DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — Like other Dabawenyos, I am gratified to know that in his first 100 days President Rody Duterte, he who promised a government of “malasakit at tunay na pagbabago,” got a net satisfaction rating of “very good.” I note that Presidents Fidel Ramos, Noynoy Aquino, Cory Aquino and Erap Estrada also received similar feedback during the same period of their administrations.
The first 100 days of the 16th President of the Philippines were jarring in both positive and not-so-positive ways. But unlike other life situations where one could philosophize and say that we have to take the good with the bad, there is a very real risk that in the current Philippine context, the latter could undermine the former and rapidly drain the political capital of the President.
The challenge is for President Duterte to discern which of what transpired during the first three months need to be stopped, have to be continued, and what will have to be started as fresh initiatives in the remaining 2,092 days. Elements of the vision articulated in his inauguration speech are a good reference: to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier; bring back faith and trust in government; foster values of love of country; subordination of personal interests for the common good; concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished.
The peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) shook loose from the encumbrances that stalled it since 2011. It is hoped that the leaps in the past months would soon lead to a political settlement of this drawn-out conflict line. Learning from recent developments in the Colombian peace process, Filipinos have to be brought on board early on so that they would both own and support the results of the talks. While other developments in the Bangsamoro peace process are still being awaited, there is a sense that a roadmap is in place, and in the course of being implemented, albeit not necessarily in the pace and direction preferred by those who have long advocated Bangsamoro right to self-determination.
However, statements and acts that dismiss human rights and rule of law, though supposedly directed at the drive against illegal drugs and criminality, could encourage military adventurists and reactionary forces to sabotage future peace agreements that are based on respect for rights and the just transformation of our social order, which are consistent with the promised “tunay na pagbabago”.
Nor can President Duterte’s vision as described in the inauguration speech be achieved by stigmatizing and criminalizing a significant number of our people, in the most recent reckoning three million.
Now upwards of 3,000 and increasing by the day, the death data has already overtaken the number of individuals who were summarily executed during the time of Marcos (estimated by Amnesty International at 3,240), with the difference that Marcos was in power for 21 years.
Many of those killed in the war against drugs were from segments of our population considered “helpless and impoverished,”and it stands to reason, thus deserving of “malasakit.”
More and more people across communities are harmed by the drug campaign, although majority are from the impoverished, thus putting to question the notion of “common good.” Too, “subordination of personal interests” is increasingly coming across as the “subordination of persons;” with the poor, long vulnerable, treated as more inferior and could be exterminated for simply being suspected of association with drugs. Political power, social standing and class have not subordinated interests but instead privileged them; politicians, members of the judiciary, security sector officials, and other high-profile figures allegedly connected with the illegal drug business were named and shamed yes, but not killed.
That we are letting fear turn us against our own people is something for which we will have to be accountable. Maybe not immediately, maybe not in this administration, but be held accountable in the future for those who were denied human rights during this time we will, if we are to fully grow as a polity.
The Duterte administration will find it difficult to bring back faith and trust in government if it does not restore and abide by rule of law and respect for institutions. Absolute faith and trust in one individual, even if it is the highest elected official of the land, unfortunately does not translate to faith and trust in government. There must be recognition of and support for the principles, processes, and practices that have over time evolved to become the bases for organizing our lives as Filipinos. Not that these arrangements cannot be changed, because they certainly can and that is what reform and revolution are all about, but that they cannot be ignored without consequence to us all and the future of the country.
Government cannot call on people to avoid what is illegal, if it is itself turning a blind eye to, and even seemingly encouraging the environment that makes it convenient to do what is patently illegal, the snuffing out of lives without due process. Otherwise, this would just be another example of the State flaunting its mishandling of the monopoly over the means of violence, while telling everyone else to abide by the rules.
To win the fight against crime and illegal drugs, and at the same time work towards the restoration of faith and trust in government, it is not enough that the President continues with personally championing the anti-drug drive, and espousing that “now is the time to kill a criminal correctly.” To achieve both sets of priorities, government has to publicly disavow, condemn, and put a stop to the killings.
It must also encourage new platforms for citizens to support the drive in ways that are consistent with elements of the aforesaid Duterte vision: a concern for safety and health, hence a policy of dealing with drug addiction as a public health issue; the restoration of faith and trust in government, hence the respect for rule of law, and reforms in critical institutions such as the security sector and the judiciary; the concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished, hence, deliberate and coherent efforts to assist those who have been ensnared by the drug menace.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Mags Z. Maglana is a Mindanawon who has worked in various capacities over the past 30 years for peace, good governance, sustainable development, and the promotion of human rights. Please email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org)