Rodrigo Roa Duterte appears to have survived his greatest challenge yet in 14 months to his presidency, thanks to a number of savvy and strategic moves to fortify his tenure in Malacañang, the presidential palace, and continue his violent war against illegal drugs, as of now, his centerpiece program of government.
In quick succession, he unloaded excess baggage.
First, he fired the incompetent and corrupt former coup plotter Nicanor Faeldon as chief of the notorious Bureau of Customs even while repeatedly declaring his faith in the man’s honesty. A P6.4-billion importation of illegal drugs that cleared Customs last May without an x-ray procedure and a single signature is damning evidence of large-scale incompetence and corruption at the country’s main port of entry.
The shabu shipment also betrayed that the biggest source of illegal drugs is not internal, but China, a country that has professed to help modernize our infrastructure and our economy even while occupying, illegally, a number of strategic reefs and islets belonging to the Philippines, by law and by court dictum, in the South China Sea.
Second, Duterte ordered the arrest and detention of the three Caloocan policemen named in the abduction and merciless killing on a busy night on August 16 of 17-year-old senior high school student, Kian delos Santos.
The impunity with which the police tortured and shot from behind Kian while kneeling helplessly, his knees badly wounded and bleeding from apparent torture, has outraged a nation that once thought Duterte’s illegal drugs war was good for the country and ordinary citizens.
Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa joined his commander-in-chief in denouncing the Kian killing and placed the three erring policemen in “restricted custody.” It appears between six and 17 policemen were involved in the killing. So the trail of responsibility could reach up to Bato, if he is not careful. “There is no justification for shooting somebody who is already kneeling. It is criminal!” Bato told the senators at their August 24 hearing on the Kian killing.
To make it clear to undesirable policemen where his true sentiments lie in terms of human values, Duterte spent a good two hours dining with the parents of Kian, in a Malacañang clubhouse across the Pasig River, last Monday, August 28. The mother, Lorenza, who had previously denounced the President for her son’s senseless murder, asked to give him a tight abrazo.
So much for anti-Duterte sentiment exploding into waves and waves of protest rallies and marches to destabilize him over the next few months.
Third, Duterte denounced the corruption, inefficiency and partiality at the Office of the Ombudsman, which is headed by retired Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, the aunt of his son-in-law, lawyer Mans Carpio, husband of Sara Duterte, the incumbent Davao City mayor.
Fourth, Duterte tried to clear his relatives from possible involvement in smuggling and other nefarious activities at Customs.
At the August 28 induction of newly appointed government officials, the President defended his son-in-law Mans Carpio’s lawyering for well-heeled clients which have business at Customs, including Mighty Corp. which was slapped by Duterte with a huge tax bill, a record P25 billion.
In another speech, on August 30, Duterte again stressed nothing was irregular with Mans Carpio’s visits to the BOC, since he was representing clients with dealings with the agency, particularly Mighty Corp. “Lawyering is never and would never be a wrong,” the President said.
As for his son, the Davao City vice mayor, Paulo “Pulong” Duterte, the President had declared he needed an affidavit to convince him his son was involved in smuggling.
Duterte said on August 28: “At ang sinabi ko naman sa inyo, if any of my children, si Mayor Sara, si Pulong, pati si Sebastian—kung ‘yan ang pumasok doon sa—may hiningi na illegal or graft and corruption, I told you before, I am ready to step down as President.”
“I will not hesitate and cling to power when it is no longer productive of me as a human being,” the President added.
In his August 28 speech, Duterte cut Ombudsman Carpio-Morales down to size, heaving sarcasm and bile at the retired jurist.
Reading from the prepared portion of his speech, Duterte said of Ombudsman Carpio:
“The wheels of justice grind to a halt when those tasked to dispense it have friends to serve and debts of gratitude to pay, no matter what.”
“The lack of moral courage to do what is right and act beyond those twin failings, ends up in inequitable decisions. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours, is how some people describe it. It is to me, detestable.”
Everyone calls for “due process” and the [dispensation] of justice without fear or favor.”
“But sad to say, recent events show that no less than the Office of the Ombudsman, which is supposedly the embodiment of everything that is just, fair and reasonable, has not exactly lived up to its constitutional mandate.”
“And may I add, your hold to the office is very, very precarious. You are supposed to serve the remaining terms of the guy who resigned, not to a full term. That is very clear under the law. But it has not been questioned until now. I do not know why.”
“The Office of the Ombudsman rightly stresses the importance of ‘due process of law.’ Yet it cannot act on complaints with the cold neutrality of an impartial tribunal, which is basically required in due process. It seems that the Office of the Ombudsman has mastered the art of selective justice.”
“Harsh on some, soft on others even when they all suffer from similar or analogous circumstances. Slow to act on complaints against the ‘friendly’ but quick to decide against perceived ‘hostiles’.”
“The enemy of the Ombudsman’s friend is the Ombudsman’s enemy, too, so it seems. That is how I see it from where I stand.”
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