AFTER then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered his first state-of-the-nation address six years ago, Fidel Ramos, a loyal defender of his mother Corazon who succeeded her as President, said it was “the most unpresidential SONA” he’d heard.
One reason: Aquino’s relentless attacks on purported failings and anomalies under Gloria Arroyo, an unseemly excoriation of his predecessor to which no other President had ever stooped, not even his mother, despite her bitterness over the assassination of her husband by soldiers of the Marcos regime.
So yesterday Rodrigo Duterte didn’t lambast his predecessor, despite Aquino’s campaign attacks and last-ditch bid to get his rivals to unite against him. Duterte admired and thanked Ramos for his own rise to the presidency, and didn’t say anything unfitting for the office.
But let’s say it for him. We aren’t obliged to be presidential and can tell it like it is, especially how Aquino’s rule created the criminality Duterte now has to grapple with. And that is very much part of the state of the nation today, although pro-Aquino media have largely concealed it, even from normally well-informed experts.
In sum, actions and data debunk the widely parroted claim that Aquino’s Daang Matuwid slashed graft and strengthened the rule of law. In fact, the opposite happened: Aquino’s policies and actions spurred the lawlessness scourge now afflicting the nation.
Crime tripled under Aquino
But you won’t know it from the most widely patronized media. For instance, how many knowledgeable people realize that crime tripled under Aquino? That’s the big reason Duterte got elected—and has resorted to drastic methods to fight the syndicates behind the explosion in lawlessness.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, crime incidents rose from 324,083 in 2010 to more than 1 million every year since 2013 (see <https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2015%20PIF.pdf > and <https://psa.gov.ph/sites/default/files/2012%20PIF.pdf >, noting that 2011 – 12 data are grossly understated, for which several police chiefs were suspended or investigated).
Hence, there have been well over 3 million crimes tallied in the last three years alone—plus more unreported—with some 4.5 million victims, assuming 1.5 victims per crime on average. Then there are the rising millions of drug addicts in the country.
Add to those dismal figures the close relatives and friends of crime victims and addicts: at least 30 million, assuming three immediate family members and three bosom friends per victim or addict. That’s more than 35 million Filipinos who are either victims of crime and drugs or close to them.
No wonder Duterte got 38 percent of the vote, and most Filipinos are silent in the face of escalating killings of alleged drug users, pushers, bosses, and protectors.
That unprecedented crime and drug surge began in 2010, when Aquino abetted jueteng and police sleaze by putting the Philippine National Police (PNP) under shooting buddy Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, accused by Archbishop Oscar Cruz of receiving gambling payoffs.
Aquino also let smuggling treble, from $7.9 billion in 2009, based on International Monetary Fund data, to $26.6 billion in 2014. Despite that record contraband, he ordered no smuggling probes, not even when more than 2,000 uninspected cargo containers disappeared in 2011.
Result: drugs and guns flooded in, as Aquino himself admitted in his 2013 SONA. Imagine the narcotics and firearms one can hide in one vanished container. No surprise that gun and drug prices plummeted after the contraband flood, and Filipinos are the world’s biggest users of shabu.
Thus, Aquino’s abetting of jueteng and smuggling enabled syndicates to flourish as law enforcers were corrupted, and border controls subverted.
Drug lords take over Bilibid
The third factor in the lawlessness explosion is the corruption of prison authorities by well-heeled inmates. It began with Aquino’s friend and first Bureau of Corrections Director Ernesto Diokno.
Though forced to resign after wealthy inmates were found getting unauthorized furloughs, Diokno was never sanctioned, just like Puno after the latter was found culpable in the Aug. 2010 Luneta hostage crisis.
Diokno set the precedent for succeeding BuCor bosses, who also quit after their own scandals, but were never punished. Result: drug lords set up second luxury homes and syndicate headquarters in the New Bilibid Prisons.
Thus, under Aquino, not only were law enforcers and customs agents letting syndicates ply their criminal trade unhampered. Even those convicted were able to continue their nefarious activities and gilded living in jail.
With such unbridled lawlessness abetted in the past six years, is it any wonder that even devoutly Christian Filipinos may see the need for extreme measures to stop the syndicates that have driven crime and drugs to unheard-of levels?
The threat of narco-statehood
But even the corruption of police, customs and prisons isn’t the most scary legacy of the Aquino years. Rather, it is the sleaze at high levels of not just the PNP, but even local government units, with governors and mayors feeding on both jueteng and narcotics.
That alarming development, highlighted by Duterte’s warning to drug-tainted PNP generals as well as governors and mayors, raises the fearsome prospect that the Philippines could descend into Colombia-style narco-statehood, with syndicates wielding political power through corrupt officials, legislators, and judges.
Duterte has named five active or retired PNP generals allegedly involved in narcotics, and has the list of local government unit executives also in cahoots with the syndicates.
It is not hard to imagine that only a bit of the high-level sleaze is being exposed. Nor is it difficult to see how Aquino’s abetting of cronies and allies would encourage PNP generals and LGU chiefs to stray.
So now, Duterte needs to address the country’s No. 1 problem of crime and drugs, afflicting at least a third of the nation, with crooks on the street and in jail allied with those in the corridors of power after six years of Daang Matuwid.
Even as one must condemn the police and vigilante killings, one can see why those grappling with Aquino’s legacy of lawlessness are charging ahead with guns blazing. And why many Filipinos are quietly accepting the bloodletting.