Duterte plays good cop to police amid Camp Crame murder
It was a night of celebration, but also of controversy, because the birthday boy, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, has been called to face the music for the murder of a foreign national in his own backyard.
When the party’s guest of honor, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, took to the stage to give his birthday message, the controversy was top of mind. (READ: Murder inside Camp Crame: A tangled tale of crime)
“Alam ho ninyo, kung ipatanggal si Bato, si Speaker, pati ako, wala dito ngayong gabing ito (You know, if Bato was to be removed, the Speaker and I would not be here tonight),” began Duterte, immediately taking up the demands for Dela Rosa’s resignation.
Duterte then continued with the rest of his over-40-minute speech, talking about his drug war, his mixed ancestry, and impersonating both Donald Trump and Barack Obama. But a large chunk of his speech dealt with a more timely topic: corruption among the police.
If it were any other audience, Duterte would have been all bluster and fury, throwing expletives around, the very image of righteous outrage.
But to the room full of police that night, the President was not so much a man of anger but a man pleading.
He admitted police corruption as a fact of life and acknowledged that it stems from their meager salary and daily exposure to opportunities to make a dirty buck.
But he went further. Duterte said he won’t interfere with how they make money from “other sources” but he too can give police whatever they need as long as they stay honest.
“Yung illegal pati legal, alam 'nyo naman ibig ko sabihin. For the most part, pinaghati-hati 'nyo ‘yan, I just kept silent. I just kept silent. Dagdagan ko pa ‘yan. Ang nakita ko kasi mga station commanders, mukhang nagkakaroon ng – dito lang sa itaas pero okay lang ‘yan – I will not begrudge you. Hindi ko kayo – ako na ang magbigay doon sa station commander so they will not have to liquidate an empty paper there. Bahala na kayo kung arrange-arrange. I’m not saying we have to do illegal things; what I’m saying is that until such time that we can give you more, then may tulong, eh ‘di tanggapin ninyo. May nag-offer na magbili, lalo na para sa mga entry police, entry ang delikado diyan eh. Wala, bilhin ninyo, babayaran ko. Walang problema ‘yan. Pero ang kailangan 'nyo, you have to discipline your men,” said Duterte.
(The illegal and legal, you know what I mean. For the most part, you divided it up. I just kept silent. I can add to that. I see station commanders, it looks like – but only on the higher levels, it’s okay – I will not begrudge you. I won’t – I will give to the station commander so they will not have to liquidate an empty paper there. It’s up to you to make arrangements. I’m not saying we have to do illegal things. What I’m saying is that until such time that we can give you more, then if there’s help, accept it. If someone offers to buy for you, especially for the entry-level police, they are the most vulnerable. Buy it, I will pay. No problem. But you have to discipline your men.)
This was classic Duterte messaging: dangling a carrot, offering rewards, portraying himself as the father offering a safety net to his prodigal sons.
While Duterte portrays himself as a murderous dictator to drug pushers and drug lords, he deals with police – even corrupt police and those accused of crimes – with kid gloves. To them, he’s more good cop than bad cop.
That didn’t stop him, however, from dishing out some advice to police, warning them of the “virulent sin” of greed. Immediately after, however, he again softened the blow with promises of more rewards.
“Pero ang pinaka, the most virulent sin is actually 'yung you crave more than what you can afford. Sabi ko nga noon, anak ko pa si Inday. It pains the mother, it’s a deep wound to deny what you cannot afford that your daughter is asking. Alam ko ‘yun. So just tayo, trabaho tayo, nagtitiis. At least nag-increase na suweldo 'nyo. That was last year. May mga bagong benefits pa kayo this year aside from the increase. By the [end of the] year, matapos itong 2017, talagang doblado na suweldo 'nyo. Every month may increase na kayo, incremental,” said Duterte.
(But the most virulent sin actually is when you crave for more than what you can afford. I said before, Inday is my daughter. It pains the mother, it’s a deep wound to deny what you cannot afford that your daughter is asking for. I know that. So let’s just work, let’s bear it. At least your salary has increased. That was last year. You have new benefits this year aside from the increase. By the end of 2017, your salaries will have doubled because of the incremental monthly increase.)
Like in his days as mayor, when he would help any Davao City policeman with hospital fees, he invited police to come to him if they ever needed anything, almost to treat him like their “Godfather.”
“Kung may problema kayo, usually may namatayan, may asawa, cancer, o ikaw mismo may cancer, all you have to do is go to Malacañang or call me. Tawagan mo si Bong, ‘Bong, nagpa-opera ako, may bayaran ako na P700,000,’ bayaran ko 'yang ospital,” said Duterte.
(If you have a problem, someone died, your spouse has cancer, you have cancer, all you have to do is go to Malacañang or call me. Call Bong, "Bong, I had an operation, I need to pay P700,000." I will pay the hospital.)
After this placating message, he again issued a warning.
“Pero kung sabihin mo magnakaw tayo, do you know the reason why I really remembered my father? Because ‘pag ikaw ang nasa maduming paraan sa laro sa buhay, you won’t have the moral ascendancy,” said Duterte.
(But if you say, let’s steal, do you know the reason why I really remembered my father? Because if you play dirty in this game of life, you won’t have the moral ascendancy.)
In a previous part of his speech, he had mentioned his late father, a former governor of the undivided Davao, who he portrayed as a morally-upright man. He had recalled how, as a child, he had witnessed his father berate a jail official who allegedly got the wife of an inmate pregnant.
This is Duterte's transactional leadership style at its best. In public, he may issue colorful threats against corrupt police, even warning them of death. But when face-to-face with police, he is more understanding of their sins and is willing to pamper them if they turn honest.
It's the same complex balancing act with the communists and military. To communists, he professes friendship, even loyalty to the Leftist cause. But to the military, he'll openly insult Leftist leaders and condemn communist rebels who destroy private property.
Duterte changes face depending on who he is talking to and he sees this as essential if he is to succeed in striking deals.
It remains to be seen how police are receiving his messaging. Will his warnings, deftly woven into his promises of rewards, succeed in making police think twice about committing crimes?
Or will the caring father image stick more, allowing police to think they can get away with anything because they have a protector in Malacañang, the man who promised to pardon them if they get convicted of crimes committed in the line of duty? – Rappler.com
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