Duterte’s war on the church and ev­ery­body else

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

IT WOULD be so easy to write off Ro­drigo Duterte’s on­go­ing war on the Catholic church as the brag­gado­cio of a bully re­sent­ful at be­ing told off by an el­der, or the rant­ings of an idiot, full of sound and fury, sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing.”

From one of his ear­li­est di­a­tribes against the re­li­gion that claims the most Filipino ad­her­ents – telling Pope Fran­cis “put*ng ina ka” for the traf­fic jams dur­ing the pon­tiff’s visit to the coun­try – to call­ing God “stupid,” to his lat­est and, ar­guably, most dan­ger­ous pro­nounce­ment – “Itong mga obispo ninyo, patayin ninyo. Walang silbi iyang mga gagong iyan. All they do is crit­i­cize,” ut­tered at the con­fer­ment of the 2017 Pres­i­den­tial Award for ChildFriendly Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and Cities in Mala­cañang on Wed­nes­day, very soon af­ter he ac­cused Caloocan Bishop Vir­gilio David of, first, steal­ing from church col­lec­tions and, later, of in­volve­ment in the drug trade – Duterte has steadily upped the ante in in­sult­ing the church.

Which, of course, does not ex­actly mark him as brave or even dar­ing. No, not by a long shot.

One has only to count how many times he has in­sulted the lead­ers of other coun­tries only to go hid­ing in­stead of com­ing face-to-face with them – his fak­ing a bum stom­ach to avoid then US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama at the 2016 Apec sum­mit, and the sup­posed “power naps” that made him miss sev­eral events at the re­cent Asean sum­mit in Sin­ga­pore, es­pe­cially a break­fast meet­ing with Aus­tralia soon af­ter de­port­ing Sis­ter Pa­tri­cia Fox, im­me­di­ately come to mind.

But while it would be cor­rect to de­scribe Duterte’s ver­bal as­saults on a church that eight of 10 Filipinos be­long to as “de­mented,” closer scru­tiny sug­gests there is, in fact, method to his mad­ness, so to speak.

It is the same with ev­ery slur he com­mits against women, our indige­nous peo­ples, jour­nal­ists and ev­ery­one else who he does not agree with.

Me­thinks Duterte and the agen­cies at his com­mand are test­ing the lim­its of our tol­er­ance to his out­ra­geous­ness, as well as how much fear they can strike into the heart of most, if not ev­ery­one, of us, ren­der­ing us too re­signed and pow­er­less to protest, much less op­pose them as they abuse and sub­vert the law in pur­suit of their ul­ti­mate goal – a re­turn to iron-fisted gov­er­nance, one in which the rulers can do pretty much what they will with im­punity.

The “war on drugs,” clearly now a war on the pow­er­less, is of course part and par­cel of this game plan. As for why and how the real drug lords re­main scot free, your guess is as good – and prob­a­bly just as cor­rect – as mine.

The point is, with some es­ti­mates plac­ing the death toll at near, or even over, 30,000 by now and count­ing, even as the scourge con­tin­ues to spread to more cor­ners of the coun­try, that there is as yet no mas­sive out­rage at this hor­ren­dous loss of lives sends a clear sig­nal to Duterte and his min­ions that they can con­tinue the mass mur­der with­out wor­ry­ing too much about im­me­di­ate con­se­quences.

This is why the head of gov­ern­ment can so ca­su­ally and so hor­ri­bly flout our laws by mak­ing mur­der of­fi­cial state pol­icy with his an­nounce­ment of the cre­ation of “death squads” and his pub­lic call for the killing of bish­ops.

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