I am one of many who gave the Duterte administration a chance. Despite not voting for him, and despite having been very critical of the killings attributed to him in Davao, I thought he deserved about the amount of time I gave PNoy to get used to the position. A year, maybe?
But six months into his term, there were already 6,000 killings attributed to Duterte’s war on drugs, and instead of stopping, he was on a roll, consistently egging the police on, pushing them to kill suspects, and promising them pardon if they kill innocents (or rape women as he promised the military). Instead of backing down and reconfiguring the drug war given the growing body count and contingent outrage, Duterte instead kept saying he will not stop the war on drugs, these people all deserved to die.
Fast forward to the present and there is no other word to describe Duterte by but tyrant. The stage was set for this point where his House of Representatives is giving him absolute power on a silver platter, delivering all that he asks for to ensure that he will not be held liable for any of the violence on our streets and the abuse of our rights.
Things are coming to a head, and it seems it’s important to take stock by reminding ourselves why it has come to this, towards hopefully understanding better where we go from here.
How did we lose our rights in 10 months?
July-August 2016: Duterte uses a rhetoric of unity and inclusivity, putting members of the militant Left and other advocates in important Cabinet positions, pushing for peace talks, making statements against contractualization and demolition, against oligarchs and the elite, while at the same time on repeat saying: “It’s going to be a dirty fight. It’s going to be bloody fight. I am not apologizing for it” (July 5 2016).
We watched how it might unfold.
August-September 2016: High profile Duterte supporters start discrediting mainstream media for biased reporting, questioning the general framing of Duterte as crass and bastos, curse words and threats included. Media, never before faced with such loud criticism, pushes back and reveals its elitism (looking at you, Rappler), and ends up losing this battle. The goal should’ve been to level-up the discourse, discuss biases and facts, subjectivity and objectivity, and admitting to media biases (beacuse it’s obvious!). It would take one Ed Lingao, almost a year after, to finally do this (thank heavens for him).
Duterte himself begins his attacks on media in his speeches, blaming them for asking about the big fish in the drug war. These attacks would evolve into how certain media companies treated him during the campaign of 2015-2016, as it would involve namecalling and cursing oligarchs. In the meantime, he was building a cabinet filled with oligarchs, too.
Duterte agrees to the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, and starts talking pardon for all policemen who kill in the name of the war on drugs. In August 2016 alone, Duterte spoke about protecting the police who kill citizens in 19 out of 28 speeches, many of which were delivered in front of police or military. He curses human rights advocates and workers, curses Obama and the United Nations, for calling him out on the drug war killings.
We condemn this, but troll discourse takes over comment threads, and takes on the violence of the President’s rhetoric. We are aghast. Maybe a little scared.
September-October 2016: With the body count rising and more people talking about the drug war killings, Duterte and his men get busy doing Senator Leila de Lima in. Matobato speaks about the Davao Death Squad and its connection to the Dutertes of Davao, and the dirty old men in Malacañang and Congress shamelessly have a field day talking about De Lima’s personal life, giving credence to the words of criminals. The President spends too much time talking about a sex video that he says he’s watched many times.
Troll and propagandists limit the discussion to championing the President and vilifying anyone at all who’s critical; Duterte’s communications office encourages this violent rhetoric. We are scared: you can be cyberbullied, you can be threatened with death or rape, you will be told you are in the order of battle because you are critical.
Duterte postpones barangay elections to 2017, purportedly because it is fueled by drug money. He wants to appoint barangay officials instead of respecting the people’s right to vote for our leaders.
November-December 2016: A mayor arrested for involvement in drugs is killed while in jail by officers of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. Duterte refuses to believe the NBI finding that this was a rubout saying: “I believe the police. Why? Because they are my subordinates. The story of the people whom I give the orders to operate is what I ordered them to do” (Nov 14 speech). He proves his promise of pardon true.
The burial of the dictator pushes through at LMNB. We join protests, government propagandists try to taint it with political color, forgetting that there is more to nation and politics and governance than political alliances, and in the case of Marcos, unity can be had. We are called bastos by those who celebrate and echo the bastos President.
The dictator is buriend, the anger settles down, which is ironic because the bloody drug war continues, now almost normalized. Duterte, given the oligarchs in his inner circle, unsurprisingly breaks his promises: contractualization continues, farmers rights continue to be violated, Lumad continue to be threatened by paramilitary and displaced by big business.
January-March 2017: The petty distract us from real issues, our elitism gets the better of us.
The petty: Communications Secretary Andanar takes from troll discourse and screams bloody destabilization plot, because ZOMG, look at this yahoogroup! and media, you go to hell! and here let me give you all a series of false claims. More government-sponsored distractions: the MMFF2016 claims a revolution, the Miss Universe. We screamed: you cannot tax my make-up! The real issues: Big mining businesses face an environmentalist DENR secretary Gina Lopez who had the balls to stand up to them, no matter that they might be protected by members of Congress and even Duterte’s Cabinet (ahem). The DOTr pushes for the phase-out of old jeepneys in the name of “modernization.” The urban poor take over idle, neglected, decrepit housing projects.
We can’t unite on anything, least of all against the continued abuse of IPs and rural communities by miners, the neglect of the urban poor, the disenfranchisement of jeepney drivers due to “modernization.” Duterte propagandists would watch in glee: look at the elite, the educated, the purported intellectuals, unable to come together and agree on the issue of poverty and oppression. At least the ka-DDS are so united in support of the Duterte!
The death penalty passes in Congress, punishing even possession of drugs with death.
May 2017: With the media’s number of dead in the drug war at 7,000 plus, the Duterte administration finally releases its “official” numbers for the war on drugs. From July 1 2016 to March 31 2017:
2,692 dead during anti-drug operations
9,432 homicide cases under investigation
1,847 are drug related and investigated
1,894 are non-drug related
5,691 are under investigation
Government and Duterte supporters trumpet the 2,692 dead. See? Not even close to 7,000! Media is the culprit for all this international attention! Senator Alan Cayetano brings this thinking to the United Nations and talks about human rights violations and the killings on the streets to all be a matter of local mainstream media blowing things out of proportion: there is peace and order he says, I invite you to walk our streets at night and feel the safety. And so it’s clear that troll discourse and baseless opinion is now government policy: Mocha Uson is appointed as Asec for the Communications Office.
While Duterte and his men are in Russia, a military operation is botched up in Marawi and the city is taken over by the terrorist Maute Group. With Security Officials all in Russia, what transpires is confusion. That same evening the President declares Martial Law in all of Mindanao, not just in Marawi. He also declares war against the Maute Group, threatening them with bombs, saying he will flatten the city. He tells soldiers that if they rape women, he will take responsibility for those crimes.
June 2017: Congress signs off on Martial Law, the Senate too, though with the minority and five other Senators (Escudero, Gatchalian, Poe, Recto, Villanueva) voting in favor of a joint session. We are made to believe that whatever they are told in executive session is enough reason to allow the President to declare Martial Law. We are told this will not take long. It has been over three months, the city is gone, and the Maute fighters are still there. 400,000 people have been displaced.
We watch from a distance what a Martial Law declaration looks like. We count the abuses. We forget. We remember. We count. We watch as Marawi is flattened. The President visits the soldiers, once, twice, four times. He points a gun at live targets, flashes the happy smile of someone who played soldier.
July 2017: We count a year of Duterte. We count bodies. We have become desensitized to these bodies.
Movements in ownership of media companies towards known supporters of the President do not bode well for mainstream media that’s been under constant attack the past year. Duterte says he will bomb Lumad schools.
August 2017: The smuggling from China of P6.4-billion worth of illegal drugs is brought to the Senate. No Chinese businessman, no matter that they are named and known, are arrested for the shipment; there are no suspects. Sen. Angara says: So there’s a crime, but there are no criminals? Sen. Escudero points out: People are being killed on the streets for small sachets of shabu, we’re talking P6.4B worth, and nothing? A customs officials implicates Duterte’s son Paolo and son-in-law Mans Carpio in the shipment; they show up in the Senate only to invoke their right to privacy — Duterte had earlier said he was advising them to fall silent.
Kian delos Santos (17 years old) is killed by policemen, as caught on CCTV. Carl Angelo Atienza (19 years old) disappears, is found in another city, in a morgue, 10 days later, with gunshot wounds and signs of having been tortured. His companion Kulot (14 years old) is in a different province altogether weeks after, with 30 stab wounds. Lumad student Obillo Bay-ao (19 years old) is shot by Cafgu in Davao.
Duterte admits that there is no controlling the entry of drugs into the country, because there is no securing our ports.
September 2017: The House of Representatives throws pretense out the window and reveals that they are at the beck and call of Duterte, doing all that will make him happy. They are no different from government supporters who think Duterte is manna from heaven — if not saviour himself. They set the stage for charter change and federalism. They want to promise a 2019 win in the Senate for Duterte’s men and women, so they call for the impeachment of Andres Bautista.
Duterte’s House of Representatives also pushes the impeachment Chief Justice Sereno and Ombudsman Morales — both critical of Duterte’s war on drugs and this state of violence. They approve the National ID System, a way to keep track of citizens, use our data against us, and further empower and embolden the police. They pass their version of the 2018 budget, giving the drug war operations P900M, as if thousands of Filipinos have not been killed for it.
As the Department of Justice records show that there are only 6 cases of drug killings brought to court, the Interior Secretary announces that Duterte has disallowed the police from releasing case folders of the drug war killings — the Commission on Human Rights fights to get these reports — and the police also announce that spot reports will not be released to media anymore.
Duterte’s Congress Reps allot P1,000 pesos for the Commission on Human Rights.
And here we are.