THERE is no doubt the year 2018 has been a most trying one.

Well, come to think of it, the last two and a half years since Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency on a wave of discontent over corrupt and apathetic governance and the hope that, perhaps, this uncouth mayor from the south would deliver on his promise of change, have been a steep downward slope for our country and people.

But this year I saw Duterte ramp up his monomaniacal appetite for bloodshed disguised as protecting “HIS” nation, expanding the list of those he would be “happy to slaughter” from the arbitrarily defined “addicts” and “pushers” of his bogus war on drugs, to the Left, both the armed rebels and the unarmed and totally legal activists of the open mass movement.

Not that these so-called “legal fronts” were never targeted by the state’s security apparatus before – think of former United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston’s report on his 2007 visit, in which he said the Arroyo government engaged in “counter-insurgency operations that result in the extrajudicial execution of leftist activists.” This, incidentally, was the same report that took a close look at a certain southern city ruled by “an authoritarian populist” where a death squad operated, “with men routinely killing street children and others in broad daylight.”

Indeed, Duterte has openly declared the extermination of the legal Left part government policy. In fact, he recently wished for a purge like that of Indonesia under Suharto, where up to three million are believed to have died between 1965 to 1966.

Before this, he issued Memorandum Order (MO) 32, expanding coverage of the “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence in Mindanao” he declared after the Davao bombing of September 2016 to Negros, Samar, and the Bicol region, and ordering more troops and police personnel to “suppress lawless violence and acts of terror" in these areas.

Of course, none of Negros’ spineless leaders have dared protest the insulting justification for including us in MO 32’s ambit – the Sagay 9 massacre.

Then again, neither did they protest when state security forces made the ludicrous claim that the New People’s Army was responsible for the massacre even if most of the victims belonged to an organization these very same forces openly accused of being a “legal front.”

Thus, on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, a massive military-backed police dragnet was mounted in Negros Oriental that left at least six persons dead and more than two dozen others arrested in what was billed as an anti-crime operation but whose targets, particularly in Guihulngan City and Mabinay, turned out to be mostly members of, what else, “legal fronts.”

I would love to be proven wrong but I have to admit that governance by murder will, by all indications, continue to be the norm in the year ahead – unless we do something to prevent it.

Which brings us to the bright side, the silver lining if you will, for however dark the night may be, somewhere, somehow there will always be a light.

And there have, indeed, been some pretty amazing developments this year that, if sustained and built on, could actually signal the beginning of the end for this sad and bloody chapter in our national life. But let me just point out two.

First, there was not just the survival but the triumph of truth over this administration’s attempt to drown it in a flood of lies.

As good friend and columnist Tonyo Cruz pointed out in a recent piece in Rappler, “we defeated evil not once, not twice, but at least thrice this year,” referring to the once seemingly invincible triumvirate of pro-Duterte fakery – the unlamented former assistant communications secretary Mocha Uson, the obnoxious RJ “Thinking Pinoy” Nieto, and the attention-seeking Sass Sassot.

“They tried their worst this year with their unremitting fakeries, but they all failed magnificently,” Tonyo wrote. And indeed, these three voices aren’t so loud, no longer as effective as they used to be. Not that they really were what they seemed, what with the revelations that much of their seemingly vaunted following were, like many of their messages, fake – bots.

Of course, there, too, is Duterte’s failure to cow the independent Philippine media into silence. Instead, as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) pointed out, “Filipino journalists have stood up to the threats and challenges, jealously refusing to relinquish their independence and continuing to deliver information to the people. In fact, akin to colleagues who defied the Marcos dictatorship’s efforts to silence the truth, many journalists have focused on covering this administration’s excesses as a means of record-keeping and assigning accountability.”

Because of this, the NUJP added, “the dedication and resilience of Filipino journalists have earned the respect and recognition of their peers around the world,” as seen in the awards received by several colleagues, including a Pulitzer for the Reuters Manila team that reported on the war on drugs.

Second, and without which the first couldn’t have happened, is the growing pushback by an increasingly exasperated people against this murderous, corrupt, and utterly incompetent fraud of a President and his equally venal, bloodthirsty and inept government.

This is evident not just on social media where critics of the bloodshed and thievery and influence-peddling and general misgovernance that are the hallmarks of this administration now often outnumber those who blindly praise him, although admittedly the level of discourse still needs to be raised substantially, but also in the growing numbers who heed the calls to take to the streets and, most of all, in the everyday exchange of lamentations between kin, friends, neighbors, even strangers over the state of the nation to which Duterte has brought us.

It is this from where my hope springs that, whatever else Duterte and his minions may think of inflicting on us, 2019 may yet indeed be a Happy New Year!