A MULTITUDE of monumental ills are raining upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s 14-month-old regime and many are beginning to fear he may not last longer. This leads off with the extrajudicial killings in the murderous drug war, and rampant corruption. There are a few others. But on these two issues alone, the damage to the regime and to the nation at large may have become irreversible. The nation may be ripe for a “color revolution,” except that neither “yellow” nor “red” seems to be the right color.
*THE DRUG WAR AND EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS
The so-called “war on drugs” is misnamed and misused. It is a one-sided war in which the police and so-called “vigilantes,” who are suspected to be also policemen in shoddy disguise, are killing alleged drug suspects, without due process or documentation. “Shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) is the alleged drug of choice, but there is no army of shabu runners in the same manner that there are armed cartels in other “drug wars”.
Alleged drug suspects are killed while reportedly resisting arrest, even inside their detention cells, and their dead bodies are shown with the ubiquitous hand gun with which they had allegedly tried to shoot it out with the police, as in the case of Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, who was killed inside his cell at 4 a.m., and the 17-year-old Caloocan student Kian Loyd de los Santos, whose cold-blooded murder was caught on closed circuit television.
The systematic elimination of alleged “shabu” users has cleansed poor neighborhoods of unwashed vagrants, but it has not reduced the supply of crystal meth in the slums, or heroin, cocaine and other “high end” drugs for the powerful and the rich.
High-end drugs untouched
No pusher or user of “high-end” drugs has ever been arrested or killed in any leisure club, casino, hotel, beach or country club anywhere. Many of these places double as brothels and prostitution joints for a particular class, but none of them have ever been raided or threatened with closure by the President or the police.
From the Arroyo presidency through B. S. Aquino 3rd until the 604 kgs, P6.4 billion shabu shipment went through the Bureau of Customs’ “green lane” on May 17, 2017, police intelligence sources believe an estimated 20 tons of illegal drugs from China, Sinaloa and other sources had entered the country through the same channel, without raising any red flag.
The P6.4 billion shabu shipment that ended in a Valenzuela warehouse was the first big haul that triggered a series of Senate investigations, and implicated powerful names in government. It tried to implicate DU30’s eldest son Paolo, the vice mayor of Davao City, whom Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th accused—on the basis of an admitted tattoo of a dragon on his back—of being a member of the Chinese Triad. But, for some mysterious reasons, not a single criminal charge has been filed against anybody until now, in connection with this illegal drug shipment. No accountable customs official, no importer or consignee, no warehouse owner, no alleged protector behind the operatives.
Are there parties involved here which the Department of Justice cannot afford to touch?
China denies, DU30 defends, churches unite
The Chinese Embassy in Manila has denied reports that China is a major, if not the main, source of illegal drugs being smuggled into the Philippines.
Independent analysts and commentators view the Chinese statement as pro-forma and self-serving; it is generally known that China produces and exports a lot of dangerous drugs to the outside world for its own commercial and political purposes.
But DU30 readily came to China’s defense by saying the shabu shipments entering the Philippines are from the Bamboo Union gang in Taiwan.
This prompted Chang An-lo, the alleged leader of the gang, to call a news conference in Taiwan on September 27 and dismiss DU30’s statement as “ridiculous”. Taiwan is not an international narcotics transshipment point, he said.
Meanwhile, various Churches of different faiths have joined the Catholic Church in demanding an end to, and accountability for, the killings and other violations of human rights.
The Senate too
Even the previously pro-DU30 Senate has weighed in. Sixteen senators have authored a Senate resolution calling for an end to the killing of minors. This made Senate President Koko Pimentel and six other senators a tad resentful that they were not asked to sign as co-authors and made to appear in favor of the police execution of minors.
This bodes ill for Pimentel, whom the 16 could oust anytime they want. The implications are almost unimaginable. It could instantly toast DU30’s drive for “inverted federalism,” which he would like to railroad through a constituent assembly, in order to give himself a fiefdom in Mindanao, which he could run as a regional warlord even if he should fail as President, which seems as unavoidable as nightfall.
Even more immediate, if the new Senate alignment holds, it could frustrate DU30’s bid to remove Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno from the Supreme Court and any similar plan against Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. At least 16 votes are needed to convict and remove an impeached official in a Senate impeachment trial.
39 nations vs impunity
Abroad, the strongest statement against DU30 came from the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Iceland, speaking for 39 countries, scored the continued killings and the climate of impunity associated with them. Last June, 32 member-countries expressed their concern. The new list now includes the US, Canada, Australia, Ukraine, and Georgia, and their statement is much stronger.
The statement called on DU30 to allow Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, to investigate the killings, without any preconditions or limitations. She has been the object of some of DU30’s invectives.
At the Council’s 33rd session in mid-September, UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein flayed DU30 for his “statements of scorn” against human rights, and lamented his “striking lack of understanding of our human rights institutions and the principles that keep societies safe”.
Cayetano adds his own
Meanwhile, in the US, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano further complicated things for DU30 when he, in an official statement, inflated the number of alleged drug users in the Philippines to 7 million. Prior to the drug war, narcotics authorities estimated the number of Philippine drug users at 1.8 million. DU30 arbitrarily bloated this figure to 4 million. If Cayetano is now to be believed, it means the murderous war has been one colossal failure and has succeeded only in creating 3 million more additional drug users.
All in the family
Corruption is threatening to replace extra-judicial killings as the main issue against DU30. Some people linked to the P6.4 billion shabu and other illegal drug shipments from China, are also being linked now to a controversial 500,000 metric ton-rice importation from Vietnam and Thailand, the proposed purchase of 100,000 firearms and 40,000 vests for the police, the proposed acquisition of broadband facilities much larger than the aborted broadband deal with China, the proliferation of illegal gambling in 58 provinces, and the increasing use of casinos for money laundering.
Cabinet sources claim that Information and Communications Technology Secretary Rodolfo Salalima was forced to resign because he could not agree to a proposed broadband deal similar to the one that nearly caused the ouster of President Arroyo. Salalima, a former Globe Telecom executive, was part of the regulated sector but became a regulator, apparently because he knew DU30 from San Beda College of Law.
DU30’s bank accounts?
To top it all, DU30’s bank records are now under official review by the Ombudsman, after that office gave due course to a complaint filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th in May 2016 alleging suspiciously large deposits in DU30’s accounts as well as those of his common-law wife Cielito “Honeylet” Avancena, his former wife Elizabeth Zimmerman, and his children Paolo, Sara, Sebastian and Veronica. DU30’s 2016 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) showed a net worth of P27.4 million, and P18.4 million cash on hand and in the bank.
After the Ombudsman asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council to help validate the information provided by Trillanes, DU30 ordered the AMLC to show his net worth. On September 6, DU30 said, “If somebody can prove that I have a deposit of even $1 in Hong Kong, I will step down as President of the Republic.” The AMLC says it has not provided the Ombudsman any documents related to DU30’s bank accounts, but on September 29, the Ombudsman’s office said DU30’s and his family members’ bank transactions over the years totaled over P1 billion.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has inhibited herself from the investigation because of marriage ties—her brother, lawyer Lucas Carpio Jr., is the father of Manases Carpio, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio’s husband. Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang is in charge of the investigation. But as soon as the information from the Ombudsman’s office surfaced, DU30 threatened, first to have Morales investigated, then later, to have her arrested.
Like the President, the Ombudsman is an impeachable official. She is immune from suit while in office. There is, therefore, no legal basis for DU30’s threatened action against her. There were earlier moves to file an impeachment complaint against her, at the same time they were finalizing the move to impeach the Chief Justice. But Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, whom DU30 has already announced as his preferred successor, reportedly intervened, saying it would affect deep family ties. So the eager beavers were told to lay off. It is not clear now whether DU30 has decided to revisit that earlier decision.
DU30 is clearly frustrated because of his failed effort to demolish his arch enemy, Trillanes. One awful story going around claims that Trillanes himself, through a conduit, had supplied DU30 with fake bank accounts, supposedly held by the senator in a Singapore bank. When DU30 took the bait and exposed Trillanes’ offshore accounts, the senator went to Singapore to expose DU30’s “exposé” as fake.
WHAT’S TO BE DONE?
The regime has begun to unravel. Ninety-five percent of the social media trolls that used to support everything DU30 said or did are gone, only 48 pro-DU30 troll sites remain, according to IT experts familiar with the subject. Within the military, DU30’s support appears to be at a new low, amid fears that their Commander in Chief has surrendered a lot of the nation’s sovereign rights to a foreign power, and suspicions that a high source had leaked to his communist allies top-secret information about a highly classified police-military operation to track down clandestine arms deliveries from North Korea to the CPP/NPA/NDF.
The unexplained death of Major Harim Gonzaga, 37, a member of the Presidential Security Group, from a gunshot wound to the heart, inside his office at Malacañang Park last week, has triggered speculations of foul play within the breathing space of the President, who sleeps in the Pangarap Guest House. This has not helped ease the climate of mistrust, which is reported to be growing among the young and middle-grade officers.
“They seem ready to march under a new flag,” said one close military observer, “except they can’t see themselves marching under one that’s either yellow or red.”