STUCK between Equatorial Guinea and Laos in the latest listing of fragile states by the US think tank Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, the Philippines may yet have a long way to go before joining the ranks of Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Chad, Congo, Afghanistan and Haiti, etc. as a failed state. But a resumption and escalation of the drug killings could speed up our descent. On my Sunday evening cable TV program with broadcaster Ariel Ayala, former President Fidel V. Ramos was pained to observe that the Philippines had slipped down to No. 115 (out of 190 states) in the latest UN Human Development Index, and risen to one of the top five state violators of human rights.
I asked FVR to share his view of what to expect from the man he had supported, with high hopes, in the last elections. In light of the great divisions President Rodrigo Duterte has created since, I thought it would be a great learning experience to listen to Ramos, whom DU30 had publicly thanked for “making him President,” and whom many people regard as a great consensus builder. Elected in 1992 with 24 percent of the votes cast in a seven-way contest, Ramos managed, within weeks, to win over all his rivals but one, and to convert his minority position into a solid political base. The only Protestant to win the highest office in a mostly Catholic nation, he quickly earned the support of the nation’s Catholics, simply by being open to all. He governed for six years without any of the coup attempts that had traumatized the Cory Aquino administration.
By way of contrast, DU30, who won 38 percent of the votes in a five-way contest—a “landslide,” according to some—tried to create enemies where he had none. Launching a brutal war on drugs, which killed suspects, he instilled fear rather than hope or confidence. He verbally abused the past President of the United States, the previous secretary-general of the UN, the previous American ambassador to the Philippines, the Pope, the Roman Catholic Church, bishops and priests, and some columnists for no other reason than that they criticized killings, which he considered sacrosanct acts of a sovereign government.
Should a President be feared?
What is it in the presidency that makes one want to show he has all the power in the world? I tried to ask Ramos. I had to reframe the question—Is it necessary for a President to be feared? Machiavelli says if you cannot be both loved and feared, then it is better to be feared; but a prince must be careful not to make himself hated, even though he is feared. Ramos replied on his own: “Better to be loved,” he said. DU30 may have shared the same response, except that at this stage he may be more feared than loved, and probably hated by some. He has done what no other President has done, and he must reap the consequences.
The war on drugs has already killed over 7,000 suspects. Each one of these deserves a just accounting, but none of them have ever been properly investigated. They have just become cold numbers in DU30’s social cleansing where the poor are exterminated like vermin crawling out of the gutter. Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan says: “This is not a war on drugs but a war on the poor. Often on the flimsiest evidence, people accused of using or selling drugs are being killed for cash in an economy of murder…Under PDU30’s rule, the national police are breaking laws they are supposed to uphold while profiting from the murder of impoverished people the government was supposed to uplift. The same streets Duterte vowed to rid of crime are now filled with bodies illegally killed by his own police.”
Reason or propaganda?
But instead of listening to reason coming from concerned individuals and institutions, DU30 would rather listen to his own propaganda as voiced by his trolls in the social media and the lynch mob organized by the DILG and Kilusang Pagbabago at taxpayers’ expense at the Luneta and other places. “I am committed to stop drugs before I go out,” says DU30. “This means to say, Father, Monsignor, Bishop—marami pang patayan ito. Kasi lumalaban talaga iyan. (This means more killing, because they’re fighting us.) It will not end tomorrow.” On the Human Rights Watch Report saying the war on drugs is a war against humanity, he says, “ When you kill criminals, it is not a crime against humanity. The criminals have no humanity!…Human rights and due process cannot be used as an excuse to destroy the country.”
This denies everything we know about law and morality, about the human person being made in the image and likeness of God. DU30 has now made himself the source of law and morality. Because he wants to save the country from drugs, it must renounce human rights and due process and resist the need to be saved from DU30. PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa echoes his master by saying the people support the bloody war on drugs, so it must continue. But more and more experts are saying that if DU30 cannot be prosecuted under the country’s laws or judicial system, he could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague under the Rome Statute for command responsibility.
The ICC option and the Lascañas hearing
Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert points out that foreign courts acting on the basis of universal jurisdiction of international criminal tribunals, including the ICC, are in no way bound by domestic grants of immunity, and may prosecute protected wrongdoers as well as officials implicated on grounds of superior responsibility. Policemen involved in the extra-judicial killings cannot expect to be protected from prosecution by DU30.
According to Wikipedia, there are at least 10 situations under investigation by the ICC—The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic I and II, Darfur, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and Georgia. Thirty-nine persons have been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, 30 ordered arrested, 9 summoned; seven are under detention; three have been convicted, one acquitted, charges against six dismissed, charges against two withdrawn, one case declared inadmissible. Four, including Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, who died on October 20, 2011, have died before trial.
Today, the senators are expected to grill former SPO 3 Arthur Lascañas, the self-confessed hitman of the so-called Davao Death Squad, who has tried to implicate DU30 in several killings and bombings of mosques when he was still mayor of Davao City. This should give us an indication if there is any prospect of bringing any case against the President at The Hague. Lascanas is reported to have executed a 64-page affidavit, 12 pages of which have already been submitted to the Senate. Several “literary detectives” have tried to parse the document to determine whether Lascañas has the intellectual capability to author a grammatically readable document. People who claim to know Lascañas have told me the former policeman had gone to law school, and is capable of composing a tolerably readable piece. But the best way to find out is for the senators to grill him thoroughly on its contents.
When reason is perverted
The perversion of reason in defense of the killings does not stop with DU30. It is so contagious that even ranking legislators with otherwise distinguished bar exam records have managed to sound completely idiotic in their defense of the indefensible. To the statement of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) that “extra-judicial action, purportedly taken in pursuit of drug control objectives, is fundamentally contrary to the provisions and objectives of international drug conventions,” and to that of the International Commission of Jurists that the country would be committing a blatant breach of its treaty obligations if it reinstates the death penalty, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (a bar topnotcher) says that putting a stop to drug trafficking and other heinous crimes is more urgent than worrying about the country’s reputation before the international community. “We can justify that we can never surrender our sovereignty (for international treaties). A treaty cannot tie our hands so that we’d be helpless in our country even when we have a strategy to fight crime.”
Not only is this statement scandalous, it betrays so much ignorance on the part of someone who has lost the right to talk like a peasant. DU30 is not being opposed for wanting to stop drug trafficking or any other heinous crime; he is being opposed for committing a serious crime in his vaunted effort to stop a lesser crime. What is involved here is not just our country’s reputation, but also our adherence to the law of humanity and the law of nations. Something as crass as this should not be coming from the Senate, which concurs in the ratification of treaties. Since the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, which commits us to the abolition of the capital sentence within our borders, were concurred in by the Senate, Pimentel cannot just treat them like scraps of paper, without promoting his own delegitimization as Senate President, and our own delegitimization as a sovereign state. Should the boxer Pacquiao now replace him as Senate President? And should we now replace Somalia in the roster of failed states?
The majority as a mob
House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas is no better. Justifying the railroading of the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives, Fariñas said: “The House exists to represent the people. The people want the death penalty reimposed as expressed through their representatives in our caucuses and shown by them in our sessions. But a minority group against it has been bullying the majority from expressing its will.” Excuse me, Sir. The right reason of the majority, not its mere numbers, gives them the right to rule. In theory, the House represents the people. In reality, it dances to the President’s tune. Given our rotten justice system, only DU30 and his lackeys seem ready and willing to entrust the death sentence in the hands of such a system.
But the railroading of the death penalty bill requires no philosophical discussion. The chair called for a viva voce voting on second reading.. The Nays were as loud as the Ayes, but the chair ruled, “the Ayes have it.” A member rose to ask for a nominal voting to determine which side had the actual numbers. Under the rules of any Congress, the motion should have been granted. But the chair dismissed the motion. The vote remains highly questionable.
The biggest crook of them all
The absence of reason is now DU30’s defining quality even in his treatment of corruption. Peter Laviña was sacked from the National Irrigation Administration for an alleged overprice in the bidding of an irrigation project by a group which offers to facilitate projects at the NFA, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Agriculture and Sugar Regulatory Administration, etc. at a 15 percent commission. When Laviña learned of the deal, he decided to expose it to the President at 8:30 that morning. But the head of the group, who is infinitely closer to DU30, got wind of it and reported Laviña as the real culprit at 6 a.m.
Now Laviña is disgraced, and Martin Andanar has been shut down for putting his foot in his mouth too often. But the biggest crook of them all, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., remains untouched, despite the uncontested revelation that he had been an American citizen until two days before his appointment. In the March 1 issue of Philippine Star, former Foreign Secretary Roberto Romulo exposes Yasay’s many sins as an American masquerading as a Filipino citizen. But is DU30 on pain-killers?