In Duterte-land, U2’s Bono touches on the taboo

Published 5:12 PM, December 11, 2019
Updated 5:12 PM, December 11, 2019

The U2 fans in the newsroom never doubted it: Bono, the very political frontman of the phenomenal Irish band, would touch on the issue of human rights violations once in the Philippines.

He didn’t disappoint.

In a press conference on Tuesday, December 10 – Human Rights Day – a journalist asked what he thought of the human rights situation in the Philippines, given President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed thousands and has given rise to a culture of impunity in the country. (Read my newsletter: “The Philippines, a killing field”)

“My impression of the Philippines is [that it has] very caring, very sophisticated people. I understand that when progress is made, sometimes people make what they think are compromises for that progress. And I would just say, you can’t compromise on human rights. That’s my soft message to President Duterte,” Bono responded.

Then there was a bonus for us, the working press.

Bono was asked, would he snub the Malacañang occupant then for his human rights record?

“President Duterte is very popular, he doesn’t need me on his side, and as it happens I have a very deep conviction about journalism…. The safety of journalists is very important, and I think a democracy requires a free press,” he said.

I won’t be surprised if he’s been apprised that the Philippines has the most number of unsolved journalists’ killings in the world over the last decade. (Read my newsletter: “Did Malacañang say the press is free?”)

BONO, frontman of U2, which is in the Manila leg of their 'The Joshua Tree Tour 2019,' says if he weren't singer, he would have been a journalist. AFP photo

BONO, frontman of U2, which is in the Manila leg of their 'The Joshua Tree Tour 2019,' says if he weren't singer, he would have been a journalist. AFP photo

So the guessing game among us now is really about whether or not President Rodrigo Duterte, in any of his meandering speeches, would spew out profanities against the singer-songwriter. After all, he’s cursed Barack Obama, the European Union, Pope Francis, Ban Ki-moon, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and Agnes Callamard, among others for having supposedly meddled with domestic issues. (READ: The Duterte Insult List)

Maybe he won’t – because he doesn’t know how influential this social justice advocate is. Maybe he will – because somebody will whisper to him that Bono is a partner of Amnesty International, for which Duterte has no love lost. (READ: PH drug war killings reach ‘threshold of crime against humanity’ – report)

Or maybe we should wait until Duterte finds out about the images of influential Filipino women that, last we heard, U2 was planning to use as stage backdrop in one of the numbers at their Philippine Arena concert today, Wednesday, December 11. Because we know how Duterte is toward women who push boundaries and fight back, right?

Remember this outburst back in March, which was Women’s Month? “Puta (Bitch), you know, you women, you are depriving me of my freedom of expression.... You criticize every sentence or word I say, but that is my freedom to express myself…. Kayong mga gaga kayo, huwag kayo mga (You fools, don’t give me that crap) – it’s the freedom of expression. Kaya sinasadya ko ‘yang ganito kasi (I do these things on purpose because) I am trying to bring you to the limits of despair.”

And so Bono will sing:

Oh, sugar, don’t you cry;
Oh, child, wipe the tears from your eyes.
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long.

***

ALAN Peter Cayetano and the Phisgoc, which he chairs, face probe by the Ombudsman for possible corruption. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

ALAN Peter Cayetano and the Phisgoc, which he chairs, face probe by the Ombudsman for possible corruption. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

DON’T FORGET THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN GAMES FIASCO: December 11 is also the closing ceremonies of the Southeast Asian Games. We will continue to celebrate our heroes, the athletes, but we will also remember to go back to the organizers and make them account for the questionable contracts and the subpar preparations that have been exposed.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has created a fact-finding panel to look into possible corruption in how the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee organized the regional games.

Aside from questions of corruption, Phisgoc chairman Alan Peter Cayetano has to answer another question: whether or not it’s constitutional for him to hold that position while he is Speaker of the House of Representatives. And while we’re at it, also the question of why the SEA Games fund had to be transferred to whichever office he occupied.

If you want to go back to our news reports, medal tally, and photos and videos from the Games, bookmark our special coverage page here.

***

ZHOU MEI and her abduction on Monday, December 9, is but the latest of what local police say has been a monthly incident of Chinese kidnapping fellow Chinese in the POGO industry. Victim's photo courtesy of Makati police

ZHOU MEI and her abduction on Monday, December 9, is but the latest of what local police say has been a monthly incident of Chinese kidnapping fellow Chinese in the POGO industry. Victim's photo courtesy of Makati police

KIDNAPPING IN MAKATI: While writing and editing follow-up stories on the woman who was forcibly taken by men along Paseo de Roxas, the reporters and I wondered how some government officials defined “isolated incident.”That what happened in Makati was the first and only incident of such kind?

So we quickly went on to fact-check the likes of Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo and former Philippine National Police chief and now Senator Ronald dela Rosa:

The Makati Police has so far identified a person of interest in the kidnapping of online gambling firm worker Zhou Mei. We are following the developments in this case and will keep you posted.

***

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: It’s almost Christmas, and so we have started wrapping up the major events of 2019, looking at them with the benefit of hindsight and a fresh perspective.

For starters, we give you these:

Until next Wednesday! Email me your thoughts at miriamgracego@rappler.com. If you want to help Rappler pursue in-depth reports on specific sectors and issues, you can donate to our investigative fund here. You can check out the conversations I engage in on Twitter @miriamgracego and follow the stories I share on Facebook.Rappler.com



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