A friend asked, "Umamin na si Duterte. Uwian na ba?" (Duterte has admitted to extrajudicial killings. Is it over?)
Rewind to last Thursday, September 27. President Rodrigo Duterte was, as usual, railing against his critics. Then he declared that extrajudicial killings is his “only sin.” Not corruption, not putting people in jail. Just EJK.
If, by admitting to a massacre, the President meant to burnish the virtue of not being a thief or not jailing people without prosecuting them first, it only shows his warped sense of right and wrong. But that's nothing new.
“You know the President. Again, he wasn’t serious.” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque delivered the perennial excuse with practiced ease, having said it so many times before.
Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde's defense was clumsy and messy: "It's because there are no issues that could be thrown at him so it's as if he said 'Alright, I'll just admit.' So he said it out of frustration." We'd send Albayalde back to the PR coaches if we were Roque.
But it isn't Roque or Albayalde who's in the weeds.
The guys at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) called out President Rodrigo Duterte for "toying with the sanctity of life.” The favorite whipping boy of the President, the traumatized CHR is so used to walking on eggshells, it missed the proverbial forest.
It was't about the "joke," and CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia should be the first person to know it. It's not as if the President committed the same offense as party list representative John Bertiz, who joked that exam passers won’t get their license if they didn't know who Bong Go is. Tasteless, but Bertiz is not in the same league as the President.
How can the CHR focus on "toying with the sanctity of life," when Duterte's policy started the orgy of death?
It’s like faulting Nero for smoke pollution after he ordered Rome burned.
Lest we fall for Duterte's obfuscation, the presidential seal is the gun in the hand that killed thousands of impoverished addicts, small-time pushers, runners and pot-house operators.
If you haven't kept track of the numbers, here they are: 33 people killed daily. More than 23,518 Filipinos died in both vigilante-style killings and police operations since the anti-drug campaign was launched in 2016.
That includes the innocent – the collateral damage – the sons and daughters who were in the trajectory of the bullet; the framed enemies of informants; the nuisance tambay; and the occasional weed smoker who make up for the shortfall of the kill team's quota.
Kian delos Santos. Althea Barbon. Hideyoshi Kawata. Joshua Cumilang. Carl Arnaiz. Danica Mae Garcia. Francis Mañosca. San Niño Batucan. Kristine Joy Sailog. Jayross Brondial. Michael Diaz. Jonel Segovia. Sonny Espinosa. Angelito Soriano. Angel Fernandez. They're just some of the 54 people killed who were 18 years old and below. (Which reminds us of the President's wish to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 9 years old.)
Even by the PNP's count of 4,279 cases, this is still a massacre on a grand scale, one that may soon rank alongside history's mass killers, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler. After all, Duterte has 4 years to go yet in his term. He has already surpassed Ferdinand Marcos' 3,240 Martial Law death toll.
Duterte once told EJK victims, "Enjoy your human rights in heaven." It's the perfect impunity quote.
But this is old news.
Going past the debate of whether this is an "admission" or a "joke," what are we going to do about this?
What democratic institutions are left to pursue this?
Is it the judiciary, which, in the Supreme Court, will count 13 out of 15 appointees at the end of his term?
Is it the Office of the Ombudsman, post Conchita Carpio-Morales?
Is it the CHR, which hems and haws in its condemnation?
Is it the House of Representatives, which is teeming with Duterte allies, or the Senate, whose members are already distracted by the 2019 elections?
Is it the United Nations? The International Criminal Court? All eyes are on the ICC and what international pressure can and cannot do.
If and when the institutions let us down, who do we look to to lead the way? It's a real possibility there'll be no one left in the ring but us.
Bituin Escalante said the other day, "I voted for Duterte, but I love my country even more." For her, love of country and Duterte are no longer conjoined.
Like her, maybe the first step is letting go of our silence and admitting we now have buyer's remorse. – Rappler.com