Elec­tion out­come: The rule of law or the gun

The Manila Times - - OPINION -

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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