MY proposal (in my February 15, 2017 column) that the Duterte government ask Malaysia now to agree to a World Court adjudication of our Sabah territorial dispute has drawn spontaneous support from readers here and abroad, beginning with a retired Filipino ambassador in Santiago, Chile, who has offered valuable advice on how to proceed.
The only online objection I have read so far comes from a blogger, who says it would give President Rodrigo Duterte a chance to pretend to be a “statesman,, which, she says, “he is not.” This is precisely one reason I would like him to do it—to help him evolve into a statesman from what he has so far tried to be, a “killing President” and a “knave.”
We have yet to hear from Malacañang or the Foreign Office. Should DU30 decide to act on the proposal, it could become a key diplomatic project, which he could launch during this year of the Manila Asean summit. It would be quite an achievement if a Philippine-Malaysian agreement to refer the dispute to The Hague could find its way into the concluding statement of the summit.
A matter of political will
Of course, this entails a major test of leadership. A renowned bone surgeon, who takes these things seriously, wonders if the government has the necessary political will (seriousness or skill) to do it. DU30’s war on drugs has so far shown his political will in the wrong direction—it has already killed some 7,000 drug suspects, and he has reviled and calumniated those who have denounced the killings, Filipinos and foreigners, bishops, priests and laymen alike.
Is DU30 capable of showing political will in the right direction? This is precisely what I would like to see, even at the risk of making life boring for presidential critics. But this means DU30 will have to take himself less seriously and the presidency and the nation much more seriously. Is he willing to do it? Our surgeon is just one of those who are highly disturbed by DU30’s frame of mind, as reflected by the latest statement, echoed by his official spokesman, that only two out of every five statements of his carry a semblance of truth. The rest are meant for public entertainment.
Since no one knows which two statements are meant to make us cry, and which three are meant to make us laugh, our first problem is how to read the President. When do we take him for his word? And why should we take his word when he tells us he is finally telling the truth? Forget for a while any specific issues—Senator Antonio Trillanes IV’s renewed accusation that DU30 has over P2 billion in unexplained wealth stashed in some big banks somewhere, and the self-confessed Davao Death Squad “killer” Edgar Matobato’s accusation that DU30 personally killed criminal suspects when he was Davao city mayor. Just listen to what he says about himself.
How can we expect him to conduct serious State business when he says three out of every five statements he makes should be ignored? And how is the rest of the world to respond to it? Where truth and lies have become interchangeable and seamless, can one still be held accountable for any falsehood? Can anyone still be expected to tell the truth? Falsehood becomes truth, and truth falsehood whenever the President says so. He does not even have to create a Ministry of Truth anymore, as in George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; all he has to do is lie and proclaim the lie as the new absolute truth, and say he was only joking whenever he is found out. This has happened before, it is happening now, it will happen again. The war on drugs is exhibit number one.
The truth and lies about the drugs war
The drug problem is real, so the war on drugs is based on a truth. But there is no need to kill all alleged drug pushers and users, as Cesar Gaviria, the former President of Colombia, is telling DU30 in an op-ed piece in The New York Times. That the Philippines is not Colombia and that shabu is not cocaine, which DU30 and his apologists are trying to make massive mountains of, does not make the alleged need to kill every nonviolent offender a lesser lie. Nor is DU30 justified in inflating the number of drug pushers and users from the 1.8 million estimated by the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to 4 million without any credible documentation, and making that the target of the Philippine National Police’s proposed “neutralization” of all illegal drug personalities.
America has its own illegal drug problem, and Donald Trump’s decision to launch his own war on drugs, after being told that illegal drugs have a 75 to 80 percent impact on crime, has emboldened DU30’s defenders to claim that Trump is following DU30’s lead rather than the other way around. I don’t believe there’s any reason to believe Trump will authorize the extra-judicial killing of drug suspects, or that if he did, he could get away with it; an order from a federal judge was all that was needed to stop his ban on US-bound immigrants and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The difference between DU30’s and Trump’s wars
Trump’s war on drugs is expected to target the big banks that have been financing the illegal drugs trade, as suggested by an article in the Executive Intelligence Review by Mike Billington of the Lyndon La Rouche Society, which has been active in the anti-drug war ever since it got involved in the US anti-drug coalition in 1980. Without the money, there won’t be any significant illegal drugs traffic, as the book Dope, Inc. points out. Britain’s Opium War against China (in the beginning) and against the world (today) would not have been possible without the support of the big banks in London and Wall Street.
Billington’s article quotes Antonio Maria Costa, former head of the UN office on drugs and crime, as saying that during the near-collapse of the Western banking system in 2008, money from drugs was the only liquidity investment capital for many banks. Interbank loans were funded by money that came from the drugs trade and other illegal activities. Some banks that were ready to fail were rescued by drugs money, he said. It also quotes Victor Ivanov, director of the Russian Federal Narcotics Service from 2008 to 2016, who says that “drug money and global drug trafficking are actually not just valuable elements of, but donors of scarce liquidity, a vital and indispensable segment of the whole monetary system.”
Curiously enough, no bank has ever figured in the DU30 campaign. By targeting the big complicit banks, Trump will be highlighting the distinction between the US campaign and DU3O’s, which has focused on the small fry in the slums, without touching any of the big producers, manufacturers, financiers and mega distributors. This will expose the DU30 campaign as one intended mainly to spread terror in the grassroots to keep political adversaries, the media, and even foreign governments and human rights organizations off-balance, rather than as one intended to really eliminate the drug problem.
Thus, after the reported surrender and detention of 800,000 or more drug users, and the killing of 7,000 or so drug pushers and users, the drug traffic remains as strong as ever. The drug cartels with roots in China, Mexico and Nigeria remain unthreatened by the police operations, which have now been suspended following the police kidnapping and murder of the South Korean national Jee Ick-joo inside the PNP central headquarters. DU30 and his chief anti-drug implementer, PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, will have to own up to some of these lies.
The truth and lies about the Reds in govt
Without the nation’s prior consent, DU30 installed several Communist Party members in the Cabinet. This preceded peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF, which he has now cancelled after the NPA killed some Armed Forces troopers in violation of the truce. He has since branded the CPP/NPA/NDF as a “terrorist organization.” But instead of weeding out the members of this “terrorist organization” from the Cabinet, he has commended each of them for their dedication and service. There is no sign he will be booting out the “terrorist organization” from his government. To the contrary, he might end up swallowing his words against the “terrorist group” and resuming the “peace negotiations” between NDF-1 and NDF-2 to formalize the terms of surrender of the entire government.
In the meantime, the actual machinery of government is being consolidated by Cabinet Secretary and NDF vice chairman Leoncio Evasco Jr., who is running the Office of the President and 18 critical agencies directly linked to the grassroots, as well as the Kilusang Pagbabago (Movement for Change), an embryonic political party whose regional coordinators and other officials are all CPP or NDF members, and the barangay-based structure called MASA-MASID, which is run by CPP and NDF members also. Evasco functions effectively not only as DU30’s co-President, but to some observers as the “de facto President.”
In a recent TV interview with this writer, former Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales exposed the various inconsistencies of DU30’s policies vis-a-vis the communists. The government, in Gonzales’s view, has failed to prevent the CPP/NPA/NDF from continuing their illegal imposition of “revolutionary tax” on businesses; failed to prevent the shipment of arms from various sources to insurgents and allied Islamic extremists; and failed to formalize its description of the CPP/NPA/NDF as a “terrorist” organization. After hearing so many lies about the government’s view of the CPP/NPA/NDF, it is time for us to begin hearing some truths. Will DU30 and Evasco oblige?
The truth about DU30’s health
This last issue is almost unmentionable but must be mentioned. The President is most sensitive about any discussion of his health, and has in fact used a few choice words against this writer for raising the issue in this space. I can only repeat how sorry I am for any pain I may have caused by my provoking this issue. But the President’s health is our nation’s primary concern. Our people deserve to know that he is in the pink of health if he is, and to be told otherwise, if he is not. This is part of the truth that will keep us together as one.