POSTSCRIPT / September 30, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Apologists mop up Duterte’s EJK spills

IT’S frustrating when the President of the Republic says something significant and we have to watch his mouthpieces render their interpretation of what he means. Is President Duterte not capable of saying it himself?

The President’s speaking engagements look like a reverse evangelical TV show where a lector reads a biblical verse and the preacher interprets it for the enlightenment of the multitude. In Duterte’s case, he talks and somebody interprets his words.

For everybody’s sanity, Malacañang should set a guideline like this: Any statement or speech of President Duterte is to be taken as just another joke, unless preceded by a sworn certification that it expresses correctly his thoughts and sentiments.

Questions over what the President meant arose again after he said Thursday in a speech before career executive officers gathered in Malacañang:

Ito naman si pontifical (senator Francis) Pangilinan, akala mo walang kasalanan kung magsalita, siya pa ‘yung presidente ng Liberal tingnan mo pati siya hindi manalo ‘yan.

“I will talk to a political exercise now. What are your sins? Ako? Sabi ko nga sa military, ano kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Did I prosecute somebody na pinakulong ko?  Ang kasalanan ko lang ‘yung mga extrajudicial killing.” (My only sins are EJKs.)

(Pangilinan is the author of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act of 2006, which Duterte said has produced criminals by exempting from criminal liability persons who are 15 years of age or younger.)

Human rights advocates jumped on Duterte’s “confession” of his “EJK sins.” Among them was Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions, who noted on Twitter:

“Extraordinary statement by a Head of State (and we have had many this week at the UN): my ‘only’ sin is EJK. Translation: my only sin is imposing unthinkable sufferings on 1000s of vulnerable families, emboldening corrupt policing, destroying rule of law.”

Duterte has said UN human rights bodies looking into killings related to his war on illegal drugs have no business meddling in the domestic affairs of the country, and that they have no jurisdiction over him.

The President’s defenders rushed to deflect the fallout of his startling “EJK confession” by giving their interpretation of what he said. Instead of a symphony, however, there was cacophony from:

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque (“He was just joking and taunting critics”); legal adviser Salvador Panelo (“He was saying that EJK is the only issue you can have against him”), and PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde (“He said that out of frustration over his being linked to many issues”). There was not a note from Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

 Duterte admin destabilizing itself

REMEMBER the ghosts that President Duterte once said inhabit Malacañang? The mayor-president drew the spooky picture, we thought, to justify his establishing an Alt-Executive Office in Davao City where his family resides some 1,475 kilometers south of Manila.

Or he may have been referring to the ghostwriters typing out ungrammatical memos and composing blogs for footloose officials having the time of their life traveling at taxpayers’ expense.

Or he could be talking of scriptwriters who have just sold him their latest masterpiece “Red October” — an action-fantasy with a cast drawn from the Left, the Center and the Right conspiring to topple Duterte from power.

The Red October tale is a convenient explanation for the problems pulling down the Duterte administration – such as rising prices, stagnant wages, traffic/transpo madness, sinking peso, runaway crime, government corruption, and sluggish foreign investments.

Everybody in government who loves his job should subscribe to the story. When Army and NBI teams raided a farm in Teresa, Rizal, on Tuesday and arrested several persons with a cache of powerful firearms, the band was linked to the Red October plot.

On Thursday, several Makati judges reportedly met with Chief Justice Teresita de Castro. The group included Judges Andres Bartolome Soriano of RTC Branch 148 and Elmo Alameda of RTC Branch 150 who are hearing coup and rebellion charges against Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

If the Trillanes cases cropped up in the discussion, the alleged involvement of the senator and Magdalo to destabilization could have been mentioned. No details, however, have been disclosed.

The conspiracy, first exposed by Duterte on Sept. 7 upon his hurried return from a visit to Jordan, was allegedly hatched by the Liberal Party, the Magdalo Party, the Communist Party and, according to him, the Catholic Church.

The alleged Red October dramatis personae is an incredible mix of unlikely partners supposedly bound by a common desire to topple Duterte (not the government) from his wobbly perch.

We find it hard to imagine trapos (traditional politicians), whether pro- or anti-administration, and the Church trusting the communists enough to join them in plotting and agreeing to share post-Duterte power.

Why would these entrenched conservatives deal with the geriatric National Democratic Front communist leaders lolling in their comfy haven in the Netherlands who have lost control of their cadres doing the fighting and the dying back home?

As for the scattered political opposition, they lack the vital elements – ideology, machinery, money and leadership. There is no opposition figure who has the charisma and gravitas to lead an anti-Duterte mass movement.

Trillanes, a junior senator whose arrogant mien turns off even his fellow oppositionists, has been getting some notice lately — but only because of his crude bludgeoning by the over-eager demolition team of Duterte.

If there is any destabilization — and there is, even when it is not October! — it is being generated in the bowels of the administration itself. Its inept and corrupt officials are helping erode Duterte’s trust and approval rating.

Duterte cannot create a new Philippines based on his Davao template. After two years of trying, the mayor himself should feel it in his bones that he simply does not have what it takes to make the quantum leap to being a president, with or without a Red October.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 30, 2018)

This may sound facetious to many people, but I really believe that the bukbok is not only superficial but it is systemic as well. It has rotted his body, especially his brain. He occupies the highest office in the land, and any pronouncement he makes must be and should be taken seriously.

Arthur Buan

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