POSTSCRIPT / October 1, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Can Duterte push back rising dissent?

CAN President Rodrigo Duterte and his loyalists turn back the political tsunami whipped up by the storm of protest against the on-the-spot execution of thousands of Filipinos suspected of being drug pushers/users?

Last week, 39 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a statement assailing perceived human rights violations in Duterte’s narcotic drive. The bloc critical of his campaign has been joined lately by the United States, Canada, Australia, Ukraine and Georgia.

The bloc includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Ukraine.

In the Philippines, meantime, surveys reveal that a growing number of concerned Filipinos are coming out of their comfort zones disturbed by the rash of extrajudicial killings (EJKs), with the police and/or vigilantes acting as prosecutor, judge and executioner rolled into one.

The EJKs are an alarming oddity in a country that has banished the death penalty. Even if the accused were given his day in court, the judge convicting him of a heinous crime may not order his execution. But the police in effect are able/allowed to do with impunity what even the courts cannot.

The UNHRC statement exposed the emptiness of a boast that Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has succeeded, in his recent presentation before the world body, in tamping down foreign criticisms of the drug drive’s violating human rights.

Rejecting the UNHRC statement, Malacañang admonished other nations not to meddle in the domestic affairs of the Philippines. That insular attitude, however, may have been trumped by the more widely held view that human rights are a universal concern of the civilized world.

• Paying the high price of isolation

DISINGENUOUS Duterte propagandists continue to misrepresent his critics as being pro-illegal drugs just because they question the campaign’s barbaric methods and its treating addiction more as a crime than a health problem.

But Filipino victims of state-inspired violation of human rights can at least find hope in the fact that even if their own government does not care enough to protect them, there are peoples and organizations outside that are looking for ways to help.

In 1948, the Philippines was among United Nations charter members that voted for the adoption of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under its Constitution, the Philippines has adopted “the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land.”

However, with Duterte’s having bad-mouthed many Philippine friends of long standing and considering his lack of diplomatic skills, he may have a hard time blunting the mounting criticisms of the brutal conduct of his drug war.

His tactic of intimidating potential foes and his slathering the public with false statements (lies, actually) will not work on the international stage. The novelty of his cursing leaders and officials of other countries has worn off, so he attracts less sympathetic attention.

His vision of establishing a Beijing-Moscow-Manila axis “against the world” and his threat to chart an “independent” diplomatic path away from Washington have not materialized. He has not grown enough muscle with which to bully foreign critics the way he browbeats local dissenters.

Apparently rattled by the spreading opposition to his strong-arm moves — his handlers better apprise him of his waning standing in media and in surveys — Duterte and his followers have started to show signs of desperation, while the opposition has grown bolder.

Duterte made his fight against narcotics (“I hate draaags!”) and corruption (“I’ll keeel you!”) the centerpiece of his bare administration program. Any failure in these critical areas or any hint of sliding back along those lines could prove politically fatal.

• More Filipinos now question drug war

THERE IS a palpable shifting of the tide, showing Filipinos taking a second hard look at the drug drive that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 suspected pushers/users who were denied their right to due process.

Some of the victims were gunned down by vigilante-type assassins, usually riding motorcycles. The police disown these brazen executions, but do not seem to bother to solve them. Yet the neighbors know why these cases are forever simply “under investigation.”

Surveys show that around half (49 percent) of Filipinos have been disturbed enough to now tell pollsters that they doubt that the victims were shot after they fought back (“nanlaban”), the scripted line of policemen who had gunned down suspects.

In its latest nationwide survey, the Social Weather Stations has found that six out of every10 Filipinos (63 percent) believe that some drug suspects had already surrendered to the police but were still killed.

In Metro Manila, 75 percent of the 1,200 adults polled last June 23-26 agreed with the statement, “There are suspects in the illegal drug trade who already surrendered, yet were still killed.” In Mindanao, it was 63 percent; rest of Luzon, 63 percent; and the Visayas, 53 percent.

Almost two in 10 Filipinos (17 percent) said they knew of someone who was not really a drug pusher but was summoned for the “Oplan Tokhang” of the police. In Metro Manila, 22 percent said they knew of such cases.

In the previous week, the SWS released the results of another survey showing that half (49 percent) of Filipinos believe that many victims in anti-drug operations were not pushers. A bigger number (54 percent) said they believe that many of those killed did not fight back, as claimed by the police.

The number of doubters seems to be growing despite the propaganda, the game of trolls and the endless lies.

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

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