THE recent incident involving the killing by the police of one of the two suspects in the rape and robbery of two women aboard a colorum vehicle for hire in Metro Manila days ago reminded me of what can be considered a scoop by a colleague in The Freeman where I once worked in the mid’90s.

The reporter, who died a few years ago, was at that time accused of plucking stories out of thin air, his reports often denied by news sources. But he was serious when he asked our editor for a photographer to accompany him one early morning. He slept in the office to be sure he wouldn’t miss the next day’s coverage.

I say I hadn’t seen anything like it since I became a journalist. The reporter already knew he had a major story in his hand and even told our editor he should allot a space for it on the front page. True enough, it happened. A notorious criminal, who was transferred to another jail, reportedly jumped off the police vehicle and was killed. And the reporter and the photographer were there to cover it.

In the case of the rape and robbery incident “solved” by elements of the Quezon City Police Office, the suspect, who was mauled supposedly by bystanders, would later “grab” a cop’s firearm and was promptly shot dead. But while the circumstances surrounding the suspect’s death was questionable, nobody complained.

I later read a comment from a netizen that hit home the point. It seems like, he said, that the police under the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte would be dusting off rubout scripts designed for crime suspects that under previous administrations were already discredited. One of these is, of course, suspects “grabbing” an arresting officer’s gun before they are shot.

Reports say that even before Duterte could take his oath on June 30, an increase in the number of crime suspects shot by the police has been noted. Critics associate this to Duterte’s announced policy against criminals, one that has already been implemented in Davao City where he was mayor for many years.

But I attribute this to the rightward swing in the public opinion pendulum. While we cannot say that the majority of Filipinos effected the swing, one can say that a good number of Duterte supporters did it during the campaign for the May 9 polls. They made acceptable the line that killing is the best antidote to criminality.

The pendulum of public opinion first shifted leftward under the Corazon Aquino administration that succeeded the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Progressive policies were instituted. While the Cory administration in practice was not a model as far as respect for human rights was concerned, at least, officially, it advanced human rights principles. Succeeding presidents from Fidel Ramos to Noynoy Aquino followed Cory’s lead—even Joseph Estrada, who is known for his macho posturing.

But a segment of the population has been questioning the effectiveness of such a policy and lambasting every mention of human rights in relation to the drive against criminality. As the progressive wave dissipated, fascistic ideas were being advanced.

These grew into a wave when Duterte ran for president, drowning the voice of the “silent majority” who wanted a continuation of decent governance.

I don’t know where this development will lead us. But I predict the pendulum of public opinion to swing back leftward, especially when the bodies pile up and innocent people become collateral damage. But the swing won’t happen overnight. Things will still get worse before they get better.