The President’s new clothes

IN a bizarre modern-day variation of the The Emperor’s New Clothes, President Rodrigo Duterte is going around pitching the idea that the recent killings of Kian delos Santos, 17; Carl Arnaiz, 19; and Reynaldo de Guzman, 14 are part of a grand conspiracy to sabotage his bloody war on drugs.

The idea that some shadowy and unbelievably malignant group composed of drug lords and politicians is going around killing teenagers to discredit Mr. Duterte and his anti-drug campaign seems farfetched at best. At worst, it seems delusional and paranoid—a theoretical construct built around the President’s absolute refusal to believe or admit that there are abusive policemen, and that not all who criticize his policies are enemies of the state that want to bring his government down.

But like the emperor’s ministers who did not want to appear stupid or incompetent by failing to appreciate his non-existent new clothes, the President’s allies are falling over each other to give credence to his outlandish theory.

Thus we have the secretary of Justice ordering the National Bureau of Investigation to focus on the possibility of a plot as it investigates the killing of the three teenagers.

“We have to determine if there are other motives other than killing of these teenagers because we can see a trend that is targeting teenagers,” said Secretary Vitaliano Aguire II. “This has not happened before when the war on drugs started.”

The Justice secretary said he agreed with the observation of President Duterte that there seemed to be a deliberate effort to sabotage and discredit the war on drugs.

“This appears to me as an effort to ultimately destroy our police force and of course the President,” he said.

Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, who is providing legal assistance to the parents of the three slain teenagers, also seemed to be encouraging the President.

“It’s obvious already that there’s an agenda in these killings. They are sacrificing teenagers to pursue their agenda. How could they stand doing that?” she said.

Not to be outdone, the Mr. Duterte’s ally in the House, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, said Congress would investigate what appeared to be a plot to sabotage the President’s war on drugs.

“What’s the motive here?” he said in Filipino. “It’s clear: so that the people will rise against, or be enraged with the administration... This could be the work of drug lords to stop the campaign against illegal drugs, or the work of politics.”

Is it really easier to believe in an elaborate plot to murder children for economic and political gain than to acknowledge that some abusive policemen—bad eggs—have let the power go to their heads and committed some unspeakable acts? Occam’s razor suggests otherwise.

But we have seen this pattern before. Nobody in Mr. Duterte’s camp dares to speak truth to power. There is not a one among the yes-men and yes-women who surround the President as brave as the little child in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, who told the truth about the emperor’s nakedness.

Topics: President Rodrigo Duterte , War on drugs , Killings of teens
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