There is much to be said about a properly envisioned, well-planned communications strategy, one that’s paid for by public funds and seeks to serve the whole country by providing us with relevant critical information about government. And then there is Presidential Communications according to Martin Andanar and Mocha Uson, which is to say no communications, no information dissemination. They serve only the President, and the rest of us can just watch as our taxes are wasted on an office that refuses to understand its job.
Ah, but it seems a year in we are benefitting from this utter lack of control over communications and Presidential articulations. In August, one major event that none of us should forget: the President himself admitting that contrary to his articulations about ridding the country of drugs, he actually cannot control the entry of drugs into the country.
Duterte’s admission happened on August 11. What prompted it? The Senate inquiry into the P6.4 BILLION pesos worth of drugs smuggled into the Philippines from China. That hearing started on August 1.
It was downhill for the war on drugs from there. The Senators (including Duterte’s allies) could only be aghast at the utter lack of safeguards, the incompetence that allowed these drugs to be smuggled into the country. The Chinese businessmen involved were cited in contempt by the Senate for refusing to tell the truth, and it was obvious that they knew they were going to get away with a drug crime right under our noses.
As Senator Sonny Angara had said in exasperation at the inquiry: there is a crime here, but there are no criminals? And as Senator Chiz Escudero dared point out in so many words: while people are being killed on the streets based on a few grams of shabu purportedly on their persons, we are looking at a P6.4 billion peso drug shipment, and no one was being considered a suspect — even as those involved were already there, sitting in front of the Senators.
And the President who promised to rid our lives of drugs? Utter and total silence about these Chinese businessmen implicated in this drug smuggling case. This is the same man who goes on a cursing spree, all angry and flared nostrils, threatening every Filipino involved or suspected to be involved in drugs, with certain death.
But then it was to get worse for Duterte and his war on drugs: his son Paolo Duterte and son-in-law Mans Carpio are implicated in the drug smuggling case. He then did as expected: issue a soundbite that keeps his strongman image while asserting an honorable way out. Issue an affidavit proving Paolo is involved, he said, and he will resign. The ka-#DDS celebrated: look at how honorable our father is.
Meanwhile, as he fell silent on the Chinese businessmen and issued soundbites about his own son’s involvement in the drug smuggling case, the police — servants of the President, just like Mocha and Andanar — went to work proving that the drug war was “working.”
Here: 58 dead bodies in two days (August 15 to 16), across Bulacan, Manila, and Caloocan, and look here: more bodies to stand for August. All of them fought back. Including 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos and now we know, including 19-year old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who according to the police traveled from Cainta to commit a crime in Caloocan, and about to be caught shot at policemen and was killed. It is unclear why it took 10 days for the boy’s body to be found; and why, if he died in that fire fight with policemen, his family was not informed right away. His body bore signs of torture.
What is clear: while Asec Mocha kept questioning the public outrage against Kian’s death, the moment Kian’s parents were brought to the President and declared their trust in his promise of justice, the good Asec herself started milking that cow all it was worth.
But also: Duterte had more ghosts to battle with. It is easy to dismiss all that Senator Trillanes says (he has made himself the least credible Senator through the years), BUT couple that with the silence of ex-Customs Head Faeldon about who it is he is protecting, and the President’s unbridled support for him, and we know there is much that is being kept from the public.
The President now says he will advice his son to appear in the Senate, but to simply not speak. This is the same man who has promised that if his children are proven corrupt, he will resign. How is there due process, how is justice possible, if the President’s own advice to his children is to disrespect the Senate, and the public, by refusing to speak?
Here are more ghosts: thousands dead, with no justice in sight. Police officers being praised for their involvement in rub-outs. Policemen and soldiers being told they will be pardoned by the President for killing and raping women in the name of the wars he is waging.
Duterte and his men have subsisted on thinking that all they need to do is to speak to the President’s supporters and keep them happy with soundbites and social media campaigns, empty promises and false hopes. Yet the events of August, Duterte’s verbal diarrhea, this government’s discourse of defensiveness, reveal that it is becoming more difficult for them to ignore the rest of us.
Because where this government has many ghosts to fear (it has after all watched as thousands have been killed in the wars it has waged), we the living are now finding renewed strength in our sense of a collective voice, with a strong stance for justice and reason, and against these killings.
Let the ghost month be but the beginning of Duterte’s haunting.