If the look-alikeness with Clint Eastwood were to be the gauge for determining who between President Digong Duterte and Tanauan City Mayor Tony Halili is the true terror, then Tony will win hands down. Tony teems with the ruggedly handsome facial features of the popular Hollywood action hero while Digong lacks the adverbial object. Try picturing the two and see if you don’t end up with this image mix of FPJ and any of his perennial villains in movies like Bino Garcia.
On the romantic side, Digong admits to having three children by two mothers; Tony five by five, and counting.
I remember coming across a trivia that having many wives and children are a common attribute of great leaders in history. Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great, Adolf Hitler, and down to the current generation, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, though no longer counting.
For my part, I never was meant to be great; I’ve had only one wife.
But back to Tony. A no mean guy, he is perfectly cut for the job as mayor of a fast burgeoning city. Tanauan has gone past the phase of economic transformation such that it is now well into the category of an industrial hub. With an annual income of over P1 billion, it should qualify to be a chartered city but that its population of a little over 170,000 still prevents it from becoming one.
When Tony first took over as Tanauan mayor in 2013, criminality, as is characteristic of developing capitalistic societies, was rampant in the city. One particular concern that he addressed with iron hand were the killings invariably perpetrated by riding-in-tandem gunmen such as those that had made Davao City notorious already.
In a talk with him three years ago, Tony disclosed that there appeared no way to stop the killings simply because the gunmen easily fled after executing their death missions.
“So what I did,” Tony said then, “was organize my own riding-in-tandems with the specific mission of neutralizing the riding-in-tandem hired killers. That did the trick. The hired gunmen may have gotten their subjects but they got their due soon after. In many instances we got them before they could do their job.”
When we visited Tony last week, he was visibly an executive contented with his work.
“All those riding-in-tandems have gone,” he informed us. “If you still happen to see them springing up from time to time, you can be sure it’s my men giving criminals a dose of their own medicine.”
That noon when we paid him a visit, we had to wait a long while before being attended to by him because he was being interviewed by CNN. Tony has been hogging the limelight lately because of his iron-fisted handling of the crime situation in Tanauan. The “walk of shame” which he made suspected drug pushers to undergo generated wide public attention. Tony ordered the seven suspects, handcuffed to one another, to walk around the public market each bearing the sign: “Ako’y drug pusher, ‘wag tularan (I’m a drug pusher. Don’t be like me).”
Tony calls his method effective, as it has deterred other pushers from persevering in the illegal trade.
Is Tanauan clean of drugs?
Tony pressed his lips, tilting his chin up, his eyes shooting that naughty squint which said words his mouth would not speak.
Where have they gone?
“Oh, they have just fled to nearby towns,” Tony said.
“Why don’t you pursue them?”
“Nahh, not my turf anymore.”
The “walk of shame” strategy of Tony has earned him condemnation by human rights advocates. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), particularly CHR Regions 4A and B Director Jacqueline de Guia, said the “walk of shame could be considered a form of mental torture because it brings shame upon a suspect who has yet to be proven guilty.”
The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) has called the walk of shame a “bad PR stunt.”
“This type of punishment does nothing to address the sources of criminality, some of which being a combination of extreme poverty which forced them into these lives, and criminal syndicates or networks that target poor Filipinos who have nothing to lose,” declared Kadamay Chairperson Gloria Arellano in a statement. “If Mayor Halili wants to fight crime then he should go after big outlaws orchestrating wrongdoing instead of picking on defenseless Filipinos.”
That, in fact, echoes Tony’s own, real stand on the relentless presidential binge of killing smalltime illegal drugs offenders.
“Leave those small people to their vice. What must be done is go after the big ones. Cut the source. That will make the addicts go crazy for not having the illegal substance anymore but cutting the source will stop the drug menace once and for all.”
Tony makes no bones about his own predilection to extrajudicial killings, realizing that “conventional methods seldom works.”
“But confine the killings to the big ones,” he says. “They’re just a few after all. Kill those few, tapos ang problema (the problem is solved).”
August 26 was meant to be a big day for Binangonan folks. That was the birthday of Rizal Governor Ito Ynares (the sitting provincial executive is actually wife Nini, but the title “Gov Ito” is indelibly attached to the grand old man of Rizal) and it has been a tradition that on this day he conducts a blood donation contest among the different barangays of the town. For the Friday affair, up for grabs were a brand new dump truck for the barangay that donated the most blood, and a motorcycle for the second placer.
Ito, dear friend and kumpadre, turned 70, a milestone in a man’s life as 18 is to a debutante.
“Nakaugalian ko nang makasalamuha ang mga kababayan natin sa araw na ito. Yung mga kaibigan natin sa gobyerno magpapadala ng kung anu-anong regalo’t pagkain. Hindi naman natin kayang ubusin ito. Kaya ang ginagawa ko, dinadala ko sa mga taong nangangailangan talagang kumain. Hindi lang yan, pag-uwi ng mga blood donors me mga bitbit pa silang bag ng groceries na pakikinabangan nila sa loob ng ilang araw (I’ve been used to mixing with our provincemates on this day. Our friends in government would send us all sorts of gifts and food. We cannot eat it all/ So what I do, I bring these to the people who really need to eat. That’s not all. Blood donors will go home bringing bags of groceries that will last for several days,) he said.
Happy birthday, pare.