POSTSCRIPT / January 1, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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EJK to continue in bloodier 2017

YOU have seen or survived the first six months of the six-year Duterte regime. For the new year starting this blessed day (killers do not rest even on the Sabbath), it will be more of the same – only stricter, meaning bloodier.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself disclosed what lies ahead in 2017 when he sat Thursday for a string of TV interviews on what had just whizzed by, what is going on, and what to expect in the new year.

He served notice that his anti-narcotics campaign, the centerpiece of his administration, would be stricter. It must be, considering that of the 3.7 million drug pushers and users in his crosshairs, only 6,000-plus have been “neutralized.”

The problem with presidential interviews and speeches is that nobody knows if Duterte is lying, joking, toying with the press, or dishing out hyperbole.

In tit-for-tat fashion, some of us in media (if our editors would allow it) might occasionally bait the President with a dubious story, tell him an outright lie, or also throw him an exaggeration.

His millions of fans might find the banter with the President more entertaining than the noon-time TV show “Eat Bulaga,” but we doubt if the greater majority will respect him, and media, for it.

His own communication problem

IN THE ABSENCE of notarized transcripts of the President’s interviews or statements bearing his signature, we will have to just take his word until his interpreters agree among themselves what the safest version is and say “what he really meant was….”

He does not want to be blamed for the confusion over his imprecise, rambling and shifting statements. He says, “If you can’t understand me, it’s your problem!” (It is actually a problem of his communications team trying to sell the product.)

And why does he talk that way? Ask God, he retorts, He gave me my mouth!

When while talking about narco personalities he tells the police to “shoot ‘em” – with a slashing motion of his hand across his throat — the message is clear to most people. Besides, a commander need not always issue an explicit order. A whispered wish is already a command.

Confronted with his boast that he once pushed a criminal off a helicopter in flight, the lawyer in him withdrew the story, adding that if it were true he would deny it. Since he has denied it, it is true then? With Duterte, nobody knows for sure what is true or false.

During the last election campaign, then Davao mayor Duterte loved regaling his audience with tales of his exploits as the “Punisher,” how he personally gunned down wayward characters.

After he bagged the presidency, and with foreign entities moving to investigate his allegedly having shot people who ran afoul of the law, he started to recast his stories. So when is the man lying or stating the truth?

Such evasive language, spiced at times with cursing and name-calling, degrades the presidency, much more than his showing up in formal international functions dressed with his barong not buttoned up and his sleeves casually rolled up.

Sorry na lang to innocent victims

BY DESIGN or accident, many innocent people, some of them children, are killed in police operations and vigilante scoot-by executions. To them, Duterte only says sorry. He does not take steps to ensure that similar incidents do not happen again.

“I would admit there were killings that were really unintended, like the children who were caught in a crossfire. Collateral damage, and I’m sorry,” he said.

His apology sounds hollow without acts of restitution. Nothing is done to assuage the pain or compensate the loss of the families of persons logged as collateral damage.

With the police investigating fellow policemen, there cannot be a credible official sorting of the cadavers into the legitimate and illegitimate victims, into real targets and unintended casualties.

The ugly truth is that practically all the persons killed by police raiders and vigilantes are INNOCENT! They are not convicts but mere SUSPECTS who, under the law that the President is sworn to honor and execute, are presumed innocent.

The President, his fans, bloggers and trolls pretend not to understand the extrajudicial killings being laid at the door of Malacañang. What extrajudicial killings?, they ask.

It is so simple that even a bar flunker, or a person addicted to drugs or mind-bending pain-killers should understand that:

1. Only a judicial body such as a court, after due process, can declare an accused guilty – but not guilty enough to merit a death sentence.

2. Not even the Supreme Court can execute or order the execution of a convict, because there is no such penalty as a death sentence in the Philippines.

3. ALL those summary executions by the police and their vigilante counterparts are, therefore, extrajudicial killings.

Duterte rushing death penalty law

IT IS intriguing that the Duterte administration is fast-tracking the passage of a law restoring the death sentence and altering the nation’s mind-set about the taking of human lives.

While such a law cannot cover past EJKs or be applied to mere suspects, it might be used to justify future executions of selected convicts. Even then, all executions for capital crimes must be only by final judgment of the Supreme Court.

We hear concerned citizens wonder aloud why some places, especially in areas of the poor, are splattered with blood, why it has become so easy to kill, why a growing number of people do not feel safe venturing far from home especially in the evening.

We tried answering those questions in Twitter by saying: Kasi po tila wala ng halaga ang buhay ng tao ngayon. Will human life be devalued further in 2017?

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 1, 2017)

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