To many listeners, Duterte’s SONA was a good comic relief. For every Duterte dig, laughter and applause even from those who were the objects of his ridicule: Catholic priests and religious representatives from other sects, congressmen and senators, members of the bureaucracy, business executives, the elite. All, albeit out of fear or hypocritical deference, responded lustily, indicating an extremely rueful numbing of public senses to the true danger to national being of the Duterte brand of justice. Imagine former Manila archbishop Guadencio Cardinal Rosales expressing satisfaction, “on the right track,” he says, over the way Duterte has been running the government. Is this not acquiescing to the spate of murders Duterte has been committing? Has the cardinal been among the multitudes intimidated by the Duterte terror? “Wag kang umasa dyan sa mga pari at pati human rights. Hindi nakakapigil yan sa kamatayan (Don’t rely on priests and also on human rights. They can’t save you from death)”. According to police reports, the number of people killed in drug-related incidents has gone at the rate of 10 daily, so that counting from day one of Duterte’s rule, victims of extrajudicial killings may now be in the thousands.
Sorrier is that none of the killings have merited the kind of public outcry as did many a similar incident in distant and recent history: the Mendiola Massacre under Cory’s rule in 1987; the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and the Ampatuan Massacre during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo; the SAF 44 carnage under PNoy; the Jabidah Massacre which gave Ninoy a convenient alibi to start his life-long demonizing of Marcos; and the Balangiga Massacre which highlighted the infamy of the United States aggression of the Philippines in 1900s.
Note that the victims in any of the incidents mentioned are far outnumbered already by the Duterte killings, and yet Duterte has not contended with any violent protests over them. Of the above mass executions, only the Balangiga Massacre comes close to Duterte’s manslaughters – in volume of victims and in cold ferocity by which they were rubbed out.
In the Balangiga incident, Brigadier General Jacob Smith of the 9th US Infantry Regiment issued the cold order for the liquidation of Filipinos ten years old and above: “I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me.” Editorialized in the New York Times, the incident so got the American nation mad that it got Smith court martialed, resulting in his separation from the service. Yes, while the United States had received widespread damning for the Balangiga Massacre, Duterte continues to reap praises for his similarly murderous acts.
Early in the period of the presidential campaign, I already perceived the terror that would result if Duterte got elected, and so I wrote an article, admittedly in an effort, if a vain one, to deter Duterte from becoming president. I titled that article in this column: “Between Idi Amin and Duterte, What’s The Difference?” Oh, the flak I got from Duterte fanatics. To my overall account, quoting a diagnosis by a professional psychologist, of Duterte being afflicted with syphilis of the brain, one such fanatic attributed the malady to me. Who between me and Duterte has syphilis of the brain is best determined by the answer to the question who between us has killed people. I have not any; Duterte has killed many.
And that many, judging from his open threat to kill any journalist who would hail him to court, could eventually, sooner than later if he may, include me. Though I can still be lucky, because I cannot sue Duterte in court while he sits as President. So I won’t sue. But the military, of which he is the Commander-in-Chief anyway, can push a putsch. I’m for that, too. No other way to stop the devil incarnate.
This leads us finally to our original proposition in this piece: that Duterte’s SONA was one grand comedy act that addressed the hankering of a people so enthralled by the rapacity of Duterte to the extent of surrendering to him their most basic freedom – the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Has a single one of those who fell from Duterte’s bullets been proven guilty? Not one.
Yet, irony of ironies, look how we even accord Duterte a 94 percent approval rating!
Inspired by the Leninist attitude of making every minute occasion for conducting propaganda against imperialism, I have taken all opportunities to sway people from their mistaken perception of Duterte as doing a good thing killing suspected illegal drug pushers and users. My latest verbal bout in this regard was with a lady whom I sat beside with at the DFA office while queuing up for processing of my passport renewal. Otherwise a gracious woman, she instantly got me riled when, learning that I am a journalist from the Manila Times who had been writing ill of Duterte, she went ratatat with contrary assertion: that now you can go around safely on the streets without fear of your necklace or handbag being snatched. It rained so hard that day that I had my GI fatigue jacket on for protection from the elements, but at the lady’s words I melted like jelly under the heat of the sun. Are civil rights to be exchanged for the mere safety of women’s vanity?
The lady, a teacher from Makati, represents just a segment in a demography of Duterte blind followers who include tricycle drivers, market kargadors, sidewalk vendors, mall sales attendants, people who form that enormous social class we call masa. This is the same class from which the victims of Duterte’s extra-judicial killings hail. Definitely this is the class to which belonged the pedicab driver who, wanting to earn a little more before calling it quits for the night, pedaled around searching for passengers – only to meet with his demise. That by now has come to be the most feared specter called riding-in-tandem swept by and blew bullets into his head. The photograph of the man’s lifeless body being cradled by his lover La Pieta-like went viral on the social media. Instead of condolences, Duterte had cruel words for the victim in his SONA as he castigated the newspaper that had frontpaged the photograph: “Tapos andyan ka (And there you are.) Nakabulagta ka. (Fallen) And you are pictured in a broadsheet na parang (like you were) Mother Mary na (who is) cradling a dead cadaver of Jesus Christ.” Duterte did not realize that he was actually delivering the most exquisite irony depicted by the photograph: that he had killed his own follower. According to the woman in the photograph, her lover had voted for Duterte.
The greatest tragedy, then, in the Duterte SONA is the high level of public approval of the many wrongs he has stated in it. People just don’t understand that it does not take the election of a president to solve the country’s ills. Duterte declared in his speech: “When I decided to seek the presidency, I knew the ills of the country.” Either he was lying or he didn’t know what he was talking about. I have said this in my past column on Duterte’s illegal drugs campaign, and I will say this now one more time. The ills of the country are not illegal drugs. They are not crime, or graft and corruption. What ails the country is a system that breeds all those evils of illegal drugs, crime, graft and corruption. But no, instead of killing the vicious system, Duterte kills its victims. Doesn’t this picture Duterte as a nitwit, not knowing what he was talking about when he declared in his SONA: “The cause of the cause is the cause of them all.” Precisely, that’s just like saying, there are drug addicts and drug pushers because there are illegal drugs that because of graft and corruption in the enforcement of governmental laws are allowed by a system that profits from illegal drugs. So why punish the victims of illegal drugs? Punish the system. Punish the cause of them all.
Patawa ka, Duterte.
Duterte disclosed in his speech that there are about 3,000,000 drug dependents in the country today. So how does he propose to solve this problem? Kill all those three million?
In which event, he would be just three more million shy of what Hitler did to the Jews in World War II. But if we were to believe colleague and kumpadre Diego Cagahastian, who has come up with a finding that the Holocaust is a hoax, then Hitler not having really gassed up six million Jews should put Duterte well on the road to becoming history’s greatest murderer.