the success of violent solutions by a death squad in every town, it will not end crime and injustice, but create more. Only the conversion to spiritual values and respect for the dignity and values of every human person will bring about positive change in society. We hope, pray and work for justice and respect, and that this will be the path that the new administra­tion will follow for the good of every Filipino.

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