Where one draws the line » Manila Bulletin News

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Leandro DD Coronel

By Leandro DD Coronel

 

I look at reader feedback in the Manila Bulletin’s website and sober Duterte fans express their support for the President because, they say, he’s the only leader who has confronted the drug menace head-on.

Other pro-Duterte reek of foul language and unintelligible diatribes. Those I simply ignore as bankrupt of viable ideas and are simply mouthing propaganda fed to them.

But the more reasonable pro-Duterte feedback indicates people’s belief that the President will do good for the country, that he has guts, and that he will take care of common people’s needs and respond to their plaints.

Many common people like Mr. Duterte, based on the premises mentioned above. Many of these people believe that their Tatay Digong is the knight in shining armor they’ve been waiting for for decades. The country’s political situation nurtured by the ruling elite hasn’t done much good for the common people. Thus their pinning their hopes on someone who cultivates an image of being pro-poor and, indeed, an image of being poor himself.

Some 16 million believed Duterte’s campaign message in 2016. Can they be blamed for that? Not at all. Desperation makes people cling to hope. Kapit-patalim, as the vernacular saying goes.

And, indeed the president of the country, with all the resources at his or her command, can do many things to improve the lives of the common people. Indeed past presidents could have done more for the people.

In the election campaign of 2016, 16 million pinned their hopes on Mr. Duterte. That’s a minority of the total number of Filipinos who voted in 2016. But, through a fatal flaw in our electoral system, that number was enough to make Duterte president. Our system allows a candidate who gains a mere plurality of the votes to be proclaimed the winner.

It’s been a year since Duterte assumed office. In that period he has practically upended the country’s political system and situation. He has overhauled our foreign relations by embracing China and Russia and spurning long-time ally the United States. He has ruled like an autocrat, making his every wish a command for everyone to obey.

Mr. Duterte has lowered the standards of civility, decorum, and proper public behavior. He likes to curse and he lets the crude side of his personality loose whenever he feels like it. Instead of fostering unity, he has been a divisive leader.

His most objectionable initiative was giving police license to kill people suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade. This has troubled human rights believers and global organizations as well as nations that condemn summary killings as murder.

Mr. Duterte’s sympathizers condone summary killings. It is right, Duterte supporters say as feedback to my writings, to kill drug suspects because otherwise they will kill all of us. It is right, they say, to eliminate such scourges of society to keep the rest of us citizens safe.

This is where I draw the line. They are mouthing the same rationale Mr. Duterte gives to justify his extrajudicial killings (EJKs) campaign against drug dealers and users. EJKs are murder, plain, and simple. When you kill suspects without giving them the benefit of judicial review, that makes the EJKs murder.

While I sympathize with the downtrodden when they grasp at straws and hope that a new leader will save them from the vicious cycle of deprivation, abuse, and official neglect, a just and civilized society cannot tolerate summary “justice.”

If we condone, and even espouse, summary killings, then what is the difference from what the communist rebels do to people they judge as the people’s oppressors or abusers? What is the difference from what the Abu Sayyaf or the Maute Group do to their hostages or innocent civilians in their crime rampages?

We cannot solve society’s ills by using the modus of the enemies of the state. We cannot use the same archaic and obsolete methods of exacting justice as those who brutally murder bystanders. If we did, we would be as bad and evil as they are.

If we justify killing people without judicial process, that would make us the same as those who have nothing but disdain for due process. In the end, we cannot put our confidence, support, and hope in a leader who does the same things as the enemies of the state.

That would set as back as an uncivilized society, one that cannot make a claim to being a decent people. This view has no partisan color or political leaning. A civilized society just doesn’t do such things.

 

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Tantrum Ergo. Whoever ordered the relentless attacks against VP Leni Robredo must feel very threatened by her.

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