When President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in public, he almost always talks about his war on illegal drugs. This is how it has been for the past eight months.
He curses his critics, calling them idiots or sons of whores. The people listening to him break out into laughter. They applaud him—dismissing the fact that more than 7,500 have been killed since the President assumed office.
It’s tragic that Filipinos seem to just accept that this is the new normal. Do we not realize that there are greater problems that we have to face—poverty, unemployment, terrorism, climate change, and lack of basic services?
Former President Fidel Ramos calls it unilateralism—the inability of President Duterte to consult members of his Cabinet in issuing policies, and in foreign affairs. Why not maintain present allies as we romance new ones?
It was Ramos who urged Mr. Duterte to run for president. Now he is the staunchest and bluntest critic of the Duterte administration. It’s a sinking ship, he says.
Poverty and joblessness, above everything, should be the priority of President Duterte if the country must achieve change.
Millions of Filipinos still live below the poverty line. Given this, economic growth is meaningless. My gulay, why do you think some Filipinos resort to trading illegal drugs?
Just look at those boys and girls along Metro Manila’s streets. They sniff solvents just to forget their hunger. Look at those killed in the war against illegal drugs– they are clad only in shorts, t-shirts and slippers. We don’t see these photos in gated villages.
Santa Banana, it’s the poor who find themselves targeted in President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs! Tragic, isn’t it?
Mr. Duterte must listen to his critics here and abroad. We agree that the drug menace must be eliminated. All he is doing would be an exercise in futility, however, unless he also focuses on poverty.
Indeed the efforts to eliminate illegal drugs resonate with the people. The people have long suffered because of this. This is how the President maintains his popularity.
Soon enough, however, people will realize that as long as there are poverty and joblessness, crime, corruption and illegal drugs will remain. Nothing will change!
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There is another circus that threatens to distract us from our real problems.
It’s the confession of a retired police officer, who is said to be the head of the so-called Davao Death Squad when President Duterte was still mayor there. SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, now retired, earlier told the Senate inquiry on the DDS didn’t exist but now has reversed himself. He has tagged former Davao mayor, President Duterte, for more than 1,000 killings by the DDS.
I cannot tell how far another Senate investigation can go. With Lascañas corroborating Matobato’s revelations, can there be another probe, especially now since some senators have already filed resolutions for another inquiry?
It’s interesting to know that Lascañas knows he could be committing perjury. Now he has confessed to the DDS killings and said he was paid for them by no less than Mr. Duterte. My gulay, Lascañas even admitted that he had his two brothers killed because they were involved in illegal drugs!
The issue will be the credibility: Of Lascañas, of the investigation, and of the senators themselves.
The worst thing that can happen to the President impeachment—but this is unlikely as members of both Houses of Congress are under his thumb.
In any case, this is another circus, all right.
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I have said that with presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, a former Protestant pastor, and Communication Secretary Martin Andanar, a former news reader of TV5, President Duterte does not need critics.
Andanar, for one, has become the worst enemy of the President. He came out with lies that Duterte would be seated beside former US President Barack Obama at a dinner last year. It never happened.
Andanar and Abella also asked the public to use their creative imagination in interpreting the President’s words. They also said we should believe only two out of five statements of Duterte—the remaining three are just foolishness.
Now comes Andanar claiming that $1,000 were distributed to Senate reporters who attended the press conference of Lascañas.
Journalists getting bribes whenever they attend press briefing or conferences seem to be Andanar’s masterpiece. Was he bribed when he was a news reader?
If Andanar cannot substantiate his allegation, he should apologize publicly.
My gulay, I have been a journalist for over six decades now, and I know how low the salaries of journalists are.
That’s why, to those young people who want to be journalists, while it’s a glamorous profession, let me tell you that you can never be a millionaire if you wish to stay honest here. I believe that journalism is more than a profession—it is calling! And the worst part of it all is that when you reach a retirement age, you cannot expect a pension plan.
I’m blessed that I have a wife who used to earn more than I did. I can retire since I’m already 89 years old—but I won’t until I write “30.”