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Kill for president

DAVAO (SE): In January last year, Filipinos applauded the call of Pope Francis for forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation during his visit to The Philippines.

This year, many of the same people are applauding the mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, in his call for murder, blood and mayhem, as his bid for the presidency of the nation gathers popularity and momentum.

Duterte remains only marginally behind presidential front-runner, Grace Poe, in his bid for Malacañang, as he mouths expletive-ridden promises to kill all the criminals and bypass the judicial system in creating his own type of self-styled law and order.

And these are not idle threats, as mayor of Davao he already has a track record of eliminating anything he regards as a criminal element, which includes impoverished street children, those deemed to be involved in petty crime, human rights advocates, political foes and journalists.

He publicly proclaims that the funeral parlour industry will grow as fat as the fish in Manila Bay where he will dump the bodies of 100,000 criminals when he unleashes his campaign for law and order.

In the crime-ridden violence of Philippine culture many seem to believe that a bit more crime will at worst do no harm and at best ensure safe streets.

But have they forgotten the lessons of the spiralling violence and crime rate that flourished under the murderous regime of the martial law president, Ferdinand Marcos?

Social commentator, Father Shay Cullen, wrote in January 2006, “When Amnesty International brought his (Duterte) name to the attention of the world in its letter to the then-president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, he reacted strongly and told them to mind their own business, which is exactly what they were doing.”

But Duterte insisted that he had the answer to crime. “This is our problem and we will solve it my way,” he is reported to have said.

In 2004, a prominent human rights defender, Rashid (Jun) Manahan, was shot dead on the street in Davao.

That year, the human rights organisation, FIND, had located the bodies of several people, including children, buried in shallow graves on waste land known as the Firing Range.

Father Cullen notes that it is the rule of the gun, not the law, that spreads terror and fear, as anyone can be accused and shot.

He points out, “As many as 247 street executions were recorded up to December 2005 many of them young people and minors, some as young as 15. The finger pointing goes on and anyone can become a victim of a false accusation and marked for death.”

Occasional columnist for the Sunday Examiner, Danilo Reyes, writes, “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 end.”

Reyes believes that what attracts people to the Duterte Formula is that it touches upon their collective frustration at the state of politics, the economy, law and order, employment and a whole list of other ills in the country.

He says that Duterte can grow popular by bragging of killing criminals or threatening to kill them, because people are frustrated with criminality and the inefficiency of law enforcement.

“This is what they want to hear,” he says. “So, by exploiting frustration and telling people what they want to hear, they will begin to feel they belong.”

However, Father Cullen says this road is fraught with danger, as when the rule of law is cast aside by the oligarchy, then civilised life is not truly possible.

“Without morality and human rights, only an empty shell of a corrupt society remains,” he says. “A failed state is in the making.”

If you believe that law and order is dead bodies of suspected criminals littering the streets while a fragile economy crumbles around you, then Duterte is probably the man for your vote.


At least there is one thing that Duterte is leaving no doubt about, he will kill for president.

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