POSTSCRIPT / November 15, 2016 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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SC can’t execute cons, but cops do

THE SUPREME COURT itself cannot order the execution of persons convicted of the most heinous crimes, yet the police and state-sanctioned vigilantes can, and do, execute those who are mere suspects in narcotics cases.

By law, the highest tribunal in the land cannot impose the death penalty — must less can the president, who is sworn to preserve and defend the Constitution, execute the laws, and do justice to every man. He cannot delegate to the police a power he does not possess.

This anomaly continues to haunt the nation in the grip of President Rodrigo Duterte, who not only turns a blind eye to the summary execution of suspects but even rewards those adding to the heap of cadavers piling up in the bloody campaign against drug trafficking.

Fear of reprisal is muting institutions and individuals that should speak against Extrajudicial Killing. The stillness creates a false impression that this nation of more than 100 million approves of the summary execution of suspected drug dealers and users.

We expect the killings to continue as Duterte insists on completing the cleansing – if not in the promised six months maybe by another six. In his hurry, he may not have the time or patience for due process and respect for human life.

• Attack the disease, not symptoms

THE CASE of the late Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, lying dead on top of the pile of EJK victims, may give a clue to worried citizens wondering where the bloodstained trail would lead.

Listed by Duterte among drug traffickers deserving a shoot-to-kill order if they did not surrender, Espinosa promptly turned himself in. But that did not stop a police posse from executing him in the dead of night in his detention cell in Baybay City the other Saturday.

Another portent is the Malacañang trial balloon on the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Look at it in the context of the slaying of local officials in the South who have been linked to narcopolitics. Somebody in the Palace must be weighing his options.

If it is any consolation, a great number of citizens who have been victims of crime in high and low places or are fed up with the stinking system welcome something like the iron hand of a Duterte finally enforcing the law and restoring order.

But instead of turning the disenchantment into a force for positive change, top officials pushing for quick results feed it with more blood, in the process abetting disrespect for the law and disregard for the sanctity of human life.

The campaign against drug trafficking loses its value when it tramples the rights of suspects, most of whom are among the poor who are under pressure to grab at almost anything to secure for their families the basic amenities of life.

Drug addiction is a symptom of a serious socio-economic malaise. Attack the disease, not only the symptoms. And, most of all, do not kill the patient under the pretext of curing him.

• Trump scales down his promises

WE HAVE seen how politicians shed their thick hide and disclose their true selves after they get elected. Their campaign promises are often forgotten or revised to suit the post-election reality.

As there is no substitute for victory, the usual pitch is to tell the people what they want to hear, and worry later about how true/false and un/achievable are one’s campaign promises.

So we had no illusion, for instance, when Duterte the candidate promised to end crime and corruption in six months — or resign if he fails. What is emerging is a broken promise, but it is pointless to insist on his quitting.

In the case of his US counterpart Republican president-elect Donald Trump, we see a similar pattern when we compare his campaign rhetoric and his new statements made in last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” interview with correspondent Lesley Stahl on CBS.

Answering questions about his priorities and programs, he said: “It’s enormous. I’ve done a lotta big things, I’ve never done anything like this. It is — it is so big, it is so — it’s so enormous.” He scaled down some of his more prominent pronouncements:

1. Trump said he would build a 2,500-mile wall on the US border with Mexico to keep out illegal entrants. Now, he says it would be a mix of wall and a fence. It is not clear who would pay for it (he said before that Mexico would) and how the wall/fence would run when the boundary is a river.

2. He announced he would repeal ObamaCare, the Democratic administration’s program for affordable social services. Now he plans to keep some of its good features while inserting his own ideas into a replacement bill.

3. He said he would file charges against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) for a slew of violations of law, including her mishandling of email at the State department. Now he is saying he would study the matter further, without committing to nail her down.

4. He said he would replace Director James Comey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who struck him as covering up for Clinton on the email issue. Now Trump is saying he would talk to him, without reiterating his threat to replace him.

5. Speaking about his potential nominees for the Supreme Court, Trump was asked if he supported same-sex marriage. He said he was “fine” with it, although he assailed it during the campaign. He explained: “It’s irrelevant because it was already settled in the Supreme Court.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 15, 2016)

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