In just six months, a knock on the door has become a source of terror for many Filipinos. For thousands of people, the knock has been followed by gunshots, and then the silence of the grave.
The year 2016 will go down in history for the mass killings in the name of a ruthless war against illegal drugs, launched upon the ascent to power of Rodrigo Duterte. The former mayor of Davao City, a reluctant presidential candidate, has brought his profanity-laced tough talk and disdain for the formalities of power not only to Malacañang but also to the international stage. He has threatened to sever a century-old alliance and tossed aside another major event of the year, the nation’s victory before a UN-backed arbitration court on maritime entitlements in the South China Sea.
Is this the change the people wanted? Duterte the candidate had promised to kill criminals and allow the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To the dismay of human rights advocates, the President is proving true to his word.
There were indisputable bright spots during the year. The nation went through a relatively peaceful and orderly transfer of power in May, giving a landslide victory to a man who promised “real change” and then warned of a “rough ride” with him in the driver’s seat.
The warning was not exaggerated, and he has promised more in the coming year, with the campaign against lawbreakers to be expanded to corrupt public officials.
One encouraging development under the new administration was the quick revival of peace initiatives with Islamic separatists and communist rebels, with Duterte at one point proffering an olive branch even to the Abu Sayyaf. Other welcome developments were the efforts to cut red tape as well as the passage before yearend of next year’s General Appropriations Act.
Still, Oplan Tokhang and its expanded version called Double Barrel have so dominated national life under the new administration that other urgent matters threaten to be overlooked. The changing of the year should allow officials to take stock of the state of the nation, list concrete objectives and clear out a path for getting there. The blood of thousands of Filipinos can only make the path slippery and difficult to tread.
Tags: campaign against lawbreakers, China, corrupt public officials, corruption, double barrel, Duterte, extrajudicial killings, Filipinos, human rights, Philippines, rule of law, Russia, South China Sea, Summary executions, war on drugs