Before government communicators lay the blame again on the media, foreign or local, it should be clearly understood and remembered by all that it was not the media that triggered all the talk about killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs.
We find it important to say this in view of the Malacanang uproar over the front- page banner story of the Paris daily, Liberation, in its October 7th issue, which depicted and labeled President Rodrigo Duterte as a “serial killer president” in light of his drug war.
This is France‘s first real notice of the Duterte presidency. Liberation is a major French newspaper; it was founded by no less than the celebrated philosopher and writer, Jean Paul-Sartre.
The newspaper took note that the Duterte anti-drug campaign has left more than 3,000 people dead. Written by Arnaud Vaulerin, the four-page article also touched on Duterte’s expletive-laced tirades against US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and his comments referencing the mass murder of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s command and his alleged ties to a hit squad in Davao City.
The object of Malacanang’s protest is, of course, the jolting “serial killer” charge.
If the government and Palace communications now have their hands full grappling with this challenge, they should honestly acknowledge that it is the result of President Duterte’s oft-repeated vow to kill drug suspects (drug lords, users and pushers) to the last man and woman. Without the 3,000 body count and the ever-increasing casualties daily, Liberation‘s blast would not hold any water.
The question that must really be faced by the government is why it is increasingly confronted by quandaries like this.
If you say something a hundred times or more, you shouldn‘t blame people or the media, foreign or local, for taking you at your word.
That’s how public communications is supposed to work.
That’s also how the boy who cried “wolf” was upended when the beast suddenly turned up.
The fable from Aesop’s treasury tells the story of a shepherd boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, and who brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, “Wolf! Wolf!” When his neighbors came to help him, he laughed at them for their pains.
The time came when the wolf did turn up. When the shepherd boy shouted for help, nobody came or paid any heed to his cries. The wolf at his leisure destroyed the whole flock.
The moral lesson is: there is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.
The government’s “serial killer” problem appears to be the reverse of the fable.
President Duterte from the beginning of his presidency told the truth that he would conduct a bloody war against drugs. Now that the deed is coming to pass, the world and the media are aghast to find our President “bloodthirsty.”
The government’s defense against this, as exemplified by presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, is to claim that the drug killings have been made necessary by the serious drug menace. The killings are being done legally and with regularity and with full public approval.
The only problem with that is, you are not going to win an argument with the French (they who originated “liberte, equalite, fraternite”) with this kind of specious argumentation.
Flora Lewis, in her book, Europe, says, France is a country where “the intellectuals reign.”