With rivals conceding amid the apparent landslide, unofficial President-elect Rodrigo Duterte repeated his pledge to crush crime, drugs and corruption, threatening to kill hoods resisting his campaign against lawlessness. He also plugged his federalism advocacy to devolve powers and resources from the central government to the regions.
So who’s shaking in their shoes now that Davao’s mayor is Malacañang-bound?
Most gleefully point to crooks, from narcotics peddlers, killers and robbers, to grafters preying on ordinary folk, like Manila airport’s bullet-planting extortionists, or customs officials colluding with big-time smugglers.
Crime and contraband tripled under incumbent President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Crime incidents surged since 2010 to more than a million a year starting 2013, according to government statistics.
Those 3 million-plus crimes in the last three years hurt at least 6 million victims with 30 million close relatives and friends—the core of Duterte’s election supporters, along with millions of families with drug addicts.
Contraband skyrocketed too, from $7.9 billion in 2009 to $26.6 billion in 2014, based on International Monetary Fund trade data. That’s not counting the street value of illicit guns and drugs flooding in on uninspected shipping containers.
The crooks will fight back
But are crime and smuggling syndicates and their cohorts in government scared? Maybe, maybe not.
One thing’s for sure: The hoods have been plotting their moves to keep and even boost the clout and cash they’ve built up in six years of Daang Matuwid. They won’t let go without a fierce, bloody fight.
So how would the forces of lawlessness on the streets, at the ports, and in the corridors of power try to keep the gravy flowing?
First, they will search out corruptible people close to the next leader. And there are always venal types hanging around powerful politicians.
With zero scruples, they are ready to do the dirty stuff for the chief, who relies on them precisely because they disregard morals, rules and laws at the boss’s behest and for their self-serving ends.
No doubt, the crooks Duterte is targeting also have their sights on crooked cronies in his coterie of die-hard loyalists.
So if the next President really means to put the lawless out of business, he would do well to clean up his group first, or tell everyone in his dead-serious, dead-or-alive tone that anyone who has dealings with criminal or corrupt elements is history.
The ironclad leader must scrape off the rust before it crumbles him.
Next lawless strategy: crooks will build alliances with defeated parties. Politicians put gaining or regaining power above all else, so there are elements among disempowered parties that are open, if not keen to collaborate with the lawless, to obstruct and weaken the new dispensation as part of their comeback strategy.
Besides criminal and corrupt groups, vested interests wary of moves to clean up government or devolve power through federalism, would also join hands with forces opposed to change. Among them: local leaders and police gorging on jueteng payoffs.
Hence, expect public hearings, open letters, online and protest campaigns, legal challenges, and media attacks against the Duterte administration, which will not have the cozy ties Aquino enjoyed with the top echelons of certain leading newspapers and broadcast networks.
To be sure, many issues and criticisms raised against the next President, especially with his avowedly bloody tactics, may be valid. But that only makes it harder to spot criminal or corrupt entities exploiting legitimate political factions and concerns.
Just as the devil can quote Scripture, the lawless can invoke rule of law.
The political campaign may include ousting Duterte on impeachment charges as flimsy as those lodged against the late Chief Justice Renato Corona. If that happens, Duterte may well have reason to declare a revolutionary government backed by security forces and segments of the populace supporting his anti-crime efforts.
Get ready for blood
Of course, even as syndicates and schemers build connections and alliances among the future opposition and in Duterte’s own camp, they are also locking and loading for the coming war with the law.
As Duterte has warned, the battle will be bloody. If they refuse to be corrupted, law enforcers, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and other key figures in the criminal justice system, plus customs agents as well as Duterte himself—now under increased security—will likely face threats or violence, along with some of their loved ones.
That is how audacious and powerful the lawless have become under Aquino. One can only hope these ruthless criminals can be stopped while upholding due process and the rights of all, even of those undermining law and order.
If and when the bodies pile up, there will be voices and factions crying foul and calling for a slowdown in the enforcement campaign. Expect many in the future opposition to lead or echo calls for truce with the hoods.
Likely to join the chorus against tough measures will be swathes of the public unhappy with stricter enforcement all around, including traffic rules, security protocols, and government regulations. Used to getting around dos and don’ts, many Filipinos will resist discipline.
After voting for change, we might just throw our hands up when we see its huge cost.
We must be undivided and unyielding
The crooks are banking on us throwing in the towel. Then, not even President Duterte and the full force of our police and armed forces can beat crime and sleaze.
For if we are not with the law enforcers, then we are with the lawbreakers.
If we do not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our police, prosecutors, investigators, magistrates, and upright leaders, sharing their purpose, peril and pain, and strengthening our collective resolve in the face of threats and violence, then we yield our homes and families to the killers, robbers, rapists, traffickers, and grafters.
If that happens, President Duterte might as well resign after six months. He wouldn’t win against the hoods if we run away from the fight.
The crooks wouldn’t be scared of Duterte if we are not with him.