First and foremost, I write this against a very personal background, and you should know something about this. I have lived in Asia for a decade, but never in the Philippines. I know a thing or two about corruption, how this operates in ASEAN, and I’ve lived through a rather violent war on drugs1. I don’t really care about the future of the Philippines – don’t misunderstand me. There are a score of nations who are trying hard to fuck themselves up2 so why I’m writing about the Philippines may seem a mystery. Europe disintegrating should have my first priority, being Dutch and all. And it’s true, I have my opinions, but some much more intelligent people than myself (who have my support) are working hard to get my worries heard3. There’s only one reason I worry – and thus blog – about the Philippines: because a good friend of mine cares an awful lot. So here are my thoughts on
Note 1: all the numbered tags are clickable links, but if you’re unsure, you can check the url below.
Note 2: This is a long post, because there are so many inadequacies in the line of thinking of Pinay. I will try to cover most, but for the sake of brevity I may skip some.
Note 3: I haven’t reread this yet – this note will disappear when I do. Any typos will in time be removed.
Let me start – because I’m going to dismantle this – with a made-up conversation floating around the internet. Note that I can not imagine this conversation has actually happened, but you’re right in thinking that it could have.
Joemel Pastor: Here’s a random scenario from abroad.
American talks to his Filipino friend: Hey Felicia. I’m sorry to hear about what’s going on in your country right now. Hope your family is okay.
Pinay: Why what’s wrong?
Kano: Haven’t you read the news? There’s been a lot of killings going on. The elected President is running the country with his reign of terror. They say he is a mass murderer and he is committing genocide.
Pinay: Oh, you mean the killings? Those are legitimate police operations. Those were criminals and drug peddlers killed because they resisted arrest. Wow! Genocide? That’s like killing 6 million in a holocaust. That’s just too much. Don’t believe that. My family has never been better. In fact, this is the happiest they’ve been since the new President took office.
Kano: Really? Why so?
Pinay: Yeah. Because change has come. Just barely two months and he’s done so much. Did you know that we already have 911 emergency response? 600,000 drug addicts and peddlers voluntarily surrendered for rehabilitation. More than 10 mining firms closed down because of illegal operations. They’re making the country self-sufficient in producing rice. Stranded OFWs were rescued in Saudi Arabia. The railway transit is being repaired and is much more efficient now. The President goes after the drug lords and corrupt politicians. The government is engaging with peace talks with the rebels. They’re hunting down the terrorist group down south. Crime has gone down 49%. It’s so much safer to walk the streets now.
Kano: Wow! For real? I haven’t read those in the news.
Pinay: Yes. Because media outlets here only report the negative ones. Most media corporations in the Philippines are owned by oligarchs. That’s why they try to bring down the President because they are scared of him.
Kano: Thanks for telling me this. No wonder Filipinos always have good things to say about your new President.
Pinay: That’s right. For the first time in my life, I’ve seen a President that we can really trust. He has the approval of 91% of the Filipinos. Oh, and by the way. Don’t believe that it’s chaotic in the Philippines. We will be hosting the next Miss Universe and you can go and visit.
Kano: That would be lovely!
The point is. No matter how they destroy Duterte in the international community, there will always be a Filipino who will defend him and tell the truth.
Let me continue in saying that I very much understand that the situation in the Philippines is – was – quite desperate before Duterte came in office. Corruption and crime are indeed crippling things, and it’s shocking how quickly this develops in the rich west once an economic crisis hits. It’s easy to be morally sound when your own livelihood isn’t threatened. I also fully understand that Pinay -allow me to be naïve and think that this is a person’s name and not a nationality – is in total adoration of Duterte, because for the first time ever, some politician is delivering promises. This has never happened before in the Philippines, and Pinay is thinking ‘hang on, this is cool – someone is actually doing something that isn’t only for himself and his cronies’. This is indeed a cool new thing in the whole of ASEAN (Singapore may be an exception, and Malaysia is second on that list; Thailand is in this sense a few steps ahead of the Philippines, and are in a stage what happens when this cool new thing turns boring). Also, many things Duterte does are actually good for the Philippines – a few are mentioned in the penultimate utterance of Pinay. Others that could be added is that Duterte calls the president of one of the most powerful nations in the world a ‘son of a whore’4, and that he’s really trying to warm up to the (economically) powerful giant in the region5. Another great thing that Duterte does – good for the Philippines – is that he can’t deal with any form of criticism; the moment he does, he starts lashing out violently – without any solid arguments to the contrary of the criticism6. In other words – even if you’re not blind to sarcasm – I understand why Duterte is so immensely popular: he is the first one to deliver anything at all.
Now, remember that the fact that Duterte is doing some good things for the Philippines, that doesn’t automatically make him a good man. Let me elaborate – back to the hypothetical conversation above:
Pinay: Oh, you mean the killings? Those are legitimate police operations. Those were criminals and drug peddlers killed because they resisted arrest.
Legitimate is a difficult word here… Define legitimate. If legitimate means authorized by the government, then indeed, they are legitimate. However, if legitimate means ‘according to the law’, then some brows must immediately be raised. Because in a proper democracy a law – before it becomes law – has to be tested by the courts against the constitution of the country. I dare contest the legitimacy of the killings on two points: first, I can not believe a law has been passed and tested by the supreme judges that allows the police to randomly shoot people in the street. Because believe it or not, that is what is happening. You can never convince me that a five year old girl is a drug pedlar or a criminal7 (and yes, in this note I consciously chose a Philippine news outlet to prevent being blamed for using the bought and biased international news).
This war on Drugs by Duterte reminds me very much of the war on drugs by his former Thai colleague1. People get shot in the streets without any legal rights, no process, no law whatsoever upheld. This is, because people happen to be put on a list, and if you’re on the list, you die. Period. No trial, just shot. And surprise, surprise, whenever the police shoots someone, the same envelope with drugs is found on the body as ‘proof’ that he was a drug pedlar. This was the situation in Thailand. The situation in the Philippines is nothing different. These guys get shot – almost at random – even when they don’t resist arrest8 warning – extremely graphic. Was that five year old girl really resisting arrest? So much so that the police felt so threatened that she needed to be shot? Blimey.
Also, what this war on drugs did in Thailand, is that the price of drugs increased 10 fold. The big drug-lords were officially the target, but were never caught, killed, or brought to justice. The big drug-lords only made a tonne of money because the price went up drastically. The ones who died were the addicts, and the street pedlars – and those, come 14 in a dozen and are replaced the moment the police’s grip slacks. I would be very surprised if the situation is very different in the Philippines.
Genocide? That’s like killing 6 million in a holocaust.
I’m glad you bring that up. It speaks volumes for Pinay’s knowledge of global history to say that killing 6 million in a holocaust is genocide. It’s true that this killing in the Philippines isn’t genocide; genocide is the killing of a certain people – and drug addicts aren’t one people; they come from all races and nationalities. But if a random killing of less than 6 million people is no genocide, then there’s something odd about your thinking. 8373 is also plenty to be considered genocide9 10.
This isn’t genocide. This is relatively random police brutality; in my opinion it’s murder. But as you bring him up, let me tell you that Hitler wasn’t always considered evil by everyone. Better said, in 1933 he was just as popular in Germany as Duterte is in the Philippines now11. Why? Because he had a decisive answer to Germany’s problems at the time. He got Germany out of the crisis it was at the time. People actually thought he was a good guy – just like Pinay now thinks Duterte is a good guy. I pray for the Philippines that this is as far as the analogy goes.
My family has never been better.
Of course, Pinay, your family has never been better. But I warn you, if you piss me off, I will smooch a little with the local police, and I will get your brother to be put on a list. Then the police will come and shoot him in the back. Did he do drugs? Of course he didn’t. But you made me angry and I know how to play the system. And if you think that this can’t be done – if you think that this is not happening right now, than you are naïve.
600,000 drug addicts and peddlers voluntarily surrendered for rehabilitation.
Yes, and they are treated like dogs. Or worse. What your government is doing to the addicts is not what you would wish on your worst enemies. They’re not helping them get back on their feet. They’re not helping them get rid of the drug addiction. They put them with 1000s in a prison that is suitable for 800 people. If I were addicted to drugs – for whatever reason – I’d rather be shot in the back than be left there to rot12.
My point here is that there is a better – more constructive – way to rid the country of drugs than by killing those who use.
Crime has gone down 49%.
First, what’s your source for this number?
And second, well, that depends on your point of view. Terrorism sponsored by a government is called war. Murder committed by the government is called legitimate killing. There is a very difficult and complicated grey area there – and quite a few university students have a hard time studying law and ethics to determine just where the border lies. Crime by the citizens has gone down (on 31% in July13), but murder by the government has gone up dramatically (no official numbers are of course available – extra-judicial killings are always off the record). That too is considered a crime in The Hague14.
Because media outlets here only report the negative ones. Most media corporations in the Philippines are owned by oligarchs. That’s why they try to bring down the President because they are scared of him.
This just reminds me of the situation in Thailand. There are two parties there, and both are wrong. But that aside. Every time one or the other international news-outlet reports something positive about the other side, the people will claim this journalist was bought by the other side; corruption in the press. And this putting down of the international press is now also happening in the Philippines: don’t believe what the independent press is saying, because they’re all trying to put our Glorious Leader (not to call him Führer) down. Our Glorious Leader is perfect, he knows all and does nothing wrong. He is the best there can be, and anyone saying something else must be afraid of him – and must be wrong. This is also the kind of thing a North Korean would say about Kim Young Ill (typo intended).
I’m tired of presenting logical argument against emotional pleas. I shouldn’t go into this discussion, because it’s an emotional one, not a logical one. There’s no arguing with someone who ‘feels Duterte is a good man’. If you want to know why, I must refer you to a copy of Letters from Genua by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer (I hope you read Dutch, or ask your publicist to have it translated in your local language; it’s a great read!). I am the fool here for going into the argument anyway. But here’s the point of all this:
The fact that Duterte does some good things for the Philippines doesn’t mean he is a good man. Duterte is – in my humble opinion, based on a few reads on ethics and some history lessons – a bad man. He is a wolf, not even in sheep’s clothes. He is dangerous, and in the long run bad for the Philippines as a whole. Not because he is killing 1000s of people – some of which most certainly are innocent – without trial. He is a bad man because in a decade he will split the Philippines in half. There’ll be 5000 or more people dead, quite a few of which are innocent, and there will be a strong call for his removal. However, the group that at that point in time still falls for his rhetoric will call for him to stay on. And then he will start killing political opponents – most likely. And that is when Pinay will hopefully discover that he/she was wrong in his Godlike reverence of this wolf.
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3710940/Harrowing-pictures-brutal-truth-Philippines-war-drugs-s-seen-300-killed-just-one-month-president-ordered-police-bars-ground.html – and please check the whole page too: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3710940/Harrowing-pictures-brutal-truth-Philippines-war-drugs-s-seen-300-killed-just-one-month-president-ordered-police-bars-ground.html people shot in the back, people shot when lying in bed, are not resisting arrest!
And P.S. – the best solution against drugs? Education, education, education. Is Duterte reforming (and investing in) education? The only thing I can find is that he wants anti-drugs lessons. That is not going to cut it.