Yesterday, Rizal Day, the nation was treated to two rare interviews of resident Duterte by two female broadcast journalists, Pinky Webb of CNN Philippines and Jessica Soho of GMA-News.
I patiently watched and listened to both interviews, hoping to extract some insight or information from the questioning (grilling?) of the president. DU30 was too vague and slippery and argumentative, and the interviewers were too polite and awed by “His Excellency.”
A woman reader and friend told me that for a Duterte interview to be productive, it should be Stephen Sackur of the Hard Talk program on BBC who should conduct the questioning. Sackur is relentless and well-informed when he does an interview. His questions are unfailingly hard-edged and to the point, he throws no softballs to his interview subjects. So rigorous is its standard that Hard Talk never fails to bring some light and understanding of the issue being discussed. The viewer does not go away empty- handed or unenlightened.
I seriously doubt wether DU30 will ever consent to such serious questioning of his policies and the inevitable baring of his state of mind. He might not be able to handle being on the hot seat. He might end up challenging Sackur to a fist fight.
Both Pinky and Jessica are veteran journalists who have some weight and heft to throw around, but they do not have the toughness to ask the hard questions. This is an unexplored realm in Filipino TV journalism, where the womanly virtues get in the way.
If we don’t understand him, it’s our problem
Take this weird and numbing exchange between Soho and the President.
When asked by Jessica about his public pronouncements which often leave the public confused, and have to be clarified or walked back afterwards by his spokesmen, Duterte declared that it is the people’s problem if they don’t understand him.
DU 30 averred he does not need to explain his off-the-cuff remarks.
He said: “It’s not a problem actually. If you cannot understand me… the entire Filipino nation, kayo ang may problema.”
Asked how the public could best understand his remarks, Duterte said, “I need not explain to you kasi alam mo. Alam ng kayong mga GMA na matagal na diyan, I’m fond of doing it.”
Duterte adverted to his remarks in October when he said he would stop cussing, because he heard God telling him he would bring down the plane if he didn’t.
Duterte said this was a joke, and seemed amused that this became a news story.
“Sino ba namang magsalita ng gano’n? Ang joker diyan Diyos, hindi ako,” Duterte said.
He was then asked about his recent speech, in which he threatened to throw corrupt officials out of a helicopter in the same way that he did a kidnapper years ago.
When pressed by Soho for a categorical answer about persons he claimed to have killed, he said:
“Ganito ‘yan, you can never get a validation from me whether it is true or whether it happened or didn’t happen.”
“Because you’re a lawyer,” Soho said.
“Not only that,” Duterte replied.
In the end DU 30 declared that all the talk about throwing people from a helicopter of killing them in cold blood, happens only in the movies.
It’s like his old standard defense that he was only joking. The public is left hanging in limbo.
Authority for the drug war
Next time DU 30 consents to an interview, I urge our journalists (broadcast and print) to ask our President two questions:
1. By what authority under the Constitution, did President Duterte declare his war on drugs? Has the Congress authorized this war?
2. If there is no congressional declaration of a war on drugs, is the current war on drugs just a metaphorical war?
The questions need to be asked because the Constitution is unequivocal that Congress has the sole prerogative and authority to declare the existence of a state of war or national emergency.
This is lucidly stated in Sec. 23 (1&2), Article VII of the Constitution, which provides:
Sec. 23(1) The Congress, by a vote of two- thirds of both houses in joint session assembled, voting separately, shall have the sole power to declare the existence of state of war.
Sec. 23(2). In times of war or other national emergency, the Congress, by law, authorizes the President, for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as it may prescribe, powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.
In his book, The Constitution Explained, Constitutional Commission member Jose N. Nolledo explains this critical provision as follows: “While the Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, there may come a time that we have to wage a defensive war. The Congress shall have the sole power to declare the existence of a state of war.
“Thus, in times of war or other national emergency (which does not necessarily involve war as in the case of a national pestilence), the Congress may, by law authorize the President to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out a declared national policy. These powers include law-making powers. These emergency powers shall be for a limited period and subject to such restrictions as Congress may provide.”
To justify the harsh measures taken by the government in the current drug war, President Duterte needs a congressional declaration of a state of war or national emergency.
Only congressional action will free the drug war from the conundrum in which we find it today.
Fakery of statistics
The fact is many Filipinos are reluctant to ask the President the hard questions about his bloody war on drugs. Most of us are simultaneously intimidated and repelled by the killings.
The Senate conducted hearings for over a month on the alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs), but the investigating committees never asked for the legal authority behind the drug war. Nor did they inquire about the dubious data waved by the president to justify the war before the nation.
No competent agency has validated DU30’s extravagant claim that there are four million drug addicts in the country. The true figure in our drug agencies’ records is just 1.8 millions drug addicts at most. And there are existing fact sheets and media special reports that expose the fakery of statistics in the drug war.