President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Thursday, Oct. 12, a leadership change in the implementation of his drug war.
Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take over all anti-drug operations. His new directive bars the National Bureau of Investigation, the Armed Forces, the Customs bureau and the national postal office from undertaking any drug-related operation. The President ordered these bodies to transfer all case files to PDEA.
The move was aimed at critics of his drug-war policy.
The mercurial Duterte regularly unleashes outrageous remarks against enemies. But his performance on Thursday showed us the malign intelligence behind the theatrics.
Duterte set the tone for what he probably hopes will happen – a bloodbath that he can blame on “bleeding hearts” who defend the human rights suspected addicts and dealers.
The President sees these groups as sub-humans with no hope of redemption. He frames his drug war as a crusade against such monsters.
Duterte wants the 175,000-strong national police to focus on other crimes. PDEA, an agency with a staff of 2,000 – and only 1,100 agents, according to a Reuters report – will be left alone to handle the drug war.
Duterte fans call him a brilliant strategist. Whatever brilliance there is, however, is exercised mainly for his own interest.
He could have addressed legitimate plaints against a drug war that has killed so many poor Filipinos. Instead, Duterte chooses to play a shell game to hide accountability.
It doesn’t take a genius to imagine police taking aim at suspects of other crimes – still without due process. Most of the slain suspects will be tagged as addicts. Citizens will tremble at a spike in crimes, which will then be blamed on addicts with little investigation to back up the claim.
The strategy banks the poor that turned their backs will panic and come running back to Tatay’s open arms. His well-funded digital army would then try to rouse the poor’s anger against his bleeding -heart targets.
It’s the height of cynicism. But that’s typical Duterte governance.
There is no vision; he has reneged on many of the dazzling socio-economic pledges of his campaign. What remains is a whirling dervish flinging out rewards and punishments to advance one cause – Duterte.
But reality has a way to turning the tables against fabulists.
The poor did not have to be brainwashed into uncovering the lies behind Duterte’s “nanlaban” (fighting back) excuse. The slain are their friends, their kin. In many cases, they witnessed the murders. Or, they were forced by cops to vacate the kill-zone vicinity.
Often, they are helpless to do anything in the face of brute force – except expose injustice and the lies.
That is what Duterte cannot understand or forgive. The bully cannot fathom why or how the weak can crawl out of protective cover and get to their feet to confront their real enemies.
Mad dogs will be set loose on us citizens. Criminals will pounce on innocents. Vigilantes will stalk the land. People will still die, perhaps in greater numbers to sate the bloodlust.
But the lie Duterte seeks to foist on the world is stillborn.
He can kill. But he can no longer hide the truth.
The recent killing in Tondo of 60-year-old Rolly Campo displays what other witnesses have claimed since the start of the drug war – that many of the thousands of “deaths under investigation” were police operations in disguise.
In Campo’s case, village security cameras captured one of several men in civvies turning the equipment to prevent the video capture of the operation’s other aspects.
The men in the video wore civilian clothes. Witnesses, including a daughter and granddaughter of the slain man, said uniformed cops followed in their wake.
The cops logged Campo as a “drug-bust” suspect who tried to pull a gun on them. His granddaughter, witness to the killing, said he was doing laundry and that police had sat him down on a stair step.
In several cases filed with the courts, witnesses talk of plain clothes men and cops working together. Or cops playing blind, deaf and dumb while “vigilantes” kill people only to sweep in fast once the suspects have disappeared.
In Ormoc City, police killed 60-year-old Lorna Soza and then disposed of her body in a way that tried to point to vigilantes: tape around her face and body. But enough witnesses had seen the police arrest the woman for the theft of a mobile phone. Enough people knew police refused to release Soza even after she paid her victim, who declined to press charges. There were even witnesses who saw cops lead her out of the station to their patrol vehicle.
Remember Duterte gloating in the glow of that overnight orgy that killed scores of suspects across the metropolis? Not hard to imagine him gloating when the mad dogs pounce on prey.
But the poor are desperate, they are not stupid. They know they are being toyed with. Duterte thinks to drive them back to their dark silence. He may find them massed up at his doorstep.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.