RAMON Tulfo, the TV personality, radio show host, and columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, thinks he has hit upon the solution to ridding the country of its age-old problem of corruption. In a recent column http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/858783/on-target-use-extreme-measures-against-most-corrupt, he dispensed the following advice: “If the President is dead serious in drastically decreasing corrupt practices in government, he might want to adopt the unorthodox method he has employed in his war on drugs.”
In Tulfo’s view, what could be simpler than to apply the same murderous methods—instilling fear, intimidation, committing violence and killing—to corruption, another bane of the Filipino citizenry?
After issuing them with ‘warnings’, which are, let’s be honest, indistinguishable from death threats, utterly corrupt officials might be made to disappear or assassinated [sic]by motorcycle-riding gunmen. That’s it, Tulfo thinks, cheap, efficient, no mess, no fuss, simple and effective. That is a sure-fire way the President can minimize, if not totally eliminate corruption in the government, he writes. Furthermore, and best of all, there would be no court trials that take far too long, presided over by judges and magistrates who will have been bribed. Indeed, the corrupt judiciary, he argues, would benefit from the same treatment as corrupt bureaucrats. Assassinate the most corrupt or make them disappear and the fear will be so great bribe-taking and stealing of public funds will no longer take place in government, he reasons. Is Tulfo just being provocative? Indulging in hyperbole? Or does he really mean what he says? It’s hard to tell nowadays.
With his influential and long-running radio and TV show, Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo, which purports to deal with complaints made by the general public against officials, including the police, Tulfo has, for the better part of two decades, cast himself as some sort of people’s advocate, a self-styled “good Samaritan” who speaks up for small, ordinary folk. In a country where the system is skewed against the weak and powerless, where procedures are quite frankly useless and go absolutely nowhere—a member of the public who attempts to complain about an abusive or petty-minded official, or to get their grievance heard, or to obtain formal redress, will be wasting their breath.
So, the big man who bats for the little guy—and Tulfo literally pictures himself gripping an immense baseball bat on his website—projects a powerful figure in the public imagination. The image of Kuya Mon, or elder brother Mon, as he also likes to be known, who listens, cares, and uses his position to get something done, is a brilliant creation which Tulfo embodies with great showmanship and flair. Tulfo’s Kuya Mon persona is cut from the same manly, maverick cloth as the action heroes in the movies once played by Fernando Poe,Jr, and Joseph Estrada. Tulfo is gun totin’, a sharpshooter and proud Glock pistol owner to be precise, a martial arts black belter, and ladies’ man. He has sired 16 children by four different women and, apparently, has managed to support them all.
One of 10 siblings, and raised by a devout Catholic, half-Japanese mother who ardently prayed for and punished her children in equal measure, Ramon, along with three of his brothers, Erwin, Raffy, and Ben, carved out a high-profile career in the media. Most recently their sister, Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo, further burnished the Tulfo name with her appointment as tourism secretary. She was the owner of a travel agency in Davao, a thriving business to be sure, but strictly local in status. She caught the President’s eye, it seems. With his propensity to reward friends, longtime associates, and avid fans, with Cabinet and civil service posts, Duterte credited Teo with making Davao a tourism hotspot and promptly promoted her to the national stage.
Celebrating his 70th birthday last year, Kuya Mon looked pretty satisfied. Surrounded by his many offspring, and so very many of the scurrilous, the shady, the speckled, and the slimy, that make the nation’s political scene so colorful and sordid, he could sit back, relax, feel content in the thought that he can say whatever he damn well pleases, protected as he is by powerful friends with whom he shares the same mindset. Duterte, his most powerful Padron, turned up at the birthday bash several hours late as was his prerogative, to lead the raised fist salute, which has become so discomfortingly ubiquitous these days.
Since he took office, President Duterte’s blood-soaked anti-drug campaign which has given free rein to police, and emboldened paramilitary and vigilante groups to kill, has resulted in mass carnage: over 6,000 people from the very poorest classes, drug pushers and users alike, and unfortunate innocent bystanders, many of them children, have been murdered. Police say they have killed 2,000 people in what they spuriously claim to be self-defense shoot-outs. This is the most vicious, barbaric, and sickeningly savage counter-narcotics crusade to have ever been launched in the history of the country.
Duterte asserts that the violence, fear, and killings are justified and vows to continue along the same merciless path, brushing off the criticism like so much pesky langaw. There are many names for leaders like him. Walden Bello, the left-wing economist, has called the nation’s commander-in-chief a “fascist original” [http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/157166-rodrigo-duterte-fascist-original] whose attributes include charisma, authoritarianism, the unrepentant tendency to violate and disregard basic human, civil, and political rights, and hell-bent on opposing the values of liberal democracy.
Kuya Mon thinks it’s a good idea to widen the President’s deadly strategy. With the exception of those who enjoy close ties to Duterte, or who have pledged fealty to him, obviously, all corrupt officials should be killed, Tulfo says. Such advice, which is only possible when the normal constraints of civilized society have been removed, should be strongly condemned for what it is: incendiary, dangerous, and demented.