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Thread: COPS and ROBBERS: The Law Enforcement and Crime Thread

  1. #301
    'Putang ina, pulis ka' is recurring phrase of suspects in TokHang reports

    In one police report, 3 suspects allegedly point their guns at one cop, but the cop, by himself, manages to kill all 3. It is movie-like fiction, says the Free Legal Assistance Group.

    Lian Buan

    Published 5:42 PM, October 23, 2019

    Updated 5:42 PM, October 23, 2019

    MANILA, Philippines – Police reports on deaths in Oplan TokHang or the drug war are a little hard to believe, going by recurring quotes from drug suspects and a suspicious "cut and paste" template, the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) told the Supreme Court (SC).

    FLAG, and co-petitioner Center for International Law (CenterLaw), have petitioned the SC to declare President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs unconstitutional.

    In 7 police reports studied by FLAG, drug suspects who died in police operations allegedly all said "putang ina, pulis ka pala, papatayin kita!" (Fuck, you're a cop, I'll kill you.)

    These details were reported by cops themselves in reports filed after the drug operations. The suspects are among the more than 5,000 "nanlaban" deaths, or those who allegedly resisted arrest with a gun, so the cops shot them instead.

    If these police reports are to be believed, Reynaldo Javier Jr, Paul Martinez, Leo Geluz, Emelio Blanco, Ryan Eder, Jomar Manaois, Mark Anthony Bunuan, Jefferson Bunuan, and Willie Ternora, said the same exact words when they were apprehended.

    FLAG is examining drug war documents that the Philippine National Police (PNP) was compelled to submit. FLAG has pointed out that many digital files were corrupted, while CenterLaw said a bulk of them were not drug-related.


    In the deaths of Manaois, Mark Anthony Bunuan, and Jefferson Bunuan, a PO3 Lucena filed the police report. Lucena was the one who shot all 3.

    The 3 were killed inside a small bedroom in Manaois' home in Sta Ana, Manila, with witnesses saying they were sleeping when cops shot them.

    Lucena's police report described the 3 pulling out their guns and aiming at him:

    "Upon receiving the pre-arranged signal, the rest of the team immediately rushed to the scene. However, Totong (Jomar Manaois) sensed the approaching team and then he uttered "Tang ina pulis ka," he drew a handgun from his waist, and knowing that my life is in imminent danger thereof, I subsequently drew my service firearm and fired on Totong. Likewise, S-2 and S-3 also acted aiming a gun at me, I also fired on them."

    FLAG said it is "hard to believe" that one policeman can kill 3 armed men.

    "While this happens very often in the movies, it is contrary to human experience in the real world that he would survive a situation like that unscathed and without a scratch," said FLAG's supplemental memorandum submitted to the SC on Monday, October 21.

    In the death of Conrado Beroña, the police report revealed that 7 policemen were involved in the operation.

    "Sensing our presence, suspect suddenly pulled out a firearm and ran away, he then entered an alley leading to a house, at which point the latter fired his gun successively and directly to our spot but missed," said FLAG's memorandum, quoting the police report.

    "It is inherently incredible to believe that a suspect who is outnumbered by 7 armed police operatives will fire his gun at them," said FLAG.

    'Cut and paste'

    FLAG also pointed out how the police reports have seemingly used a "cut and paste" template.

    The police report used the phrases "sensing the approaching team," "suddenly drew his gun and fired a shot but missed."

    In an earlier press conference by FLAG, reporters asked if it's just a case of a limited vocabulary by the police, and a practice that existed even before the Duterte administration and the war on drugs.

    “Let’s just say they raised a lot of questions – every single case where you supposedly have to kill the suspect because he fought back, is unique in its facts, it cannot all be the same,” FLAG chairman Chel Diokno said then.

    FLAG mentioned how these police reports show that suspects always missed their targets, which, for the lawyer group, is unbelievable.

    Data by Rappler shows that thousands of drug war deaths have gone unsolved owing to a systematic gap in the investigation process by the Duterte administration.

    FLAG also said police reports showed a lack of genuine investigation done by the PNP into the killings.

    "This bolsters petitioners' argument that the war on drugs has spawned police impunity and done away with accountability," said FLAG.

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) is examining the killings and trying to establish jurisdiction to conduct its own investigation. Jurisdiction will be established if the ICC proves that the Philippines is unable or unwilling to probe on its own. –

  2. #302
    Duterte’s way of admitting failure

    By: Randy David - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:50 AM November 03, 2019

    Even on the assumption that he wasn’t just being sarcastic, or worse, misusing the Filipino language, President Duterte’s statements the other day are the clearest admission that his much-touted war on drugs has failed. He has run out of ideas. And so, he is asking Vice President Leni Robredo, who has been critical of the government’s approach to the problem, to take charge of the campaign.

    “Sabihin mo sa kanya tanggapin niya. Sisikat siya diyan. Hindi ko nakayanan, baka kaya niya (Tell her to accept it; she’ll be famous. I couldn’t do it; maybe she can).”

    People may recall that Mr. Duterte had boasted during the 2016 electoral campaign that he could end the drug menace within his first six months in office. But one year after becoming president, he began to say that the drug problem was bigger than he thought, and asked for more time. Later, secure in his high survey ratings, he acknowledged that it might take him till the end of his term to lick the drug problem. Now, he is openly saying the problem will likely persist beyond his term.

    But that is exactly what serious analysts of the drug problem have been saying from the start.Calculated to create shock and awe, the brutal killing of drug suspects by the thousands did not end the problem. The bulk entry of illegal drugs through the country’s ports continued unabated. Convicted drug lords at the national penitentiary are still dealing in drugs, unhampered by their detention.

    The offer to Vice President Robredo to be the Duterte administration’s “drug czar” has to be taken in the context of this grudging realization that, despite the killings, there has hardly been a dent on the problem. It remains so complex and multidimensional that there is no shortcut to solving it. Mr. Duterte knows this. But the public that adores him and continues to believe in the efficacy of quick fixes backed by political will is only starting to see this complexity.

    What is bringing about this realization is the criminal involvement of high-ranking police officers in the drug trade—an element whose dimensions have not been fully revealed. The exposés at the recent Senate hearings, leading to the resignation of Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde a few months before his retirement, have been, so far, the biggest blow to police credibility.

    Albayalde was shown to have interceded for rogue police officers who were under him when he was Pampanga provincial police chief. These men were investigated for recycling confiscated illegal drugs and for extorting money from arrested drug dealers in exchange for their release. Though briefly suspended, none of them spent even a day in jail. When no one was looking, they were quietly reinstated and assigned to other units — in stark contrast to the summary way in which suspected drug offenders from the ranks of the poor are dealt with.

    No doubt this scandal has riled Mr. Duterte. Until now, he has not been able to appoint a suitable replacement for the resigned Albayalde. Whom can he trust to head the PNP? But, he gleefully muses, this won’t be his problem anymore if Vice President Robredo accepts his offer.

    “Pagka tinanggap ni Leni… If anything that has to do with drugs and criminality, you ask her. Siya ang ilagay ko. Tingnan natin. Hindi na ako makialam (The moment she accepts… Anything that has to do with drugs and criminality, you ask her. I will appoint. Let’s see; I won’t interfere anymore).”

    This supposed offer sounds like one totally uttered in pique, originating from wounded machismo and being criticized by a woman he has dismissed as an unworthy successor to the presidency. Still, in his typical mocking style, Mr. Duterte goes on to paint a scenario of what he is prepared to do to allow the Vice President to solve the drug problem in her own way, and thereby earn some fame. Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, ever on cue to dress up his boss’ naked utterances in policy garb, chimes in with his version of the presidential offer.

    “The President renews his offer to the Vice President to become the anti-illegal drugs czar, with all offices, bureaus, agencies or government instrumentalities involved in the enforcement of the law on prohibited drugs placed under her command and supervision with a Cabinet secretary portfolio, to ensure her effectiveness in combating the drug menace.”

    No self-respecting vice president can conceivably take this as a serious offer. Mr. Duterte might as well step down from the presidency and let Vice President Robredo succeed him if he were half as serious as Panelo makes him out to be. Then, perhaps, in the remaining time of less than three years, under the leadership of Leni Robredo, something meaningful might be achieved. It is time we distinguished data-based programs from populist bluster.

    An objective analysis of the drug problem as it exists in the country has to be the starting point of any serious antidrug effort. How many of our countrymen, more or less, are hooked on illegal drugs? What social factors underlie their addiction? What will it take to free them from this pernicious habit? Where are these drugs coming from? How are they brought into the country and by whom? What kind of networks are involved in their distribution? What is the role of the police and of politicians in the maintenance and protection of the drug networks? What kind of reforms are needed to make the police and other antidrug agencies effective instruments in the control of the drug problem? What realistic and measurable goals must be set so that it becomes possible at any point to determine whether we are gaining or losing in the effort to wipe out this social problem?

  3. #303
    Palace open to ending ‘Oplan: Tokhang’

    By: Julie M. Aurelio - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:56 AM November 12, 2019

    MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang is open to scrapping “Oplan: Tokhang,” a controversial strategy in President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs, if Vice President Leni Robredo has a more effective way of carrying out the crackdown on narcotics, the Palace said on Monday.

    President Duterte will also give Robredo “everything” to help her fight illegal drugs, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said, adding that the Vice President has “free rein” as cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs.

    Earlier, Robredo, who had accepted the President’s offer of a lead role in the crackdown on illegal drugs, said she wanted to get rid of tokhang, the police door-to-door campaign to flush out users that has cost the lives of more than 6,000 mostly poor people.

    New tack

    She said she wanted to replace tokhang with another, more effective campaign that would not lead to the killing of drug suspects.

    “If that will be effective insofar as the drug war is concerned, she has been given the authority,” Panelo told a regular press briefing in the Palace on Monday.

    “As long as VP Leni is in charge, whatever she feels should be enforced, we will do it. It’s a yes if she wants it,” Panelo said.

    That sounded like slapping down Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano’s criticism on Monday that Oplan: Tokhang was turning to be Oplan: All-Talk under Robredo.

    Cayetano’s remark drew a rebuke from Barry Gutierrez, a spokesperson for Robredo.

    “[The Vice President] has just started [at] the job that was passed on to her by the President. She hasn’t even been there for a week,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “If Speaker Cayetano would not help out, he should at least avoid badmouthing [her].”

    Gutierrez said Robredo would meet with the law enforcement cluster of the interagency committee on Thursday.

    “We will have a clearer idea of the direction she plans to set by then,” he said.

    Robredo agreed to lead the war on drugs last week, but had yet to sit down with the President for a discussion on the scope of her new job.

    The Palace said the President would call her for a meeting, but did not say when.

    Panelo said the President had committed to giving Robredo everything she would need to press the fight against illegal drugs, but that didn’t mean the President would keep his hands off the campaign.

    “He is the President. He will be accountable for the whole nation. If she fails, then the President also fails,” Panelo said.

    If Robredo asks for it, he said, the interagency committee will be given additional funding, and law enforcers will be given body cameras for transparency in operations.

    Wide latitude

    “‘Whatever she needs, I will give it to her,’” he quoted President Duterte as saying. “We will give her all that she needs. She should be given a wide latitude and she should pursue her own scheme of things in pursuing the drug war initiated by this administration.”

    Asked if Robredo would need to seek approval from the President before proceeding with changes in the campaign, Panelo said: “Not approval. If she wants to consult something, maybe she wants advice, I think everything will be threshed out the moment the two talk. If she wants to consult the President, the President is always open to consultation to every member of the Cabinet.”

    He maintained that Robredo’s appointment is Cabinet rank, and no invitation is needed for her to attend Cabinet meetings.

    Panelo also said the Palace would defer to Robredo if she wanted to meet with US and United Nations officials for discussions of improvements to the campaign against drugs.

    “If she feels that America can help in the drug war … Americans have been helping us even before. Sharing intelligence is one of them. Maybe we should let VP Leni in her work,” he said.

    But allowing foreign investigators who have already made conclusions about the drug war come into the country to investigate the government is a different matter, he said.

    The International Criminal Court has opened a preliminary investigation of the killings in the President’s war on drugs and the United Nations Human Rights Council has approved an international probe into the drug deaths.

    “The President doesn’t like that they already have conclusions even before coming here. The President wants them to be open-minded, objective, and just want to find out if the reports are true. That should be the approach. They should not have conclusions that we’re a murderous state,” Panelo said.

    The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), meanwhile, expressed hope that with Robredo now leading the crackdown on narcotics, there would be more collaboration between the agency and the interagency committee on illegal drugs.

    CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said the agency would write Robredo to request access to documents on the campaign, which would bolster the body’s investigation of rights cases related to the drug war.

    She said the agency hoped Robredo’s appointment would lead to a shift in the approach to drugs from crime to health problem.

    No need to join raids

    There have been suggestions, including from Robredo’s cochair of the interagency committee, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino, that she join drug raids.

    But Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, the acting chief of the Philippine National Police, said on Monday that he did not see any point in Robredo joining such operations.

    “As a matter of fact, we generals do not join anti-illegal drug operations probably because during our younger days we were exposed to this,” Gamboa said.

    “It’s practically a new thing to her because she has not had exposure to this,” he said. “It would also risk her life.”

    As for Robredo’s pledge to stop the killings in the drug war, Gamboa said: “[T]he PNP has not launched killing for purposes of enforcing anti-illegal drugs operations.”

    Deaths in drug operations are investigated, he added.

    The PNP admits more than 6,000 people have been killed by officers in operations since the launch of the drug war in 2016, but insists the suspects resisted arrest.

    Rights groups, however, claim the figure could be as high as 20,000.

  4. #304
    Lone voice

    By: Manuel L. Quezon III - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:04 AM November 13, 2019

    Survey after survey has revealed that most Filipinos confess themselves quite ignorant of our Constitution and its contents. Never mind actual procedures and how institutions function. This basic fact struck home in the wake of the efforts of the administration to pin down the Vice President by offering to put her in charge of the so-called war on drugs, only to weasel out of the supposed offer by eventually designating her cochair of a coordinating committee (the grandly named “Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs,” or Icad, Executive Order No. 15, March 6, 2017) created by the President. Its purpose is to “ensure that each member agency shall implement and comply with all policies, laws and issuances pertaining to the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign, in an integrated and synchronized manner.”

    The same EO explicitly recognizes that the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) is “the policy-making and strategy-formulating body in the planning and formulation of policies and programs on drug prevention and control,” while the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is “responsible for the efficient and effective law enforcement of all the provisions on any dangerous drugs and/or controlled precursors and essential chemicals, including the implementation of the national drug control strategy formulated by the DDB.” What the President did by means of his order, then, was to require a list of agencies to work together and recognize that the ones calling the shots, so to speak, were PDEA and DDB—which, in turn, serve to fulfill the overall policy and priorities the President himself established.

    In case anyone might suffer from the delusion that they have any wiggle room in this regard, the same EO enumerates a specific list of functions the Icad is supposed to undertake: a) Ensure the effective conduct of anti-illegal drug operations and arrest of high-value drug personalities down to the street-level peddlers and users; b) Spearhead and coordinate the implementation of the National Anti-Drug Plan of Action (Nadpa) 2015-2020; c) Ensure comprehensive implementation of the Barangay Drug-Clearing Program; d) Ensure intensive conduct of advocacy campaign initiatives; e) Ensure that the roles and responsibilities of the member agencies are efficiently and effectively carried out; f) Cleanse the bureaucracy of unscrupulous personnel involved in illegal drug activities; and g) Ensure that the anti-illegal drug objectives of the government are achieved.

    The Vice President’s lawyers presumably read the terms of reference of her appointment and she, in turn, has given no room for the usual suspects (the existing members of the committee) to complain that she is straying beyond the confines of the order. So they have taken to picking complaints out of thin air to try to sandbag her, not in terms of what she can do, but how the public perceives what she’s doing.

    This explains the gorilla-style chest-thumping and baring of fangs by senators like Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa, and the weasel-like behavior of the committee cochair (formerly sole chairman), who knows where his institutional bread is buttered and takes his cues directly from the President, regardless of how professional courtesy would otherwise require him to defer to the Vice President. Most recently, the House Speaker has taken to howling at the Veep, too: Not because anyone among them has anything to say, but because the louder they all are, the more of a lone voice the Veep becomes, and that much easier to drown out and ignore.

    Because, even if she toes a scrupulously EO-abiding line, her simply doing so makes her a dangerous nuisance to all the other members. If they demand to be held to account strictly according to their own standards, the inconvenient fact they want drowned out is, by their own rules and regulations, they can and will be found wanting. There are strict procedures for conducting operations, including reporting the discharge of firearms and deaths that occur in operations: Where’s the paperwork, where’s the detail?

    Even the Supreme Court, in case anyone forgets, has been frustrated on this score, repeatedly, with the Solicitor General playing interference for the cops. There are hundreds of thousands of “surrenderers”: Where are they, what’s been done with them, what is done for them? Government has been content to hide behind wholesale numbers. Same applies to facilities supposedly built. And the eventual truth will out: The paper trail would be damning, if produced; and if not produced, even more damning. The Veep is not an antidrug czar, or czarina, and doesn’t have to be. She only has to do what she says she will do: Hold bureaucrats and cops to account for compliance with what the law actually requires.

  5. #305
    Robredo, Dela Rosa disagree on scrapping Tokhang

    By: Jhesset O. Enano, Leila B. Salaverria - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:31 AM November 13, 2019

    MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Leni Robredo on Tuesday said she would let law-enforcement agencies look into the adoption of a new strategy in fighting illegal drugs, after Malacañang expressed openness to her proposal to scrap the controversial Oplan Tokhang.

    But junior Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, President Rodrigo Duterte’s first Philippine National Police chief who introduced Tokhang, defended the door-to-door campaign to flush out drug users, rejecting criticism that the master plan for the brutal war on drugs was a failure.

    Robredo, who had accepted Duterte’s offer to lead the drug war as cochair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, last week said she wanted to replace Tokhang with another strategy that would not lead to the deaths of drug suspects.

    Public health problem

    More than 6,600 mostly poor drug users have been killed by police since Dela Rosa launched Tokhang in 2016, for which accusations of crimes against humanity have been brought against the President and 11 of his officials in the International Criminal Court, and which the UN Human Rights Council wants investigated by an international team.

    Robredo said she wanted to change the gauge for the effectiveness of the drug war from counting bodies to counting lives improved through the campaign, indicating she was considering a shift in the program’s view of illegal drug use — from crime to public health problem.

    On Monday, Malacañang said it was open to scrapping Tokhang if Robredo had a better way of carrying out the campaign to stamp out illegal drugs.

    Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte would give Robredo “everything” to help her fight the drug menace, including additional funds for the interagency committee on narcotics.

    On Tuesday, Robredo, talking to reporters on the sidelines of a forum in Pasay City, expressed relief at the Palace’s willingness to give up Tokhang but said she would rather have the law-enforcement agencies work out a more effective program that they could call their own and not dictated to them.

    She said scrapping Tokhang would be among the topics for discussion during her meeting with members of the interagency committee on Thursday.

    Dela Rosa balked at the idea of trashing his brainchild, saying in a television interview on Tuesday that without Tokhang, 1.6 million drug users would not have surrendered and 130,000 drug suspects would not have been arrested.

    He claimed that it was also due to Tokhang that index crime volumes in the country had been reduced by 49 percent.

    Although he had no figures, he claimed there had been a big reduction in the number of drug users, and said big “shabu” (crystal meth) laboratories had been shuttered and the supply chain had been disrupted.

    More funds later

    As for more funds for the interagency committee, Dela Rosa said Robredo should work with the available resources.

    “Work first. Make do with the resources you have with you,” he said, adding that fresh funds could only be sought during the next budget season.

    In Malacañang, Panelo said Robredo should ask Congress for a bigger budget for the interagency committee.

    “The President and I talked about this and he said the problem is the budget has been submitted,” Panelo told reporters.

    “Whatever is indicated in the budget, that’s it. So she should be asking it from Congress. That won’t change,” he said.

    Best practices

    Funding for the committee in the P4.1-trillion proposed budget for 2020 is P15 million, which Robredo described last week after accepting her appointment to the panel as insufficient.

    On Tuesday, Robredo said the public health approach was the route to take to win the war on drugs.

    She said she and the committee were looking at the many best practices in other countries’ fight against narcotics.

    “[The countries with] the public health approach were the ones that were able to reach a certain level of success,” Robredo said. “We don’t have to take chances about how to win, because there are a lot of literature already and a lot of best practices.”

    She said she met on Monday with officials from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for a discussion of the best practices in other countries and lessons learned from their strategies.

    Robredo said she had requested data from the UN office that could be used in the campaign against drugs here.

    She said she would ask the US Embassy in Manila for assistance in intelligence gathering, particulary information about drug lords. Robredo said she would meet with embassy officials on Wednesday.

    She would also ask other countries for help in fighting illegal drugs.

    “The issue of illegal drugs is not unique to us and we cannot resolve it on our own,” she said.

    House invitation

    Robredo welcomed the invitation of the House dangerous drugs committee for her to brief its members on her plans.

    “The invitation of the House committee would be an instrument for the people to know where we are heading,” she said.

    Asked if she would accept advice from Phelim Kine, former deputy director of Human Rights Watch for Asia, Robredo said she had yet to receive formal communication from him. She refused to comment further on the matter.

    On Monday, Kine tweeted that he was willing to come to the Philippines to advise Robredo on how to end the “murderous” war on drugs.

    Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted that Kine would be denied entry into the Philippines to save Robredo from “moral moronism.”

  6. #306
    King’s gambit accepted

    By: Gideon Lasco - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:07 AM November 14, 2019

    What was President Rodrigo Duterte thinking when he appointed Vice President Leni Robredo as “cochair” of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs?

    Was it a trap set up to make her fail and look incompetent should she accept it, or unwilling and unable to help if she doesn’t? Was it an acknowledgment that the “drug war” has failed — and a well-intentioned openness to a new paradigm, with the Vice President at the helm?

    Judging by the response of the President’s men, it may well be more of the former than the latter.

    “This is war. You have to fight. ‘Di pwedeng pa-cute. This is not a beauty contest,” said Sen. Bato dela Rosa, the former police chief who has a penchant for making a mascot of himself.

    “The drug lords will no longer be afraid… you will baby them,” chimed in Sen. Bong Go.

    Judging by the President’s previous attitude toward his constitutional successor, he seems to share these misogyny-tinged responses. After all, he has previously spoken of Robredo as “incompetent” and “not ready to lead” the country.

    However, the opacity of Mr. Duterte’s decision-making — plus the duplicity of his rhetoric — means that we cannot divine his true motives. For all we know, it was a decision as capricious as suddenly pulling out of the CPP-NPA peace talks, or ordering the police to cease their antidrug campaign.

    In any case, Robredo accepted the gambit (apologies to Prof. Randy David for also resorting to this irresistible metaphor) — potentially turning the trap into a blunder. Amid concerns that she will be used to legitimize the drug war and later be blamed for its failures, she made her calculus clear: “If it is a chance to stop the killing of the innocents and bring to justice those who are responsible, then I will carry [the burden].”

    In a sign that she’s maintaining a critical stance, one of Robredo first acts as “anti-drugs czar” was to say that there should be no more “senseless killings,” and that “tokhang” should be replaced by evidence-based policies. Surely, she realizes that the very measures of success must be reframed from killing to uplifting lives if she has any chance of “victory.”

    However, despite statements like Panelo’s (“we will not allow her to fail”) that suggests Malacañang’s support, there are already indications that her pronouncements will be treated as mere “suggestions,” and that at best, she will be given authority over the “soft side” of drug governance — rehabilitation, reintegration, advocacy. With Philippine Drug Enforcement Ageny chair Aaron Aquino as her “cochair,” there seems to be a looming stalemate that can only perpetuate the unacceptable status quo.

    These handicaps notwithstanding, Robredo’s presence can open opportunities for increased civil society participation and alternative approaches to drug rehabilitation and treatment. She can also help erase decades-long misconceptions about people who use drugs (e.g., that they are “addicts” beyond redemption) by highlighting drugs as a “medical and sociological” issue. Surely, there are good people in our drug and law enforcement agencies who are just waiting for someone like her to lead them.

    Finally, as a lawyer with a strong human rights background, Robredo can reanimate the debate about drug policy and amplify calls to amend Republic Act No. 9165, which has enabled the worst of tokhang with its abuse-prone rules and absurdly harsh penalties (for instance, being caught with one stick of marijuana can merit 12 years of imprisonment).

    Even her best hopes, however, are fraught with Faustian risks. Already, she is toning down her calls for UN investigations and her critiques of the drug war; there will have to be discursive, if not substantive, compromises. And of course, her tenure is contingent on the President’s pleasure. Perhaps she will be fired after she has outlived her political usefulness, and, as with Gina Lopez before her, whatever reforms she enacted will be undone.

    And yet, if her political career is any guide, Robredo is not to be underestimated. Who knew that she — a dark horse with zero name recognition at the start of the campaign — would win the vice presidency? And that despite the efforts of the Marcoses, she would reach this advanced stage of her term?

    Mr. Duterte may find that he is dealing with a queen rather than a pawn.

  7. #307
    Dysfunctional designation

    By: Manuel L. Quezon III - @inquirerdotnet

    Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:08 AM November 27, 2019

    The President’s approach to securing support for his so-called “war on drugs” was to encourage liquidations by assuming all responsibility. By saying he would assume all responsibility for any fatalities in police operations, he freed his subordinates of accountability, knowing full well that neither he nor they would ever have to be responsible, so long as they wielded power. Something Rudyard Kipling once wrote boils it down perfectly: “Power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

    Sen. Bong Go confirmed this when he justified the Vice President’s dismissal as “cochair” of the interagency coordinating committee for anti-illegal drug activities (the post was never formalized by amending the executive order that established the committee). Go said no drug kingpin had been killed, so obviously the Veep was useless, adding that no one got killed because the cops probably believed the Veep didn’t have their back. That this basically confirms the accusations of critics that the President ordered and sustains a policy of mass murder, is apparently something Go and his principal will have to worry about later.

    This underscores my colleague John Nery’s valuable observation that the President operates by means of “instinctive political reaction” which his admirers “mistakenly call strategic.” Everyone just took their cue from the President, in the hope volume and volume can turn the ad hoc into something that appears calculated. Let me add my own observation: Bong Go, previously underestimated as a skillful bureaucratic infighter, now finds himself outside his element, as a senator. It’s one thing to take down Leoncio Evasco Jr.; it will be tougher to be just one voice among 24 senatorial voices.

    In a nutshell, then, the trap the President supposedly tried to ensnare the Vice President in, by trying to goad her into refusing an appointment, failed because it was a bluff. So the actual trap, which is where his Palace paper-pushers came in, was to give her responsibility without authority. The combination of bluff and a powerless designation took on the appearance of a clever scheme. The President’s switcheroo went like this: He thundered he was prepared to make her “drug czar,” imprinting the title on people’s minds; then he designated her cochair of a mere coordinating committee, denying her any real authority, while saddling her with public expectations of bearing responsibility. As Tom Stoppard, in a modern corollary to Kipling, put it: “Responsibility without power, the prerogative of the eunuch throughout the ages.”

    This is why the Veep had to ask for things. Had she been given authority, she could have ordered things. Everyone around her, who owed their positions (and authority) to the President, knew this; she knew it herself, but she knew government well enough to know that merely asking for things can make an inconvenient point. Just how inconvenient was proven by the President pulling the plug on her appointment. The mere act of firing, after all, restores her to a subordinate place.

    Leon Ma. Guerrero, reflecting on our inheritance from Spain, paraphrased the findings of the Duke of Maura in criticizing his own nation’s culture with observations Guerrero believed mirrored our own experience: “…analyzing the political landscape of Spain in his Grandeza y Decadencia de España, [he] points out that Spain’s greatest weakness, which we seem to have inherited, is the atrophy of the civic spirit, the lack of civic responsibility, the habit of submission to absolute and irresponsible power. As a result, the word politics has come to mean for some the most pleasant and least demanding of professions; for others the most thrilling and expensive of sports; and for very few the art of knowing, evaluating and serving the national interest.”

    Guerrero went on to point out that, “Political power in turn…. is interpreted in terms of satisfying vanity and ambition, of indulging covetousness, of being prodigal with the money of others, of expediting vengeance, of amassing a fortune, of rising in society, in short, of glutting every ignoble appetite…”

    Here, in what Guerrero wrote, can be found the clash of approaches to governance that played out, in terms of the President and the Vice President in the so-called “war on drugs.” The President was playing according to a prehistoric — literally — script of chest-thumping, fang-baring chieftainship; the Veep was responding according to methods and means of modern governance. Her point, satisfyingly enough, was ancient: Ang pikon ay laging talo.

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