IT WAS fitting that on September 11, the day one of the worst things to happen to us – yes, I mean Ferdinand Marcos – came into the world, the nation witnessed a surreal lovefest of sorts, the Rodrigo Duterte-Sal Panelo tête-à-tête – an unfortunate turn of phrase that immediately gave birth, pardon the pun, to raunchy observations about what they intended to do.
From address to the nation, to cancellation, to re-confirmation, to, finally, that dumbfounding “private conversation” which was covered live, but only exclusively by government TV and no questions from the media please, for all of us to eavesdrop in on.
And watch Duterte totally lose it.
In fairness, his factotums did try to save Duterte from the fiasco of a total cancellation and pride him, through questions fed by Panelo, a controlled venue to address the pressing concerns of the people and nation – galloping inflation, “bukbok” rice and imported galunggong, the approach of “Ompong,” and yes, his health.
But no, he couldn’t even be bothered to discuss what any person could reasonably be expected to be most concerned about, especially given that spreading blotch on his face.
Asked about his health, Duterte replied:
“Alam mo si (Joma) Sison pati itong Magdalo. Sison, Magdalo pati itong mga ayaw sa akin, ‘yung talagang hindi tumanggap sa akin ever since the election, they have combined. And we have the evidence and we have the conversation provided by a foreign country sympathetic to us.
“We do not have that sophistication na -- but meron and the connection will be shown maybe any day now.
“I asked that it be declassified at ipakita nila sa lahat. Nahihigop lahat eh. Alam nila ‘yan. Nahihigop lahat. So they were in constant communication.”
Did you get that? I sure know I didn’t.
Worse, as some legal experts pointed out, Duterte may have admitted to high treason with his claim that a foreign country had provided him evidence of a “conversation” among his foes, although methinks it was his usual plucking facts from thin air.
And so it went for most of the Sal and Rody show, Duterte unable to stick to any issue for long without going after Trillanes or railing against his newest and perhaps greatest source of disappointment, “HIS” Armed Forces’ failure to comply with Proclamation No. 572 and arrest the former mutineer whose amnesty he sought to revoke.
Again and again, he petulantly dared the military to align with Trillanes and oust him. Contrary to Harry Roque’s subsequent attempt to spin it as a show of “confidence,” all Duterte succeeded in projecting was a tired old man begging the troops to kindly give him an excuse to abandon a job he realized he is really unfit for.
But it didn’t stop there. In Geneva, UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Executions Agnes Callamard reported in a social media post, the Philippine representative to the UN Human Rights Council submitted a response to criticisms of the government’s bloody war on drugs that, in true Duterte fashion, claimed that “the Philippines has a vibrant and well-functioning justice system.”
Callamard, whom Duterte has famously threatened to “slap” should she come here to investigate the atrocities committed in his name, made short shrift of the response, saying: “I will go as suggested this is simply untrue.”
And with a compassion Duterte and his government are incapable of, she noted that “families around the countr(y) are suffering a million wounds – to their heart, to their sense of self, to their sense of security, to their trust in public authorities.
No Sir, there has been no, or so few, public investigations into the killings of their loved ones by the police. There (have) been no opportunities for families to seek justice and experience its compassionate hand. There has been no redress and remedies.
Instead, there are, multiplied by thousands, big black holes of deep sadness, despair, fears and uncertainty for the future.”
Then yesterday, the Philippines earned yet another black mark, this time from a report by no less than UN Secretary General António Guterres on the 38 countries found to be engaged in the “shameful practice” of mounting reprisals against human rights victims, activists and defenders who have been cooperating with the world body.
The report documents cases of “killing, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and detention, surveillance, criminalization, and public stigmatization campaigns targeting victims and human rights defenders.”
A press statement announcing the release of the report quoted UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour as saying: “The cases of reprisals and intimidation detailed in this report and its two annexes represent the tip of the iceberg, while many more are reported to us. We are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate – and silence – civil society.”
It is increasingly clear Duterte has deluded himself into seeing his position and the power that comes with as a personal entitlement, thus he has no qualms about bringing the might of the state to bear on those he has declared his enemies – from the political opposition to the lumad.
As we have seen over the little over two years since he came to office, this can only mean more bloodshed and anguish for our people and nation. And I don’t think we can suffer much more of that much longer.
A lawyer I respect immensely, FEU Institute of Law Dean Mel Sta. Marie, called it right in a tweet addressed to Duterte: “I believe it is TIME TO RESIGN for the good of the country. Walang personalan, sir. Hindi mo talaga kaya.”
And if he won’t? I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it does, I am certain it isn’t just one man’s opinion that the Filipino will once again rise to the occasion to preserve the nation and people.