At the outset, Duterte served notice that his SONA would be about a radical departure from orthodox methods of running a government. What he could only do during the presidential campaign as outright propaganda, now he could actually practice given the awesome power of the presidency completely in his hands. When, for instance, he said he would kill anybody who would break the law, this time around it is no longer just a threat but a reality. Based on daily reports, the country is deemed to be experiencing extra-judicial killings at the rate of 10 a day since day one of the Duterte presidency. A latest incident in this regard is the killing of 6 men linked to Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Sr. of Albuera, Leyte and his son Erwin, whom the mayor had reportedly admitted to be engaged in the trade of illegal drugs. Before the incident, the elder Espinosa had surrendered to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, who had threatened to carry out a directive by President Rodrigo Duterte for Espinosa to be shot on sight if he did not give himself up. There has been no admission on the part of the mayor that he was, as alleged by the President, a protector of drug lords in Eastern Visayas. All he did was turn himself in to the police in order to avoid the Duterte order of “shoot on sight.”
“I want to live,” the mayor told the media as the real reason for his surrender.
That the nation appears to be quite condescending of this criminal demeanor by the President is regrettable. I remember vaguely an account of how Hitler had ensconced his fascist rule in Germany. First, went the account, Hitler hit the communists, an act that went well with popular public sentiment. Then he turned his attacks on other sectors one after another, with none of those sectors raising alarm for one another: the socialists, the Zionists, etc. Through all these atrocities, the Christians kept their mouths shut, being not yet the object of the Hitlerian rampage. When finally they realized that Hitler was going after their necks, it was too late for them to look for help. Hitler had gone unstoppable.
So scores of drug users and drug pushers fall into police hands day after day. What do we do? Arms akimbo. It’s not us the police shoot or dump into jails that are now packed with junkies and drug dealers literally like sardines in a can. Having once tasted state fascism, I cringe at such sight of humanity being treated no different from fowl and hog packed in cages en route to the slaughter house.
Marcos needed a second term to realize that the Philippine Republic had to be saved and that a New Society had to be put in place for the Filipino Nation to be great again. Duterte needed just a day as President to start implementing a regime worse than Martial Law.
In the days prior to September 21, 1972, I was taken by Philippine Constabulary troops in a mass arrest of striking workers during a strike melee in a cigarette factory in Makati.
While all the strikers were hauled to the Makati Municipal Jail, I alone was whisked away aboard a PC patrol car, the lead vehicle in the arresting contingent, sandwiched between a PC officer and the Sergeant leader of the arresting team who treated me to a certain degree of “violent manhandling,” stabs of the nozzle of M16 into my ribs.
The sergeant expressed having been piqued by my bravado in the strike melee: “Matigas ang isang ito (This one’s tough).”
It was night, and already I was bracing myself for the worst. To my surprise, I did not end up in a popularly-feared salvage site but, and to my utter feeling of relief, too, in the investigation room of the PC. The investigating officer to whom I was turned over had made much headway in investigating me when Jojo Binay came barging in and inquired, “Are there charges filed against him?” “No.” said the investigator. “Then he is not answering anymore questions,” said Jojo, whereupon the investigator pulled off the typewriter roller the sheet on which he had been typing his Q and A with me.
My point here is that at a time when Marcos was getting accusations left and right of state fascism and violations of human rights, a simple legal intervention by a counsel upheld the precious principle of due process. I got freed instantly and thereafter made sure I would never get apprehended again. Not getting jailed nor tortured nor killed is no proof of a revolutionary not being a hero. In all revolutions, greater heroism must be that which is achieved by those who live and persevere in the struggle.
In his SONA, Duterte said, “There can be no human rights where there is no dignity.” I shuddered at the pronouncement. Do you have human rights all for wearing a white collar or for belonging to alta sociedad? And you don’t have human rights because you are poor and lead such a wretched existence? So that’s why poor folks get done in summarily while police generals whom the president himself had identified as drug lords protector are afforded due process.
Very recently, a La Pieta-like photograph of a woman cradling in her lap the lame body of her loved one who had been a victim of a drug-related extra-judicial killing had gone viral on the social media. The guy who took the picture posted it on Facebook with the caption: “We may not have helped the victim and his partner, but it is our duty to post their picture here.” That’s a straightforward photo journalist speaking.
In my fading years, I may no longer be able to carry out revolutionary tasks, but I’ve still got the prolificacy of a 20-year-old pen pusher who must stand up and say what’s wrong with Duterte. As revealed by his SONA, the wrongs are many, and they make such a travesty of the Philippine presidency.
(To be continued)