Mass mur­ders, sur­prise burial, and other things that were nor­mal­ized in 2016 (Part 1 of 2)

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TOPSTORY! -

THE year 2016 is now be­ing col­lec­tively re­garded by many as the “worst year ever” due to its se­ries of tragedies that shook the global sta­tus quo.

Brexit, Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, the rise of Isis, these are just some of the things that hap­pened in 2016 that will surely re­de­fine the years to fol­low.

But in the Philip­pines, change has re­ally come as early as May in the per­son of Ro­drigo Roa Duterte.

May 9 elec­tions The May 9 na­tional elec­tions was a historic event in the coun­try, as two “po­lit­i­cal out­siders,” Ro­drigo Duterte - the first elected Pres­i­dent from Min­danao - and Leni Ro­bredo, had trounced the other can­di­dates who vied for the two high­est po­si­tions in the land.

It came as a sur­prise that Duterte, who was a for­mer Davao City mayor and just a sub­sti­tute can­di­date of the Par­tido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, edged out his four ri­vals – then-Vice Pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Bi­nay, then-Lo­cal Govern­ment Sec­re­tary Manuel Roxas II, Sen­a­tor Grace Poe, and the late Sen­a­tor Miriam San­ti­ago.

Duterte made a land­slide vic­tory, gar­ner­ing 16,601,997 votes, the high­est num­ber of votes recorded in the pres­i­den­tial race.

He was able to cap­ture the hearts of many Filipinos be­cause of his cam­paign prom­ise to achieve “change” by end­ing crim­i­nal­ity, cor­rup­tion and drug prob­lem in the coun­try.

Duterte also vowed to ease the Filipinos’ plight by form­ing a fed­eral type of govern­ment from the cur­rent uni­tary form of ad­min­is­tra­tion, as well as by low­er­ing in­come tax rates.

Ro­bredo, mean­while, was a Ca­marines Sur law­maker at the time she ran. She made head­lines af­ter she won over his clos­est ri­val, for­mer Sen­a­tor Fer­di­nand “Bong­bong” Mar­cos Jr. with only a slim mar­gin of 263,473 votes.

The Duterte pres­i­dency In merely six months, Duterte has benched pop­u­lar­ity not only na­tion­wide but also in­ter­na­tion­ally for his staunch war on il­licit drugs and his mere rhetoric against his per­ceived en­e­mies.

In fact, Duterte had been ac­knowl­edged as one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the world by Forbes Mag­a­zine and the most Googled per­son in the Philip­pines be­cause of his deadly war on drugs.

A man whose cam­paign prom­ise is to bring forth “real change,” Duterte made a vow to erad­i­cate the drug me­nace in the coun­try in three to six months.

But af­ter sens­ing that his self-im­posed dead­line was ap­par­ently unattain­able, the Pres­i­dent had asked for an­other six months to curb the drug me­nace, ad­mit­ting that he could not ad­dress it alone.

“I did not re­al­ize how se­vere and how se­ri­ous the prob­lem of drug me­nace in this repub­lic un­til I be­came Pres­i­dent,” Duterte said on Septem­ber 18 dur­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Nor­we­gian kid­nap vic­tim Kjar­tan Sekkingstad in Davao City.

“I never have that idea of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in the drug busi­ness. And what makes it worst is, they are now op­er­ated by peo­ple in govern­ment, es­pe­cially those elected of­fi­cials,” he added.

Duterte, as he in­ten­si­fied his anti-drugs cam­paign, had al­ready named govern­ment of­fi­cials all listed in what he calls the “nar­col­ist.” The in­fa­mous list con­tains the names of law­mak­ers, judges, po­lice of­fi­cials, lo­cal of­fi­cials, and barangay cap­tains.

Be­ing his most vo­cal critic, neo­phyte Sen­a­tor Leila de Lima has been tagged by Duterte in his so-called Bili­bid drug ma­trix as the high­est public of­fi­cial in­volved in nar­cotics trade.

The alarm­ing death toll of drug per­son­al­i­ties had also caused con­cern among his lo­cal op­po­nents, as well as the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. The pot­shots had then pro­voked the fran­tic Pres­i­dent to re­peat­edly lam­bast his crit­ics, in­clud­ing the United Na­tions, the United States, and the Euro­pean Union.

Amid crit­i­cisms, he had chal­lenged the in­ter­na­tional bod­ies to with­draw their aid to the Philip­pines.

“If you think it’s high time for you to with­draw as­sis­tance, go ahead. We will not beg for it,” said Duterte last Oc­to­ber 6 in a speech de­liv­ered in Bu­tuan City. “Even though it will be dif­fi­cult for us, we will sur­vive, and I’ll be the first one to go hun­gry and the first one to die. Don’t worry, we’ll never com­pro­mise our dig­nity as a Filipino.”

Stand­ing res­o­lute to stamp out drugs, Duterte was able to build a 100-square-me­ter drug abuse and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­ter at Camp Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija, which can ac­com­mo­date 10,000 drug de­pen­dents. It was funded by a Chi­nese bil­lion­aire.

The Pres­i­dent had also threat­ened to sever ties with the US, sus­pend the writ of habeas cor­pus and de­clare Mar­tial Law.

On De­cem­ber 23, Duterte said he would amend the 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion to ex­clude the Con­gress and the Supreme Court (SC) from the process in declar­ing the Mar­tial Law, giv­ing him the sole pre­rog­a­tive to do so.

De­spite the woes un­der the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion, it also lists among its ac­com­plish­ments the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der on the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion that aims to make the ex­ec­u­tive branch trans­par­ent and avail­able for public scru­tiny.

Adding to the list of ac­com­plish­ments were the move to cut the red tape in govern­ment, the on­go­ing peace process of the govern­ment with the com­mu­nist rebels to end the decades-long prob­lems in strife-torn Min­danao as well as the launch­ing of the 911 res­cue and 8888 com­plaint hot­lines.

Bloody war on drugs There is no hid­ing that 6,000 per­sons were killed since Duterte took of­fice and im­me­di­ately or­dered the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) to in­ten­sify its cam­paign against the il­le­gal drugs.

From July 1 to De­cem­ber 23, the PNP recorded 6,187 in­ci­dents of killings in line with their war against il­le­gal drugs: 2,138 were killed in le­git­i­mate po­lice op­er­a­tions while 4,049 were killed in vig­i­lante-style ex­e­cu­tions where vic­tims were ei­ther hand­cuffed or tied/wrapped by pack­ag­ing tapes all over their bod­ies.

The PNP said the killings of the 4,049 per­sons out­side po­lice op­er­a­tions are tagged as “deaths un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion” or DUI.

How­ever, PNP chief Ron­ald Dela Rosa said only at least one third of the “deaths un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion” are re­lated to the war on drugs while the oth­ers “may be from crim­i­nal syn­di­cates who are tak­ing ad­van­tage of the crack­down.”

“Maram­ing nakisakay sa at­ing war on drugs...So ‘yan da­pat ang ma-ad­dress natin and we are work­ing on that. Hindi po natin ‘yan tinig­i­lan,” Dela Rosa said.

The PNP called its fight against dan­ger­ous drugs as “Oplan Dou­ble Bar­rel.” Un­der it is the “Oplan Tokhang” which is de­rived from two Visayan words “Tok­tok” and “Hangyo” which re­spec­tively mean to knock and to plead.

In Oplan Tokhang, PNP per­son­nel are vis­it­ing the houses of sus­pected drug per­son­al­i­ties and en­cour­age them to sur­ren­der to the au­thor­i­ties and to turn their back from the il­le­gal drugs. How­ever, sus­pects are usu­ally killed and were said to be re­sist­ing ar­rest.

In its up­date, the PNP said that as of De­cem­ber 23, 39,760 anti-il­le­gal drug op­er­a­tions were con­ducted na­tion­wide, where 42,155 drug per­son­al­i­ties were ar­rested.

It added that 5,582,346 houses were vis­ited through the Oplan Tokhang, which re­sulted in the sur­ren­der of 74,100 drug push­ers and 894, 268 drug users.

In the Se­nate com­mit­tee on jus­tice and hu­man rights hear­ing on ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, Dela Rosa said 1,611 or 94 per­cent of the to­tal num­ber of barangays in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (NCR) are af­fected by the il­le­gal drugs. The num­bers in Calabarzon are a bit lower at 75 per­cent.

The 5 nar­co­gen­er­als Among the first to be hit by the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s war against il­le­gal drugs were the po­lice gen­er­als who Duterte al­leged of be­ing in­volved in nar­cotics trade.

They were for­mer PNP Deputy Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Marcelo Garbo Jr., for­mer NCR Po­lice Of­fice Chief Di­rec­tor Joel Pagdi­lao, West­ern Visayas re­gional Di­rec­tor Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Bernardo Diaz, for­mer Que­zon City Po­lice Dis­trict Di­rec­tor Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Edgardo Tinio and re­tired Po­lice Gen­eral and now Daan­ban­tayan, Cebu Mayor Vi­cente Loot.

Duterte ac­cused Garbo of pro­tect­ing the il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­i­ties of big­time drug lords, in­clud­ing Peter Lim, Cebu’s al­leged top drug lord, and Peter Co and Herbert Colanggo, both de­tained at the Na­tional Bili­bid Prison (NBP).

Mean­while, the Na­tional Po­lice Com­mis­sion (Napol­com) said there are no ev­i­dences which di­rectly link Tinio and Pagdi­lao to il­le­gal drugs. But the two are still fac­ing charges of se­ri­ous ne­glect of duty, se­ri­ous ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the per­for­mance of duty, and con­duct un­be­com­ing of a po­lice of­fi­cer be­fore the Napol­com for al­legedly let­ting drugs thrive un­der their watch.

The case against Diaz is still in its build up stage by the Depart­ment of In­te­rior and Lo­cal Govern­ment (DILG). Garbo, on the other hand, is un­der the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and De­tec­tion Group (CIDG).

Aside from the narco-cops, Duterte also named sev­eral politi­cians and busi­ness­men al­legedly in­volved in the il­le­gal drugs.

Among the per­son­al­i­ties iden­ti­fied were Al­buera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa and his son Ker­win, and Iloilo busi­ness­man Melvin Odicta.

The older Espinosa and Odicta sur­ren­dered to Dela Rosa and DILG chief Is­mael Sueno, re­spec­tively, but both de­nied in­volve­ment in the il­le­gal drug trade.

Mayor Espinosa, how­ever, ad­mit­ted his son’s il­le­gal drug op­er­a­tions in the Eastern Visayas.

Af­ter be­ing im­pli­cated on il­le­gal drugs, Odicta and the older Espinosa were both killed in sep­a­rate events.

Odicta and his wife Me­riam were gunned down by a lone sus­pect as they alighted a RoRo ves­sel in the Cat­i­clan Jetty Port, days af­ter they sub­mit­ted them­selves to au­thor­i­ties.

The fam­ily’s le­gal coun­sel Ray­mond For­tun ex­pressed be­lief that the sus­pect re­spon­si­ble in the Odic­tas’elim­i­na­tion is within the PNP, say­ing that he was told by his clients about the death threats they are re­ceiv­ing.

“As early as June 2016, takot na takot ang ma­g­a­sawa na may pa­p­atay sa kanila and it will come daw from PNP,” he said. The Odicta slay case is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mean­while, on Novem­ber 5, Mayor Espinosa was killed by the CIDG re­gion 8 op­er­a­tives while be­ing served a search war­rant in­side his de­ten­tion cell for al­legedly pos­sess­ing firearms and sell­ing il­le­gal drugs to the other in­mates.

In light of the Mayor’s killing, the PNP ini­ti­ated an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on the CIDG op­er­a­tives who con­ducted the raid.

PNP-In­ter­nal Af­fairs Ser­vice chief Leo An­gelo Leu­terio said there were sev­eral glar­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the op­er­a­tions, such as time el­e­ment, co­or­di­na­tion, use of force, pre-op­er­a­tional plan­ning and the tap­ping of the mar­itime units in the op­er­a­tion.

The NBI in its sep­a­rate probe con­cluded that the op­er­a­tion was a rubout and was in fact pre­med­i­tated. (Sun­nex)

— Chris Navarro

PICK­ING UP THE TRASH. A bi­cy­cle rid­ing man is cov­ered by the pile of garbage he col­lected from a sub­di­vi­sion in the City of San Fer­nando as the hol­i­day sea­son not only brings joy and cheer but also wastes.

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