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We have one dream but a clash of values

An anti- death penalty advocate, street children, petty criminals and drug dealers have been liquidated in Davao City, but still students, vendors, taxi drivers, professional people and low class workers alike get on with their lives.

This is Davao City. Whether it is peaceful, liveable and economically stable or not depends on who you ask. 

To me, as a person who lived, studied and worked there for years, there was not stability, prosperity or peace.

But if you don’t mind a curfew on public places that imposes restrictions on your movements, it could be called a peaceful city and just may be the place for you. The curfew is for the youth, so parents support it.

If justice for you is seeing criminals lying dead on the streets, you will not see anything wrong with it. 

But who are the real criminals? In Davao, not all those who take the bullet committed a crime, at least Rashid (Jun) Manahan, an anti-death penalty advocate, did not. He was my good friend.

To live in The Philippines in the same type of security and peaceful environment that we experience in Hong Kong is just a dream.

But I cannot agree with living with a distorted idea of peace and security if the cost is the random deaths of others. 

Killing more, be they so-called criminals or not, so we can live in peace is a never-ending cycle. No one knows when or where it will end, but we do know that the killing will never stop.

But how about life in a stable, even if not a growing economy. The logic of choosing between bread and political freedom is old and outdated. I too share the dream that our economy will grow; but, my question is: do our leaders share this dream? If they do, why do they plunder our resources?

I confess I do not know all the answers to these questions, but what I do know it is that our overseas Filipino workers—on whose remittances our economy relies heavily—are the ones who actualise the people’s dream, not our political leaders—they only talk.

The choice for bread as opposed to political freedom is highly attractive to most of us. Our Asian neighbours in Singapore compromised on their political freedom for bread. Ferdinand Marcos tried to make us accept this compromise too, but it did not work.

But to me and to most Filipinos, the freedom to choose bread before political freedom is just an illusion, as we do not have anything to choose between. Either way we lose. Our lot is to suffer and the only question is to what degree.

Even though the Singaporeans did compromise on their political freedom, they had their government to depend on for employment. But we do not. In all events, I am not advocating anyone follow Singapore’s example.

What I want to say is: even when you compromise on political freedom in The Philippines, you will still be hungry. For us, the choice between bread and ballot does not exist.

This prompts the question, why the Duterte Formula? While it gives preference to authoritarianism, is popular. But it is only exploiting our shared dream.

We dream of an absence of criminality, high economic growth, stable peace and order. Exploiting this dream is not a new tactic.

Marcos once exploited our dream on the pretext of creating a new society. But what we got was a flourishing new society headed by an oligarchy of his cronies.

What attracts people to the Duterte Formula is that it touches upon our collective frustration—our corrupt leaders, the state of our politics, economy, law and order, employment and a whole list of other things.

Duterte can brag openly that he has either killed criminals or threatened to kill them—so many of them—because if you are frustrated with criminality and the inefficiency of our law enforcers, this is what you want to hear.

So, by exploiting your frustration and telling you what you want to hear, you will begin to feel you belong.

I do think that this says something, not only about us Filipinos, but what we value.

You, how much do you value life, political freedom, employment, a stable economy or the other values of a decent society.

If freedom is more valuable than bread, then we should ask: why do we tolerate fickle justifications of extrajudicial killings?

If we value due process and being presumed innocent until proven guilty, why do we allow, not only Duterte, but all public officials to get away with their crimes?

While I do share the dream of economic growth and a safe and peaceful place to live in, clearly there is a clash of values. There is a contradiction in the ways of getting it done.

I think there is one thing most of us must ponder really hard: What are my values and how much do I value them?


Danilo Reyes
PhD Candidate/Teaching Assist 
Asian and International Studies