A nation in pain

By Perry Diaz

 Jennilyn Olayres weeping over the body of her husband, Michael Siaron, who was killed in the Manila metropolitan area. (Reuters)

Jennilyn Olayres weeping over the body of her husband, Michael Siaron, who was killed in the Manila metropolitan area. (Reuters)

A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted last September 24-26 showed Duterte receiving a public satisfaction rating of 76%, “dissatisfied” rating of 11%, and “undecided” rating of 13%. According to SWS, Duterte’s +54 “net satisfaction” rating is better than most of his post-EDSA revolution predecessors, except for Fidel V. Ramos who scored +66 in 1992.

sws-survey-sept-2016-3During that same period last September, the SWS survey showed that 84% of the respondents are satisfied with the ongoing campaign against illegal drugs, while 8% are dissatisfied and 8% are undecided. The question asked was: “Please tell me how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with the performance of government in its campaign against illegal drugs?”

What SWS survey reveals?

 But here is the stinger: 94% of the respondents believed the importance of keeping the drug suspects alive during police operations. Only 6% believed that it was not important. The question asked was: “In the police’s fulfillment of their duty in the campaign against illegal drugs, in your opinion, how important is it that they arrest suspects allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade alive?”

Is it then fair to presume that the respondents believed that killing the drug suspects should be avoided and that the police shouldn’t be trigger-happy when arresting drug suspects?

It brings to fore the question: Are the police trained to avoid killing the drug suspects whenever possible? Or, is Duterte’s “shoot to kill” order encouraging the police officers to use their guns as a “first resort” instead of “last resort.”

“Shoot first…”

shoot-a-drug-dealerThis brings to mind a cliché that’s used in police operations, to wit: “Shoot first, ask questions later.” Although no police department would openly encourage its policemen to shoot first and ask questions later, there is a culture within the law enforcement community that a policeman should always be ready to shoot first and ask questions later. Their mindset is: It’s either they shoot first or they’re dead.

However, the “Shoot first, ask questions later” mantra is predicated on a situation where shots weren’t meant to kill but merely wound the target so that the police could question him later. But what has been happening is oftentimes the target ends up dead because the police use high-caliber weapons… and at short range. In other words, it’s not “Shoot first, ask questions later” but “Shoot to kill.” But isn’t that in line with what Duterte wants, which is to kill drug pushers and drug addicts? Didn’t he say during the campaign, “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you”? Didn’t he offer medals and cash rewards to citizens who killed drug dealers? And few weeks after his oath-taking as president, didn’t he reiterate his vow during his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA), saying: ““We will not stop until the last drug lord … and the last pusher have surrendered or are put either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish”?

Terror effect

Two days before Duterte took his oath, more than 3,000 self-confessed drug pushers and users in South Cotobato and Sultan Kudarat surrendered.

Two days before Duterte took his oath, more than 3,000 self-confessed drug pushers and users in South Cotobato and Sultan Kudarat surrendered.

After reaching Duterte’s 100th day in office, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar announced in a press conference: “It’s a complete success and the people believe in it. 84% believe in the war against illegal drugs. 700,000 addicts turned themselves in kasama ang (including) 52,000 na drug pushers and drug lords.” He added: “You see crime dropping. Last July, it dropped at 49%. I don’t have it in front of me but I have new data from January to September, crime dropped to about 40 percent.”

While the drop in crime may be attributed to “terror effect” — which was intended against the drug syndicates — it is also terrorizing communities throughout the countries. Citizens are afraid to go out at night lest they be mistaken for drug pushers or users and killed by the police or vigilantes… or people who have an axe to grind against them.


Former President Fidel V. Ramos confers with President Rodrigo Duterte at the start of the new administration.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos confers with President Rodrigo Duterte at the start of the new administration.

In the long run, extra-judicial killings (EJKs) — or “salvaging,” a Marcos martial law-era jargon — and other indiscriminate killings would corrode the base of “Dutertismo,” a movement based on mass support for Duterte’s leadership in fighting corruption, crime, poverty, and other social problems. But, just like similar events in the history of mankind, there is a caveat here. Abuse of power and the impunity of corruption could turn that “mass support” into “mass protest,” which could mimic the people power revolutions of the past.

It’s interesting to note that one of Duterte’s early and ardent supporters – former President Fidel V. Ramos – wrote in his newspaper column: “In the overall assessment by this writer [Ramos], we find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of Du30’s [Duterte] administration – and losing badly. This is a huge disappointment and letdown to many of us.”

“Death under investigation”

"Death under Investigation"

“Death under Investigation”

Last September when the SWS survey was taken, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said that 1,011 drug pushers and users were killed from July 1 to September 4. In addition, there were 1,391 deaths considered as “death under investigation” (DUI) or those whose bodies were found with cardboards with the note “Pusher ako” (I am a pusher). A month later, the DUIs have increased to 1,745 cases; however, only 321 cases have been filed against the alleged perpetrators – vigilantes? — of the crime, of which 176 cases were considered solved. However, “solved” in PNP parlance doesn’t mean the perpetrator has been convicted; it merely means that an arrest has been made.

During a media interview, PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa attributed the deaths of suspected drug pushers to illegal drug syndicates purging their own ranks or due to turf wars or double-crosses in drug transactions. “You will be surprised, this is not the handiwork of vigilantes. These alleged vigilante killings, it turned out, are syndicated killings.”

But whether the EJKs were perpetrated by drug syndicates, vigilantes or the police, it is causing international furor because EJKs are considered human rights violations. In particular, U.S. President Barack Obama was concerned about the impunity of EJKs in the Philippines. This did not dwell too well with Duterte, who told Obama, “Go to hell.”

The people’s “message”

"Stop the killings!"

“Stop the killings!”

The Philippines has been getting military and police financial assistance for many years from the U.S. The military receives at least $200 million a year, of which part of it is used in law enforcement. The U.S. military assistance is in jeopardy or it could be terminated to ensure that it will not be used for EJK operations. A U.S. State Department spokesman explained, “There’s a law called the Leahy Law that requires us to routinely and regularly vet security forces that are getting aid and assistance to make sure that any units that violate international law in that regard do not get aid and assistance.”

Indeed, with all the brouhaha over his controversial “War on Drugs,” Duterte has become an international pariah. Recently, a French daily newspaper, “The Liberation,” in a front-page article, Duterte was described as a “serial killer president.” The four-page story also touched on Duterte’s expletives against Obama and Pope Francis, and his controversial remarks in which he compared Adolf Hitler’s extermination of Jews to his “war on drugs.”

At the end of the day, the “message” from the SWS survey last September is crystal clear: While they want Duterte to stop the drug menace, they want him to do it in a way where killings are avoided. “Stop the killings!” was what the people were saying.

The Filipino people are an extraordinary kind of people. They can tolerate the evils of corruption and endure the pains of poverty. But they are too forgiving of others’ transgressions. And to the Filipino psyche, killing is never an option.

But in the final analysis, when our nation is in pain, there is only one option and that is, we turn to God – we say, “Bahala Na.”


7 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Fernando Habito says:

    The 76% satisfaction means these are the 76 % of Filipino respondents who got damage political PSYCHE…

  2. philip says:

    It’s not so much the war on drugs as it is the “serial killer” mentality.

  3. arthur alvendia says:

    In a situation where the Reality Is — the Operative Problem (ie the Drug System) is actually being stopped, Drug Laws are enforced, and 86% (not 76 per latest SWS rating) of the victim society Approves what is going on — Then i ask — Perhaps it is the international observer, media,church, political leaders, who have a Damaged view of Reality.
    Yes these critical views may be premised on an ethical view of “what ought to be”, BUT we must realize that our institutional systems which were built to implement our “ought to be’s” must ultimately be grounded on “what is” Reality.
    In such a case the task at hand is to recognize the Challenge of Reality against our Institutional systems for law enforcement, laws, & judicial systems against societal scale crimes inflicted by well funded, politically entrenched international Drug Syndicates. Civil Society is compelled to evaluate its Legal-Judicial Institutional Systems PRECISELY BECAUSE they have been proven to be dysfunctional, ineffective or even self defeating by REALITY ITSELF.
    Instead of a’priori conclusions that any Extra (outside the system) act is wrong, the task is to listen and understand the Crime Fighter (Dirty Harry) why he finds it necessary to transcend the system. We may well realize it is the judicial System (the Intra) that does not conform with Reality we face. So who then do we want to serve – the system? or the People?

    Arthur Alvendia


    Yonkers,New York
    13 October 2016

    It does not matter if in a SWS national poll, 99% of respondents say they approve of Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte’s megalomanic warrantless genocidal extrajudicial killing of his own people, a brutal and rutless drive which, so far, as netted close to 4,000 victims.

    That cannot mean that Duterte is right.

    Recall that the German people were virtually unanimous [100%] in their attitude toward Hitler’s mass-murder of 6 million Jews.

    Recall that at least 99% of the Chinese people approved of Mao Zedong’s mass-murder of millions of Chinese.

    Recall that Josef Stalin had virtually the unanimous approval of the Russian people when he mass-murdered millions of them.

    And what about Idid Amin. And Pol Pot? The to may have gotten around 95% of their people to approve of their own lawless mass-murder of their own people.

    Question: WERE THESE MASS-MURDERERS RIGHT, because of such high poll ratings?

    MARIANO PATALINJUG. patalinjugmar@gmail.com

  5. Ptr, Alex Caballero says:

    The main problem of the “bahala na” o “bathala na” is sino ba si bathala sa mga karaniwang Pilipino? Is he the God of the Bible or another falsely recognized God. The Philippines is predominantly (appx 85%) Roman Catholics who worship other gods rather than the One true God (see Acts 4:12; John 14:6) Kung mali ang dino-dios ng isang tao mali rin ang kanyang pananaw sa katarungan. Tayong mga tunay na Kristyano (people of God) ang dapat manalangin. (Chronicles7:14)

    • perry says:

      Hi Alex,

      God in this case is generic, depending on your faith. But isn’t the God of Christians, Muslims, and Jews the same Supreme Being?


  6. High ratings of pres. RD only shows, majority of Filipinos approve of the campaign on illegal drug users and we can say the President is on the right track. Means he is aimed to serve his people, not the system.Important thing to show to the people that there are isolated cases where there’s need to investigate steadfastly and show results to minimize questions or controversy.

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