In The Philippines, Fear Mounts That President Duterte Means What He Says — The Future Looks Dark

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte addresses thousands of protesters following his state of the nation address outside the Lower House Monday, July 24, 2017 in Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

The address of PRRD last Monday, July 24, 2017 is more about his plans and projects for the country than about the state of the nation, one year after he became president. It really sounds so hopeful but not as frank as his drumbeaters describes it. There are quite a number of contradictions that create doubt and confusion as to what he really intends to achieve during his term as President.

At the top of his agenda is still his war against drugs which he promised to be “unremitting and unrelenting.” He said he will not stop his daily crackdown on drugs and warned the drug addicts and drug lords that they only have two choices – jail or hell. Undoubtedly, he is really the only President who is so resolute and determined to lick this evil in our society that has caused so much harm especially to the youth of our land. His unrelenting and persistent fight against this problem that tends to destroy the “future generation of our country” is truly laudable and commendable. It shows his care and concern for our young people who are easy preys to this pernicious menace which has not been given the same kind of attention by past administrations.

Time and again however it has been pointed out that no matter how laudable is his purpose in waging this war he should employ justifiable and legal means to achieve it. Notable and alarming in this connection is the rise in the number of suspected drug addicts, dealers and pushers mostly belonging to the poor sector of our society who are killed during the one year period of his administration. These killings which are called Extra-Judicial Killings (EJKs), are mostly done by the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) allegedly because the suspects resist arrest and/or assault them. So far no investigation has been conducted to find out if they are really done in self-defense or if there is reasonable necessity of the means employed to prevent or repel the unlawful aggression. On the contrary, it seems that our policemen are even encouraged to go on with such killings with a promise that they will be protected and or pardoned if charged and convicted. So, expect more of these EJKs in the coming years. In fact they have also proliferated into shooting to death done by unidentified motor-cyclers riding in tandem.

Undoubtedly, the value of human life has been seriously degraded under this administration. And it will further be belittled if PRRD will continue to ignore the age-old, time-tested principle observed by leaders worldwide which says that “the end does not justify the means”. The irony in this regard is that in his speech, PRRD has even said that; “I value human life, the very way I value mine.” And further adding to the confusion is the declaration in the same speech that he has asked Congress “to re-impose death penalty on heinous crimes.”

Another confusing and contradictory aspect in his address before Congress in joint session is the attack against the Supreme Court particularly on its alleged penchant in issuing Temporary Restraining Orders. He cited in this connection, the alleged TROs issued against the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law already passed by Congress. Apparently, he, or his advisers have misunderstood the ruling of the SC here. If they will carefully read the SC decision, no TRO has been issued here. The SC has simply clarified and defined the meaning of abortifacients. The court declared that the birth control pills and devices which primarily and secondarily prevent the implantation of fertilized ovum in the mothers’ womb cause abortion and are considered as abortifacients which are punishable under the Revised Penal Code. So the SC tasked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine first which of these pills and devices are abortifacients before distributing them. Up to now however the FDA has not satisfactorily proven that the pills and devices procured by the government will not primarily or secondarily lead to abortion, thus disallowing their distribution. So it is the FDA which has actually prevented the implementation of the RH law, not the SC.

PRRD’s fears about the issuance of TROs against government projects are likewise unfounded. The SC or any court will not and cannot issue any such TRO because it is prohibited by law.

Another contradictory aspect in PRRD’s speech is on the promise of a comfortable life for our people. On the contrary however, regular surveys conducted by pollsters in this regard show that more and more of our countrymen are getting hungry everyday with no food on the table. The more accurate future state of our country in this regard is therefore, that the few rich and oligarchs are getting richer and poor are getting poorer and hungrier.

Ironically the tax reforms being pushed by the administration for raising more money supposedly to help the poor will not however produce such desired result. The poor may really have more money because of this tax reforms package. But the increase in taxes will also result in the increase in the prices of foods and other prime commodities. Hence even with more money to spend, they will also be dissipated in buying their basic needs and daily sustenance.

Coming to mind more vividly upon hearing or reading this “comfortable life” for our people are the numerous residents of Marawi City who have been evacuated and sheltered temporarily in provisional centers provided for them in another city without however the basic facilities. They have been dislodged from their residence for more than three months now and are longing to return home but are not allowed yet because there is still no end in sight to the ongoing hostilities against the rebellious terrorists who attacked the city.

Then in his ending plea, PRRD also asked for an end to corruption in government. It seems however that his plea falls on deaf ears as delay in the processing of papers in government offices persist due to red tape that grow longer and longer.

On the whole therefore, the future painted by PRRD in his SONA remains unclear and still looks dark.

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Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

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