By Raïssa Robles
- who would place the welfare of the poor and the middle class in all his policy decisions;
- who would tell mining corporations to give much more to the Philippine government and to the host-communities, as well as crack down on practices that destroy the environment;
- who would be critical of American support and demand more for allowing Americans limited access to Philippine territory;
- who would seriously take steps to end the decades-long communist and Muslim insurgencies;
- who would encourage couples to space the births of their children, teach them various ways of family planning and leave them to make a choice;
- who would tell the Catholic Church it’s high time for the institution to clean up its act;
- and who would be tough on crime and criminals.
Here’s why I hesitate to say that President is Rodrigo Duterte.
First, he wants to amend the present form of government into a parliamentary-federal set up without imposing a ban on political dynasties. That would lead to warlordism in the country and entrench the present political families even more.
Second, as a journalist I have always been skeptical and critical of the promises made by presidential candidates in order to win.
I believe the first task of a journalist is to monitor how those promises are being fulfilled starting from DAY ONE.
Those older than I say it is traditional for journalists to give a new President a “honeymoon period” of 100 days, or roughly three months. I remember that in 2010 when ABS-CBN invited me to a panel discussion on the incoming presidency of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, the anchor Tina Monzon Palma asked the question whether I would be giving Aquino a honeymoon period. (If I recall, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda was beside me.)
I replied then – and this is my reply now – that as far as I knew, I wasn’t married to President-elect Aquino and therefore the concept of a honeymoon period was not applicable to a journalist covering a new President.
I suppose, looking back, that sounded a bit impertinent. But Tina Monzon Palma asked me that question and I had to reply frankly.
Where on earth did I get such an attitude?
I would trace it to Business Day, the first newspaper I worked for.
I recall that on the night the Marcoses fled Malacañang Palace in 1986, the editor Ronnie Romero gathered all of us reporters and told us that now that President Corazon Aquino was in place, “iba na ito“.
He meant that we should be as tough covering her as we were covering Marcos.
It must have shocked Mrs. Aquino to find the same reporters, who had been gentle with her before she occupied Malacañang, become as tough as nails with her overnight.
The only way I can explain the change is this way: the relationship between a President and the media changes dramatically once that person steps into office.
Members of the media have to fulfill their constitutional role of being a “free press” in a democracy. Many times, many of us do fail in that role. But we try to fulfill the role given to us by Section 4 of Article III or the Bill of Rights. It states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Duterte and his people have loudly indicated that the new administration will move swiftly on at least three things:
- The “eradication”, later changed to “reduction” of crime especially those involving drugs and other heinous crimes in six months;
- The burial of the corpse of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery);
- The drastic amendment of the 1987 Constitution to change the form of government and even maybe most of it;
It is therefore the responsibility of media to write about these. Let me tackle them one by one:
The reduction of crime
The Duterte administration has to lay down from Day One how the public would know if crimes have been reduced. What are the benchmarks the public can use for this? Is it the number of dead bodies resulting from operations?
In other words, how do we measure success? Neither President Duterte nor his incoming police chief has explained this part. Nor have they explained how the current rules of procedure and engagement set by the Philippine National Police are changed by Duterte’s “take no prisoners” policy.
Do policemen have to obtain warrants of arrest from judges before carrying out such arrests and/or killings during arrest?
Or will Duterte’s directive be interpreted by the police as a blanket go-signal to arrest suspected drug pushers and dealers, search their homes and seize objects from them even without the issuance of something similar to the ASSO (Arrest, Search and Seizure Order) of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos during Martial Law?
Why is it important for the Duterte administration to clarify such things and to give very clear guidelines? Because such powers can be abused, as they were abused during Martial Law. Retired Colonel Eduardo Matillano told me last year that those using ASSOs during Martial Law were inserting names of their own choosing to the ever-growing list of suspects to be arrested. Senator Panfilo Lacson told me in a separate interview that ASSOs were being used for extortion by some Philippine Constabulary officers. These are chronicled in my recently published book, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again.
The illegal drug trade in the Philippines was described in 2009 as a US$8.4 billion sunrise industry. I wrote about this for South China Morning Post (HK). Here’s the link.
From these figures, we can surmise that those involved in illegal drugs must be stupendously wealthy from buying and selling. And yet, all the video footage of buy-bust operations of “suspected drug lords” show them to be living in such miserable houses or looking very poor.
There is not one video footage of a residence in Forbes Park, Bonifcio Global City or Alabang being raided by the police and its occupants being gunned down and lying bloodied on the floor. Although there is one drug dealer in the Visayas who was gunned down in his plush seaside home.
President Duterte has repeatedly said he is “angry” at criminals. He has even encouraged private citizens to commit DIY (Do-it-yourself) killings against suspected drug dealers or drug lords.
“If he fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him.”
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support.”
“Shoot him [the drug dealer] and I’ll give you a medal.”
For citizens who find their children taking drugs, would it be OK to bring a gun without a mission order outside one’s home, barge into the drug pusher’s residence and shoot him dead then and there? Duterte and his chief PNP have to clarify this.
What I find disturbing is that while he is speaks harshly against such criminals and those who commit street crimes, his government seems to be soft on suspected “white collar” criminals.
During a businessman’s forum last week his incoming Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez was well applauded when he told businessmen that the Duterte government would suspend “Letters of Authority” already issued by the previous tax chief Kim Henares.
This means, all investigations for suspected tax evasion will stop.
Contrast that to his being tough on street crime and illegal drugs.
Some of his supporters would probably say that the tax evasion list is tainted. I would say the same goes for the suspected drug lords and dealers’ list, which would come from sitting barangay captains (village chiefs) and police officials.
There is also a disconnect between his war on crime and corruption in government and his close friendship with former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos. Both are defendants in an ongoing P200 billion civil forfeiture case filed by the government against the Marcos family members. The case had earlier been thrown out, but was ordered reinstated by Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in 2012. You can read Sereno’s ruling here.
Rem Ramirez explained the ruling in his blog.
“The Supreme Court has reinstated the children of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and former first lady Imelda R. Marcos siblings – Ma. Imelda “Imee” R. Marcos-Manotoc, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., and Irene R. Marcos-Araneta – as defendants in the ill-gotten wealth case in connection with the Marcoses’ accumulation of at least P200 billion and use of the media networks IBC-13, BBC-2, and RPN-9 for the family’s personal benefit, among others, now pending before the Sandiganbayan. This even as it found wanting the conduct of the prosecution of the case by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported the story here.
Will President Duterte have the political will to tell Bongbong and Imee to drop all their efforts to block contested assets from going to the government? Or perhaps Duterte does not believe that Ferdinand Marcos stole from the government.
Marcos’ burial at Heroes’ Cemetery
I have written extensively on this matter.
The bottom line is that Imelda Marcos promised President Fidel V. Ramos that in exchange for allowing the body to return to the country, Marcos would be buried promptly in Ilocos.
Here below are the links to all my stories on burying Marcos as a hero. Duterte supporters can counter-check what I wrote since one of my primary sources is Rafael Alunan, whose candidacy for senator was personally endorsed by Duterte.
I will make a separate post on Duterte’s plan to amend the 1987 Constitution.
I will wait for him to take office before writing more about his fight against illegal drugs.