POSTSCRIPT / December 8, 2016 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Arrogance of power rears its ugly head

PROVERBS 16:19 tells us: “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.”

We were reminded of that admonition when we heard President Rodrigo Duterte on TV telling the nation Monday: “I do not have to explain to you, the whole republic and the critics, why I made the order for him (Philippine National Police chief) just to sit down and do not remove him (Marcos).”

He was referring to his order to PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa to reinstate Supt. Marvin Marcos as Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief of Region-8 (Eastern Visayas) after the PNP chief suspended him for alleged narcotics involvements.

A sudden twist is that the National Bureau of Investigation confirmed the other day that Marcos and his team went to Baybay City, Leyte, last Nov. 5 to murder Albuera, Leyte, Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. in his detention cell, under the pretext of serving a search warrant.

The NBI ruled out a CIDG-8 claim that Espinosa shot it out with them. It was not clear why Espinosa was executed while in detention, but speculations of a rubout were rife.

The NBI findings justified, to our mind, Dela Rosas’ suspension of Marcos. Had the suspension not been lifted by Duterte, Espinosa’s murder could have been prevented — giving him opportunity to rat on the police personnel and officials collecting payola as drug ring protectors.

President Duterte is right in saying that as chief executive, he is on top of the national police, and has the power to withdraw or modify any order of the PNP chief. The way he said it, however, reeked with arrogance of power.

It was similar arrogance, of impunity, displayed by the Marcos dictatorship when it murdered the opposition leader Ninoy Aquino in August 1983 upon his return to Manila on a mission of peace.

Aquino’s public execution at the tarmac fueled the public outrage culminating in the 1986 People Power Revolt that sent the dictator and his family scampering to exile in Hawaii.

Explaining his reversing the PNP Chief’s order suspending Supt. Marcos, President Duterte stressed that he did not breach protocol:

“Protocol? I ordered the transfer or the retention, you ask me about protocol. There’s no such thing as protocol. Congress and Supreme Court, wala tayong pakialam! But as President I do not have to give you the rationale or the reason why I ordered your reinstatement right away.”

Even granting the Commander-in-Chief’s attitude is legally tenable, with due respect, we think that is arrogance of power.

In the context of his other statements making light of due process and the rule of law, we think that President Duterte’s attitude and direction are, to say the least, disturbing.

• Does the end justify the means?

THE SAME televised speech buttressed a widespread belief that President Duterte knew or directed, or at least tolerated, what the CIDG team under Supt. Marcos did in Baybay. He said:

“I promised the police and the military: Do your duty, go out and find these (narcotics) criminals, arrest them if possible but if they offer a violent resistance and you think that your life is in danger, patayin mo! (kill them!)”

He said he believed the CIDG team claim that Espinosa resisted arrest – which, it has turned out, has been contradicted by the findings of the NBI, an agency under Duterte’s own justice department.

Duterte challenged his critics to go to the streets and demonstrate: “So you want to do something about it? Fine! You want to demonstrate? I give you the streets 365 days a year 30 days in a month, seven days, including Sundays, you can demonstrate. Just do not do violent things!”

His repeated public statements on the drug problem and the violent way he is confronting it – even to the extent of resorting to summary killings — have started to sound super confident.

The same doggedness and self-confidence were evident in his speeches yesterday in Mandaluyong and Camp Aguinaldo at the turnover of command to the new armed forces chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año.

Among those present in the AFP program was the new US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim. One wonders what the envoy thought of the bloody handling by the President of the drug problem that in the last five months has killed summarily some 5,000 suspects.

The President’s rationale for his violent response to the narcotics scourge is that the malaise has infected some four million Filipinos (other drugs bodies have a more modest estimate of 1.7 million), a situation calling for extreme counter-measures.

His oversimplified rationalization: “You (narcotics syndicates) are destroying my country!” He said he was doing what he thought was right, and that if he had to kill in the process, he would do it.

While the extrajudicial killings mount, the debate has raised the eternal question of whether the end justifies the means.

Duterte appears banking on what he sees as his mandate. He takes his election last May by more than 16 million voters (in a population of 101 million) as an endorsement of his anti-drug program laid out during the election campaign.

He openly tells the police and the military to go after drug personalities and to kill them if they fight back. We are not sure if he also said that if they did not resist they should be made to fight back and killed.

He has promised protection to anti-drug forces, to the extent of being granted presidential pardon if they are convicted.

Are the “license to kill” and the promised “presidential pardon” being extended to the police and their vigilantes given under the Constitution and the laws – or are these being issued under Duterte’s own interpretation of the law?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 28, 2016)

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