OPINION: Dead man walking

Manolo Quezon - The Explainer

Posted at Aug 28 2017 08:01 PM

As the Marcoses kept vigil over the tomb of the late dictator, the President who buried Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery gave the impression he had pronounced a death sentence on Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog. 

The President, you might recall, tagged Mabilog in his inaugural narcopolitics in August last year.

A week ago, that is, last August 21, the President noted that he believed the supply of shabu in Iloilo City was “pretty much gone,” to which Mabilog responded with an enthusiastic thank you to the President by way of reporters the next day. 

The Libingan statement suggests Mabilog was like a mouse in the paws of a cat. Sometimes the cat lets the mouse escape, briefly, for the sheer pleasure of doubling down on the mouse’s terror when it’s caught again a few minutes later.

The cat’s play came to a close when the claws came out as the President began addressing Jovie Espenido, saying he was assigning him to Iloilo City. He went down memory lane pointing out how Espenido had asked to be assigned to Leyte, and a mayor there was killed; he asked to be assigned to Ozamiz City and a mayor there was killed. 

Now, the President rhetorically asked, still addressing Espenido, you want to be assigned to Iloilo City, where Mayor Mabilog has been identified as a protector of drug lords: I wonder if he’s going to remain alive?

The President bewailed blame being pinned on his humble person when, as he put it, it’s Espenido who pulls the trigger. That being said, if you do the country a favor, I will support you, the President added.

But the President did give Espindo some concrete advice. Follow the rules of engagement. If the lives of your people are in danger and they are in the actual performance of their duty, you are duty-bound to overcome the resistance of the person you are arresting.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that aside from procedures, operations will probably include the elementary precaution of ensuring no CCTV cameras are functioning when operations take place. When Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed, no CCTVs were working. When Ozamiz City Mayor Rolando Parojinog Sr. and others were killed, no CCTV cameras were working, either.

You may know the phrase, “dead man walking,” from the film starring Sean Penn. It is said as a condemned prisoner is led to his place of execution. The National Heroes' Day message was blunt: Mabilog is a dead man walking. Physically, or politically, is really beside the point.

But Mabilog is surely not alone in wondering if he is alone in being a dead man walking. The mayors of Calinog, Carles, and Maasin in Iloilo, are probably wondering if they’re dead men walking, too. 

Three mayors and a vice mayor are already dead. Two of them, Mayors Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom and Rolando Espinosa, were killed even after previously surrendering to the authorities. As we saw this morning, he got a medal for it.

A mayor, a former mayor, and two vice mayors have been arrested. 

But many more incumbent and former mayors and vice mayors remain on the President’s list: 13 in Luzon, 14 in the Visayas, and 25 in Mindanao. 

After the Libingan event, the President went to eat chicken in Pampanga, followed by a scheduled to return to the Palace to meet with the parents of Kian delos Santos. No one should doubt the President would be kind, sympathetic, and serious in promising action. Not only was it a murder that shocked and horrified a significant portion of public opinion but because, as an old saying goes, it was a blunder worse than a crime. 

Or, in the Newspeak of our present era, Kian’s death is what is called an isolated incident, one that will be punished, to be sure. That others point out there have been over 30 children killed in the War on Drugs is neither conceded, nor considered relevant. 

That Bishop Pablo David of Caloocan, during his funeral Mass homily last Saturday, listed more than a dozen such murders in Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas alone, is also neither conceded, nor considered relevant.

What is relevant, as we saw ton National Heroes' Day, is that a further intensification of the War on Drugs is at hand. He already said there can be no reduction in the intensity of that war; he has already pledged that the waging of it will never be diminished by foreign or even domestic opinion. 

You might think that with 52 local executives on his narcopolitics list, a list that began to be waved around a year ago, the President would have ensured that cases would have been built by now so that instead of just four arrests and an equal number of slain local officials, the 52 would be facing charges that would either bankrupt them in court or actually lead to convictions, or both. But you’re missing the whole point.

Cases kill trees but do not fatten the fishes; what is the banging of a gavel compared to the satisfaction of bullets and grenades? 

The Romans demanded bread and circuses –and we shouldn’t forget that for the Romans, this included arenas where the Emperor could give a thumbs-up, or thumbs-down, to the applause of the crowd. The whole point of power is to leave no doubt that you, and you alone, decides who lives and who dies.

In a strange and macabre way, because in politics, the most direct path between two points is never a straight line but more often than not, a zigzag, the President in the Winter of his life, is like that man in the poem by Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, 
But I have promises to keep, 
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.