MANILA, Philippines – If he doesn't speak out, who will?
President Benigno Aquino III on Monday night, March 28, called out presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for his promise of a "bloody" presidency, saying this could very well just be a step away from a dictatorship.
"Problema ko po 'pag napapakinggan ko po, nababasa ang mga sinasabi ni Manong Digong Duterte, ang sabi po niya sa debate noong Pebrero: '...If I become president, it will be bloody. Because we'll order the killing of all criminals, ang mga durugista at drug lords,'" Aquino said at the Liberal Party's proclamation rally for its local candidates in Plaza Miranda, Manila. (My problem is with Duterte's statements, especially what he said during the February debate...)
Aquino added: "Ano po ba ang sinasabi niya? Ibig sabihin ho ba ng mga katagang 'yun [na] kanyang binigkas: Siya ang tutukoy, siya ang huhusga, at siya rin ang magpaparusa? Bawal ba sa kanyang palakad ang pagkakaroon ng kontrang opinyon at siya lang ang tama sa lahat ng pagkakataon? Kung ganyan nga ang sinasabi niya, ako lang ho ba dapat ang medyo kabahan sa pwedeng kahinatnan natin?"
(What's he trying to say? Does he mean to say that he's judge, jury, and executioner? Under his rule, will contrary opinions be banned and will he be the only one who's right? If that's what he's saying, am I the only one who should be worried about our future?)
This marked the first time since the national campaign period began that Aquino named the rivals of his anointed bet while criticizing them.
Aquino is endorsing former interior secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, who's behind Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, and Vice President Jejomar Binay in the surveys. Last week's opinion polls showed Duterte already tied with Poe at first place.
Quoting theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Hitler's time, Aquino explained why he needed to speak out against the hard-hitting Duterte. "First they came for the communist, but I was not a communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the socialists and the trade unionists, but I was neither. So I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out. And when they came finally for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."
Echoing the sentiments of Duterte's rivals, Aquino told the crowd that the mayor's conviction should leave everyone worried.
"Maraming gagawin sa mabilis na panahon; di ba't kaakibat noon ay shortcut at ano kaya ang ibig sabihin ng shortcut kung hindi kasama na rin ang pagsasabalewala na rin ng mga tamang proseso?" said Aquino, son of anti-dictatorship icons Ninoy Aquino and Cory Aquino.
(A lot of things will be done in a short amount of time; but doesn't that also mean that in taking shortcuts, you also bypass the right processes?)
Poe's anti-crime czar
Although Aquino said the most about Duterte, he did not spare the other front runners in the presidential race.
The President pointed out that many of Roxas' rivals were also his friends. But, Aquino said, his role as the "country's father" rises above personal ties.
Twice during the Cebu debate, Poe said she would appoint Ariel Querubin to her anti-crime efforts should she be elected president. Querubin is now a security consultant of San Miguel Corporation, which is owned by Ramon Ang, a known campaign funder of Poe. (READ: Poe eyes ex-coup plotter as her anti-crime czar)
"Sa unang tingin, mukhang maganda 'yan, matigas ang Philippine Marines, aayusin ang krimen. Ang tanong: Tama ba ang kanyang binigkas (At first glance, it seems like a good idea. The Philippine Marines are strong, Querubin will be able to fight crime. But I ask: Was she right in her pronouncements)?" he said.
The country's commander-in-chief pointed out that cops are tasked with chasing after and arresting criminals while soldiers are taught to crush external threats. Police can only use deadly force in extreme situations – in self-defense or in defending others.
"Si Colonel Querubin po, may kakayahan. Totoo. Pero angkop ba siya sa trabaho (Colonel Querubin is good, that's true. But is he right for the job)?" said Aquino.
Again echoing common criticisms of the neophyte legislator, Aquino added: "Pagbigyan na po natin dito si Senadora Grace, sa kung sa ano ang gusto niya pong sabihin. Pero sa mga panukala niya, ang tanong na palagay ko'y angkop: Handa na nga ba siya sa lahat ng desisyong kailangan niyang gawin?"
(Let's allow Senator Grace to say what she wants to. But with that decision, I think it's right to ask: Is she truly ready for the decisions she will have to make?)
Poe has been hit for supposedly being ill-prepared for the presidency. Prior to bagging a Senate seat in 2013, Poe was appointed Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chief by Aquino.
In the case of Binay, a close friend of the Aquino family, the President hit him for allegations of corruption. Binay is the subject of a year-long Senate probe into alleged anomalies while he was mayor of Makati.
"Batid natin ang sama ng loob ni VP; nasa poder siya nang pagkatagal-tagal, pero ngayon, ang daming kumukuwestyon sa kanya. Ako naman po, kilala ninyo ako; wala akong tinataguang tanong, o tinatakbuhang isyu. Doon po sigurado tayo nagkakaiba sa kanya," said Aquino.
(I understand the Vice President's woes; he's been in power for so long and now people are questioning him. But you know me: I don't shy from questions or run away from issues. In that, I'm sure I'm different from him.)