Is the public jumping the gun on the President-elect?
Over the past couple of weeks, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has been a staple of news headlines for a slew of statements that have stirred (to say the very least) different groups’ sensibilities.
And while taking offense to the “insinuation” that members of the media that are killed, if they are corrupt, deserve it; and to seeing the chief executive wolf whistle a female journalist are absolutely merited – perhaps the question really should be, why is anyone even surprised anymore?
The is the same man who, during the campaign trail that eventually got him nearly 16 million votes, swore about the Pope, told him to go home and not to visit the largely Catholic country again; made a comment (joke, narration; depending on who you ask) about a gang-raped/murdered Australian lay minister, saying “the mayor should have been first;” and has openly vowed to kill (extrajudicially) criminals and those involved in the drug trade, basically shoving laws on human rights to the side.
The man has changed neither his tone nor his message. He is singing the same tune that got him the record-number of Presidential votes. But that hasn’t prevented intense scrutiny upon him, even as he has yet to officially assume the Presidency.
Duterte’s aides, in his defense, have asked the media and the public for a little consideration.
“We need a little understanding. He does not have any bad intentions,” Duterte’s designated Justice Secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre II said, adding that the President-elect has even advised incoming cabinet members to “learn how to decipher him.”
Designated spokesperson Salvador Panelo, commenting on Duterte’s controversial statements on media killings, said that the Davao City mayor of 20 years was “taken out of context, misinterpreted and misunderstood,” curiously while on live TV.
“Just because you are a journalist, you are not exempt from assassination, if you are a son of a bitch,” was part of Duterte’s response when asked how his administration would address the problem of media killings—one that has made the democratic nation of the Philippines one of the most dangerous places on earth for journalists (the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility Philippines database has the number of journalists killed since 1986 at 152).
“Most of those killed, to be frank, have done something. You won’t be killed if you don’t do anything wrong,” Duterte also said.
Following that eventful press conference in Davao City, Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers, RSF) urged the Philippine media to boycott Duterte. Suffice to say, he wasn’t too pleased about that, and the media firestorm that came along with it.
According to Duterte’s close aide, Christopher Go, there would no longer be press conferences “in order to minimize mistakes,” and that the President would be relaying his statements though government TV station PTV-4.
“If there are interviews, there will be many mistakes, there will be many criticisms. So no interview, no criticism, no wrong statements, no nothing,” the once-media savvy Duterte said.
Medal for metal
Members of the media quickly felt the effects of Duterte’s cold shoulder as they were asked to “pack up” on the day of the President-elect’s victory party at Crocodile Park in Davao.
But while the media were refused access to the venue, the man of the hour’s message was heard loud in clear by the massive 200,000-strong crowd.
“You sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” Duterte told drug dealers, while also encouraging civilians to join him in his war on drugs, urging armed citizens to shoot and kill dealers who resist arrest.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have guns, you have my support… Shoot and I’ll give you a medal.”
It has begun
Meanwhile, in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, five men have already fallen victim to what appeared to be cases of summary execution, according to a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
In Negros Occidental, a suspected drug supplier, Habib Into, 49, was reportedly killed by motorcycle riding men in San Carlos City. According to reports, 10 grams of crystal meth and PhP21,000 were found with Into.
A certain Jeffrey Buencuchillo, 33, was found dead in Talisay City after suffering multiple gunshot wounds. His hands were also cut off, while a cardboard message near his body read: “I am a thief, an addict. Don’t follow my example because you will be killed next.”
The other victims were lawyer Rex Agan Perewperew, 38 (killed in Dumaguete City and allegedly involved with drugs), and ex-convicts Sherwin Taasan, 38 (found dead north of Iloilo City) and Lou Facto (found dead in Iloilo City).
By TIMOTHY JAY IBAY