“We need complete, truthful information. And the truth should not depend on whom it is to serve.”
–Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
I am writing this piece from Cagayan de Oro City – the capital of Misamis Oriental, the province I served as an elected Opposition Provincial Governor in 1980, during martial law. I keep on remembering the years of struggle for restoration of formal democracy in the Philippines. I remembered the slogans I coined which propelled me to the halls of the Batasang Pambansa (Parliament) in 1984 – “Misamis Oriental Where Ideas Moved Mountains” and “Today Mindanao, Tomorrow the Philippines.”
Contrary to the erroneous interpretation of my detractors and some of my admirers that the slogans were an articulation of my ambition to be leader of the country, they had really nothing to do with that. Everybody who has academic and extra-curricular excellence in the University of the Philippines is always viewed as gifted with that ambition. But I have always thought of myself as an exception because I believe in the French maxim of carpe diem – seize the day and the moment– and Bobby Kennedy’s fatalistic view that it is needless to expect many things for tomorrow because destiny is determined by Providence or the Fates.
The boy-man Duterte
In the course of my dalliance with the elusive meanderings down memory lane, I remember Reuben Canoy and I visited the residence of Governor Duterte, the father of the boy Rodrigo who later became mayor of Davao City during martial law. The picture was that of a nondescript young man sitting with crossed legs on a wooden and rattan chair who looked very much older than his age. If my memory has not eluded me, it was Reuben who told me that the nondescript character was the son of Governor Duterte of Davao which was then one huge province, now split into four provinces.
The next time I saw Mayor Duterte was on the TV screen in Davao City with his usual bluster telling then Councilor Jun Pala of Davao City that Jun escaped the first two ambushes but he could not escape the third. I was shocked by his bravado and braggadocio. I thought the moment I saw the TV threat that it was just a lot of bluster not meant to be taken seriously.
But I learned later when I was back in Manila that Jun Pala was assassinated in an ambush. I began to examine that image of the nondescript boy on a chair with crossed legs and the man in television who I thought threatened Jun Pala. Everything else after that was the information in the grape vine that the boy man Duterte as mayor of Davao City was the terror feared by criminals; that he and his death squads killed criminals and drug addicts without due process; that he and his boys bragged that he has cleaned Davao City of criminals by unfettered killings; and that he is the bravest man in town but always followed and escorted by a bunch of bodyguards.
An imminent danger to our country?
Characters like Duterte do not disturb me for as long as they limit the exercise of their power and influence in their cities or towns, as long as I am not a resident of there. With my democratic bias, I always hew to the line that the people get the government they deserve. But I get agitated when characters like those run for President of the Philippines because of my love and commitment to this country. As a citizen, like the rest of the crazy crowds in this country, I am as much entitled to exercise my right to free speech as they are.
The first time I heard Duterte might run for President of the Philippines was that evening when Reuben Canoy, Nene Pimentel and I were honored by the Cagayan de Oro City Press and Radio Club two years ago as freedom fighters. Out of the blue Reuben said that it was about time the country elected a Mindanaoan as President of the Philippines. He mentioned Duterte’s name as his nominee. I was appalled by the suggestion considering Duterte’s obvious lack of qualifications – admitted killer, admitted adulterer, admitted bigamist, lack of intellectual depth, flaunting his courage and defiance of the due process of law. I thought Reuben’s suggestion was a joke but it was greeted by a thunderous applause by a relatively intelligent Cagayan de Oro City crowd. I thought to myself, the suggestion may not be a joke after all.
I am still in Cagayan de Oro as of this writing and in my cursory survey of people I met in the Northern Mindanao provinces and in NAIA 3 and Laguindingan Airport, this boy man Duterte has mesmerized the ordinary citizens and even some significant members of the middle class and the upper class. His banners and posters are visible everywhere not to speak of stickers in upper class vehicles. If this were not the Philippines, the Duterte phenomenon would be considered a weird and insane development in human affairs. Why? Because based on his well publicized admissions and information circulated about this boy man Duterte, he is obviously unfit to be President of the Philippines.
Questions for Duterte
But public adulation of this boy man cannot just be ignored. If he were running for the Senate, he could be dismissed as one of those things considering the current composition of the Senate. But he is running for President and the fate of a hundred million Filipinos today and millions of Filipinos of tomorrow would be in his hands for the longest six years of our lives should he be elected President. So everybody should be intelligently involved in the fateful choice of the next President.
Despite my assessment of this boy man Duterte, I maintain an open mind in entertaining the idea I could possibly be mistaken in my perception of him, though the possibility is a stellar parallax away. So here are some questions for Duterte, hoping that with his answers he could clear the air of the overwhelming negatives about him.
1. Since you have publicly admitted several times that you have killed criminals without due process of law, how many criminals have you and your death squads killed in Davao City in that fashion during your incumbency as mayor of your city?
2. Of the many that you killed, how many of them were poor and defenseless?
3. Have you killed any rich and powerful person in your city who was a criminal – like a land grabber, a drug lord, a rice smuggler, a tax evader, a gun runner, a crooked politician, to mention a few?
4. You claim that Davao City is the safest city in the country, why does it hold one of the top five highest records of criminality in the whole country?
5. If Davao City is the safest city in our country, why is it considered the murder capital of the Philippines?
6. If Davao City has a record of many unsolved crimes, what then were you doing as mayor of your city?
7. One of the most colorful figures of your City was Councilor Jun Pala. Was his murderer ever caught?
8. Is it true, as suspected by many in your city, that you were the mastermind in the murder of Jun Pala?
9. Is it true that you were behind the killing of two media persons who were critical of you in your city, as some people in your city suspect?
10. Is it true that the Ampatuans of Maguindanao who are facing murder charges are your friends?
11. If they are, is this the reason why they have mansions in your city which were found to have cache of arms and ammunitions as well as stocks of money, as reported by media?
12. As a lawyer you should know that holding unlicensed firearms and ammunitions are criminal offenses, why did you not help in prosecuting the Ampatuans in your city?
13. As a lawyer why do you insist on killing people without due process?
14. Why don’t you surrender your diploma and license as a lawyer since you do not believe in due process?
15. If you could not clean Davao City of criminality in your 15 years stint as mayor, how could you get rid of criminality in our country in six months as you keep on proclaiming?
16. Many policemen in the country are abusing their powers today and will you have a criminal police force in every town in our country since you will allow them to kill criminals at will?
17. In the course of your campaign speech in the North, you told your audience that you will allow them to kill criminals without criminal liability, so is it your aim to have a population of criminals in the country since killing is prohibited by law?
18. The military men are killing Lumads and rebels at will in Mindanao, so you will have more killers in the military since you free them from any criminal liability?
There are more questions for Duterte in my next column since every time he opens his mouth it’s a miracle if he does not commit a mistake.