Who will finally stop all this killing and thieving?

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FRANCISCO S. TATAD

FRANCISCO S. TATAD

AFTER Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife, and 13 others were killed in a “police raid” inside their three residences at 2.30 in the morning of Sunday, July 30, the government recorded the massacre as its latest achievement in its brutal war on drugs, which has already killed 8,000 or more. President Rodrigo Duterte commended the police on a job well done, and Philippine National Police Chief Ronald (Bato) de la Rosa promised the nation more of the same.

The last time we heard DU30 commend the police with such relish was after a raiding team from Tacloban, Leyte killed Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte inside the subprovincial jail in Baybay, Leyte, while allegedly trying to serve him a search warrant at 4 a.m. on November 5, 2016. The National Bureau of Investigation called it a “rubout”, but the raiding party claimed it was a “shootout”, and DU30 upheld the police version. Initial charges of murder against police Supt. Marvin Marcos and his men have since been downgraded to homicide, and Marcos could be punished to the maximum with a promotion to the next higher rank.

This unusual turn of events has attracted some attention in the Senate. But it has so far failed to alarm the public. That is how serene we have become.

Is the NPA involved here?
Malacanang has portrayed the Ozamiz massacre as the rightful end of a notorious criminal gang engaged in drug running and other crimes. Yet some analysts who claim to be familiar with Mayor Parojinog’s lore as leader of the infamous anti-communist “Kuratong Baleleng” gang seem convinced that he and some of his kin were liquidated as part of the New People’s Army’s current campaign, in collaboration with the communist members of the DU30 government, to eliminate the last vestiges of anti-communist resistance within and outside the Armed Forces.


Because of the legendary anti-communist ferocity of the Kuratong Baleleng, the NPA was never able to gain a toehold in Ozamiz, despite its sway in nearby parts of Mindanao. Analysts tend to believe that Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco’s grassroots organization called “Masa-Masid” may have played a part in the Ozamiz operation. Originally conceived as the barangay arm of the ex-priest’s communist-oriented “Kilusang Pagbabago” (Movement for Change), “Masa-Masid” is reported to have become an active informers’ group of the PNP.

For its part, the Kilusan Pagbabago (KP), failing in its timetable to fast-track the “communization” of the entire bureaucracy, has become part of PDP-Laban, the political party which DU30 used to run for President and which has openly sought “ideological guidance” from the Chinese Communist Party. From a party of three members, PDP-Laban has become an overcrowded “ruling party,” which now illegally occupies a big official space on the Speaker’s floor in the Batasan complex, where sits the House of Representatives.

Guns for hire?
The latest report from Ozamiz claims that some of the hooded killers during the raid were hired guns from Isabel, Leyte rather than regular policemen. This needs formal confirmation, probably from the Commission on Human Rights. If this report is true, then something far more dangerous than merely criminal has entered our system of law enforcement. In the day-to-day drug war, the police claim credit for only a small portion of the routine fatalities; the bulk of the 8,000 or so victims is claimed by masked “vigilantes”, not a single one of whom has been identified, arrested or killed. If the trend continues, there would be less and less to distinguish our law enforcement agencies from the criminal syndicates. We would truly have become a rogue state.

In fact, many are already calling our country that. No matter how much DU30 protests the slander, if slander it is, he cannot simply brush it aside with his bluster and trademark expletives. The usual propaganda fraudsters may continue to massage his ego with fake surveys showing his undented “popularity” rating, which the superficial media uncritically and automatically regurgitate. But the pile-up of corpses from the drug war, accompanied by the foul language spewing out of the official septic tank, has eroded public confidence in DU30’s ability to teach the nation what it does not know.

My best sources tell me that prior to DU30’s July 24 State of the Nation Address, Malacañang commissioned a survey to ascertain the President’s standing with the public. I have long suspected that most of these surveys merely “manufacture” or at best “manipulate” rather than “measure” public opinion. Given DU30’s well-known rhetoric, it is not easy for the average “sample” (interviewee) to express their honest opinion of him, knowing that he threatens to eat alive anyone who crosses his path.

Malacañang’s unreleased survey
Nonetheless, my sources tell me that the commissioned survey was delivered on schedule. The alleged survey, according to sources, showed 68 percent “satisfied” with DU30, 30 percent “dissatisfied,” for a net satisfaction rating of 38 percent. This was equivalent to the 38 percent of the votes counted in his favor during the election, which was nowhere near the 94 to 96 percent bogus rating quoted by the fraudsters a few days after the election.

The sponsors thought the results had to be massaged before they could be released, the sources said. But apparently they decided not to do so in the end. To DU30’s credit, the sources said he was not aware of this project and had no part in it.

Analysts expect the real challenge to DU30’s reported popularity to surface, probably in September through November, when the International Criminal Court begins to respond to the “communication” filed last April 25 by Mindanao lawyer Jude Sabio, on the alleged mass killings by the Davao Death Squad, when DU30 was still mayor of Davao City. Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano have filed their own supplemental petition against DU30.

The petitioners are confident the ICC would declare jurisdiction over their petition and initiate proceedings against DU30. The government for its part is confident the “communication” will not prosper because it refers to incidents that happened before the Philippines acceded to the Rome Statute and became a member of the ICC in 2011. The Statute was approved in 1998 and entered into force in 2002. At the same time, DU30 has threatened to withdraw from the ICC, just like Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has pulled out of the ICC, saying the expenses incurred by the court far exceeded the work it did.

An expanded martial law?
Whether or not the petition prospers or DU30 pulls out of the ICC or not, international diplomatic and media interest in the drug killings is certain to revive, after a short reprieve from May 23 onward when DU30 declared martial law and suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for 90 days to suppress the Islamic State-related Maute attack on Marawi City. On July 22, Congress renewed martial law and the suspension of the writ until December 31, 2017. The siege of Marawi could end before then, but the resumption of the drug war and the resurgence of NPA violence in various places could give DU30 the excuse to expand martial law all over the country.

Whether or not the reported dip in DU30’s “popularity” has anything to do with martial law, some of his propagandists seem to believe a nationwide martial law—for which the grounds have yet to be invented—could enhance his popularity. Thus, some analysts suspect that the communist members of the Cabinet are actively promoting the NPA activities that could later be used to justify an expanded martial law. At the same time, DU30 is doing everything to endear himself to the military.

Sadly, while DU30 dramatically awards P500,000 cash to the family of every soldier killed in fighting the Mautes—a gesture appreciated by all—and Bato is now poised to pay his people P20,000 for every drug suspect killed, official revenue collections are pitifully down, both at the Bureau of Internal Revenue and at the Bureau of Customs. Sen. Panfilo Lacson estimates that customs personnel make a daily killing of P270 million from illegal transactions, but apparently the government is making much less.

Customs Commissioner Nic Faeldon is now in the eye of the storm, both because of the alleged P6.4 billion illegal drug smuggling from Xiamen, China, which had gone through the Customs “green lane” undetected until it landed in a warehouse in Valenzuela, and because of the virtual meltdown of the entire bureau resulting from unqualified appointments to sensitive positions. All questions have been asked about the Customs mess, and the “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) smuggling, except the really material ones.

Two unasked questions
There are two such questions. 1) What is the exact quantity of the smuggled contraband?; 2) Who was/who were its ultimate intended recipients?

Before this scandal broke out, I had referred to it in a previous column as a P5 billion drug shipment. I did not have enough data then, and my calculation was off by a few billions. I began to suspect then that the shipment should be a ton at least, not just 600 kilograms. But even that proved a miscalculation. The initial sound bites from the House of Representatives showed the 40-foot container from which the five crates were taken, contained 23 crates. Eighteen of these went unexamined and, at this writing, could no longer be accounted for.

Rep. Jericho Nograles, party-list PBA of Davao, and Dakila Cua of Quirino estimate that if the 18 missing crates did, in fact, contain “shabu”, they should have a market value of at least P22.5 billion. This is far more than all the “shabu” that has been intercepted by the police since DU30’s drug war began. But no one seems interested in asking the necessary questions. While the merest drug users and pushers in slippers were being killed, there was no known death warrant for the ultimate recipient/s of this shipment.

Why is that? Why did DU30 express full confidence in Faeldon even before a full investigation could be conducted on the whole affair? Given DU30’s take-no-prisoners’ policy on drugs, who would have had the courage to undertake this illegal shipment, without sufficient assurance it would go through Customs untouched? Who in Xiamen would be foolish enough to make the shipment without any such assurance? As one congressional ally of the President joked, the shipment went through the “green lane” like it was a government-to-government deal.

The President must personally investigate
So who was ultimately calling the shots? Was it someone who could defy DU30’s war on drugs without any adverse consequences? One particular name keeps cropping up, just as another name keeps cropping up in connection with packing the BoC with unqualified basketball players. But this is how far I will go. I will not repeat any names. As a service and favor to the President, I will simply ask him to conduct his own investigation, without any prejudgments, and let the chips fall where they may.

At this time, there are more police killings than before, and more official corruption than before. The nation is up to its ears with both, and any plan to impose martial law nationwide could only make things worse. The killing and thieving will simply have to stop. If DU30 doesn’t stop them now, who will do it, and when?

fstatad@gmail.com

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