Clearing the path to tyranny

ON DISTANT SHORE
By Val G. Abelgas

Duterte-and-GeneralsIt seems the Duterte administration is hell-bent, in the words of the Liberal Party, on demonizing the opposition in the country. The other week, the President himself alleged that the “Yellows” – his name for the Liberal Party leaders – and other opposition groups are conniving with the “Reds” – the term used for members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the militant Left – to destabilize his government and eventually oust him from power.

The allegation is as baseless as it is preposterous. It is simply unbelievable that the Liberal Party and its leaders, representatives of the Establishment that the Left has long wanted to depose, would find common ground with the communists and even the militant Left. Neither would the Reds have anything to do with the Yellows, and although both perhaps share the goal of removing Duterte from power, the Yellows would do it democratically through elections while the Reds would want to remove not just Duterte but the entire political establishment, including the Liberal Party, through armed struggle.

Duterte’s wild accusations, seconded as usual by henchman Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III, was made without an iota of proof or truth, just as Aguirre falsely accused Senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes of having a hand in the siege of Marawi based on his allegation that the two opposition senators met with some Muslim leaders in Marawi just before the Maute attack began. His allegations – and the photos he produced to bolster his claim – burst on his face as it was proved beyond reasonable doubt that neither Aquino or Trillanes were in Mindanao at the time and that the photos were taken months ago and not in Mindanao.

Except from saying that the Yellows and the Reds are plotting to destabilize and overthrow his government, Duterte did not cite any incident or circumstance to boost his claim.

Equally preposterous is the claim of a self-confessed bagman of a drug cartel operating in the Panay-Negros region that Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas are the protectors of alleged drug lord Melvin Odicta Sr. of Iloilo, who was killed along with his wife in August last year, among the very first to fall in Duterte’s bloody drug war.

The bagman, Ricky Serenio of the Berya drug cartel, accused Drilon and Roxas of partnering with Odicta to control “the illegal drug business in Western Visayas… by kicking out the Berya Tolentino and Camaria group from their dominance as local drug suppliers.”

“Being in power with close association to the PNP, it was easy for the Roxas-Drilon tandem to paralyze, and eventually overthrow, the Berya-Camaria drug operations and wipe out these groups from operating in Negros Island,” Serenio’s affidavit read.

It’s simply hard to believe that two prominent politicians who have distinguished themselves in public service would suddenly slug it out with criminals to gain control of the illegal drug trade. Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has in many occasions defended Duterte’s drug war, couldn’t believe it either.

“For me, not only probably because I know Senators Drilon and Roxas too well, but also it is hard to believe the words of a rival drug lord of Odicta who cannot anymore confirm or deny that statement,” Lacson said. Precisely.

But that’s not what bothers many people. Serenio is after all a self-confessed criminal who would do anything to get into the good graces of the powers-that-be to hopefully gain immunity or pardon, avoid summary execution, or even just get a light sentence. What’s alarming is the way the Justice Secretary is giving credence to an obviously absurd claim.

Aguirre said the Department of Justice may treat Serenio’s affidavit as a complaint, and use it as basis for the agency’s preliminary investigation on the matter. And instead of waiting for the results of the investigation, Aguirre decided to make public Serenio’s claims in an obvious attempt to further “demonize” the opposition and make his boss in Malacanang happy.

After all, wasn’t Aguirre the same official who boastfully asked a throng of Duterte supporters after sending opposition Sen. Leila de Lima to jail on trumped up drug charges, who they wanted to send to jail next, to which the crowd shouted: Trillanes!

Apparently, Aguirre couldn’t find any convicted or self-confessed criminal to accuse Trillanes of any crime other than libel, which the Department of Justice did not hesitate to file against Duterte’s fiercest critic.

All these bring to mind the way Aguirre used alleged affidavits of convicted criminals inside the New Bilibid Prisons to file illegal drug charges against the feisty De Lima, who has been in detention for more than eight months now.

The Supreme Court, voting on purely partisan lines, recently denied De Lima’s petition for bail in a decision Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio described as “one of the grossest injustices ever perpetrated in recent memory in full view of the Filipino nation and the entire world.”

“Based on the Information itself, the accusation of illegal trade in drugs … is blatantly a pure invention. This Court, the last bulwark of democracy and liberty in the land, should never countenance such a fake charge,” Carpio, an appointee of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said in his dissenting opinion.

Four appointees of Duterte and five appointees of Arroyo voted to shun De Lima while all five appointees of former President Noynoy Aquino voted with Carpio to allow De Lima to post bail.

The threat to link the top two LP leaders to illegal drug trade, a non-bailable offense, comes on the heels of impeachment threats on the heads of two constitutional democratic institutions — Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who have both resisted efforts by the Duterte administration to intimidate them. It also comes just after Duterte threatened to declare a revolutionary government.

And now comes newly appointed presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer, let me remind you, threatening to throw “hollow blocks” at the President’s critics. At the same time, Duterte is doing what the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos as soon as he declared martial law when he organized the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan. The President, through her daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, last week organized a nationwide alliance purportedly to support his father’s agenda, with Ilocos Gov. Imee Marcos and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada in attendance.

All these point to one thing: this administration does not tolerate criticisms and is out to dismantle all opposition to its agenda. The administration is clearing the path to tyranny.

(valabelgas@aol.com)


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