attacks against media

[Newspoint] Muzzling by murder

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] Muzzling by murder

David Castuciano

Indeed, Percy Lapid’s killing cannot be taken outside the purview of both Duterte’s and Marcos’ interests: he was a sharp critic of both presidents, and both are invested in each other, rather desperately

Occurring as it did right in our backyard, the assassination of broadcast commentator Percy Lapid signifies a portentous turn in the effort to silence media critics. And with a president oriented to strongman rule, the prospects become even more chilling.

Lapid was waylaid in Las Piñas, in our premier metropolis, where rights and freedom watchdogs keep a strong presence, where in fact they are based.

Manila journalists have been the envy of their provincial cousins for a number of reasons, one of which is precisely for being not so vulnerable as they to violent reprisals from news subjects. Such vulnerability is, I guess, a function of culture.

Warlordism defines much of provincial politics, although it seems that the warlord’s sense of arbitrary justice and impunity has begun to infect Manila’s own political class. And the setting could only have become more conducive to the infection in the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

I imagine that the apologists for Marcos would take issue with his being linked to Lapid’s murder so early in his term. True, he neither pulled the trigger nor supplied the bullets, but, by simply being a Marcos, he couldn’t have helped providing the inspiration, willfully or not.

In any case, his alibi is but a little less lame than that given by his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, when he tried to distance himself from thousands of indiscriminate kills in his drug war: those were the work of vigilantes, not his police, he pleaded.

Indeed, Lapid’s killing cannot be taken outside the purview of both Duterte’s and Marcos’ interests: he was a sharp critic of both presidents, and both are invested in each other, rather desperately. A plot to escape accountability, and jail, ties them together, Duterte for his corrupt and murderous regime and also for his treachery in surrendering control over our western sea to China; and Marcos himself, for crimes going back to his father’s  14-year dictatorship, specifically for his and his family’s share in its $10-billion plunder.

If Percy Lapid had practiced in Marcos’ father’s time, he might have lived. Not that Ferdinand I didn’t rule by murder – there are 4,000 kills to his name – but strategy had forced him to be benign. By rounding up certain publishers and journalists and shutting down their operations on the night he imposed Martial Law, he incapacitated the news media preemptively, thus gaining the element of surprise and at the same time shocking would-be critics.

The conditions are dangerously deceptive this time. Supposedly, democracy, with every right and freedom that go with it, is alive and well. Admittedly, the mantle passed from him to Marcos by the normal, smooth democratic process. But actually, Duterte had managed to co-opt much of the check institutions – both houses of Congress, much of the courts, and the army, police, and other security agencies – not only for himself to deploy but for him to bequeath to Marcos, then for Marcos to, possibly, pass on to Duterte’s daughter Sara, who, as Vice President now, is almost sure to get her own presidential draft.

Apparently, Marcos’ son Sandro is being groomed to follow Sara in the two families’ monopolistic line of presidential succession. Although a mere neophyte in Congress, he has been made deputy majority leader and given a high-profile role in his father’s public appearances.

Naturally, to such a determined dynastic conspiracy, the likes of Percy Lapid are absolutely an unacceptable liability. –

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