State-Sponsored Extrajudicial Killings in Catholic Philippines: Murder as Means
Q Who is Rodrigo Duterte? A The new President of the Philippines. He took office June 30th this year.
Q And . . . what principal platform did he campaign on? A In a nutshell, to swiftly and decisively eliminate crime and corruption with an iron fist and an itchy trigger finger. And, as the world now sees, a cold-blooded, depraved heart.
Q That’s a colorful . . . nutshell. A No. Not really. It’s crimson, the color of blood.
Q And you say that because . . . A Perhaps his most popular, if controversial, campaign promise was to deliver, with utmost haste, “at least 100,000 dead criminals.” Now, 7 1/2 weeks into his rule, approximately 2,000 have already been shot dead either by law enforcement officers or unidentified vigilantes. Well, that’s not quite right. To be precise, not all were shot. A number were knifed, strangled, beaten to a pulp, hanged, decapitated, or drowned.
Q Slow down, please . . . A I can’t. People are dying. As we speak. Seriously.
Q I meant to say let’s take this a point at a time. A Shoot. But don’t take that literally.
Q Did I hear you say, “rule”? A Yes.
Q But isn’t your country democratic? A It was. It certainly was. If barely. But not anymore. No longer. The results of our last national elections, held last May, dispelled any doubts about what our people really, truly want. For once and at last, we have — theoretically, because its existence is in serious doubt — bared our national soul. As much to ourselves as to the world. We Filipinos don’t want to be governed. We want to be ruled.
Q Explain, please. A Before being elected president he was arguably the most renowned Filipino — other than Pacquiao, our famed boxer/then-a-congressman, now-a-senator. I should say Duterte became notorious, not renowned, for having either organized and led or at least inspired and protected death squads to clean up his city — Davao. And clean it up they did, making the city the most peaceful I in the archipelago. As quiet, some say, as a funeral parlor during a wake.
Q And Filipinos . . . embraced that? Death squads? A Obviously. And overwhelmingly. He kept being reelected. And hailed as a hero.
Q Alright . . . Let me glance at my notes here for a moment. Let’s see . . . He said he intended to go after criminals. He meant convicted felons, right? On death row? That many? A No. Not convicts. Criminals.
Q I’m sorry, I don’t quite get it. A Don’t apologize. My mistake. The people Duterte calls “criminals” we call “suspects.”
Q So, let’s see — just to be sure I’m getting this right — he actually, publicly promised to, uh, eliminate . . . A Exterminate. Q . . . 100,000 suspects? A Yes.
Q Without benefit of trial?  Without benefit of anything.
Q No presumption of innocence . . . A No. To the contrary, they’re presumed guilty. No, that’s not quite right. They’re adjudged guilty and sentenced too death — in absentia, needless to say — before they’re terminated.
Q By . . . ? A Anyone and everyone who could identify and finger a “criminal,” who at this point appear to be mostly people involved in the manufacture, trade, or use of illicit drugs. When this “war on drugs” peaks, I suppose when the toll reaches 100,000, I’m more than certain that Duterte will declare another. On what or whom — who knows? And then another. And when will it end? Perhaps when his “wars” are done devouring their own children. I can’t imagine anyone allowing that to happen. I simply can’t.
Q “Involved,” you say. A Their word. Not mine.
Q And these people . . . A Criminals. Q . . . would be . . . A Again, to use their words: among others — users, enablers, pushers, dealers, associates, kingpins, addicts, financiers, junkies, suppliers, accomplices, manufacturers and . . . lords.
Q Lords? A Drug lords.
Q And how does one become a drug “lord?” A I honestly don’t know. I think most start out as peasants who work their way up. I imagine they eventually become squires, then knights, then counts or dukes or earls . . .
Q Seriously, now. A Seriously, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone does. Nobody’s seen what criteria needs to be met to merit that title. We’re attaching to certain suspects — criminals, in Duterte’s mind — a deadly tag that no one, as far as I know, can credibly define. Literally. And especially legally.
Q You know, all this is . . . fairly disturbing. A Fairly disturbing. Okay. Well, I beg to disagree. Learning that a former president, removed from office by popular pressure, charged, convicted and imprisoned for “plunder,” was pardoned, ran for mayor of Manila, and handily won — that’s what I’d call fairly disturbing.
Q But this . . . A This — this bloodletting, this monstrous depravity, this unspeakable vileness that officially began when this madman took office — is a hell of a lot more than “fairly disturbing.” It’s appalling. It’s depraved. It’s nothing short of state-sanctioned mass murder. Extrajudicial killings and summary executions. Committed by government agents under color of law. And by self-appointed, self-justified assassins under cover of night. Perpetrated, in more ways than one, by “the only Christian — read Catholic — nation in Asia.”
Q Yes. I misspoke . . . If all of this is true, it’s more than simply “disturbing.” But to proceed, I note that you said “madman.” Let’s be honest . . . A I’ve been honest from the start.
Q I didn’t mean to challenge your . . . integrity. A Good. Because I won’t stand for it.
Q Fine, fine. Alright. So . . . to gain some perspective here . . . are you biased against Duterte? A No. I’m biased against the needless taking of human life. But him? As a person? No. Because he’s mad, as I’ve said. He’s criminally insane. A certified, murderous lunatic. And I say that literally, not metaphorically.
Q Alright, so. . . . What do you think Filipinos ought to . . . Let me rephrase that. How do you imagine one might deal with him? We’re speaking hypothetically, of course . . . A I don’t know about that. Well, I suppose there are alternatives to choose from. Which is not to say that a large swath of our people who believe or want to believe they have choices, actually do. Unspeakable poverty, blood ties, the demands of sheer survival, the requisite obligations of debts of gratitude — among numerous other factors — conspire to eliminate or inhibit informed choice. That said, one who has actual options could, let’s say, join the many — the vocal majority — who actively relish and cheer the carnage on. Or, one could seek refuge in apathy. Distraction in celebrity worship. Solace in vice. Dare I say addiction? Or, let’s see . . . One could criticize him with the least possible risk of retribution, which is to say politely — if the critic’s in the open. Or, protected by anonymity in the net, denounce his pogrom with all the sound and fury they can muster. Or, finally, one could opt to openly, frontally, and fearlessly defy him. But that, as we all know or ought to know, is a road that appeals to but a few. The few, if they do shape up, will likely need — in a manner of speaking — to be just as unhinged as the man they choose to challenge. If not more so.
Q That’s . . . the whole range of options. A Well . . . Q And which would you — you, personally— prefer? A Forgive me, but I think there’s one more possible course of action I failed to include.
Q And that is . . . A Let me start by saying that Duterte very often reminds us all that vox populi, vox dei — that the voice of the people is the voice of god. Which is to insinuate that, despite his severe, incurable insanity, he somehow manages to believe in a deity, whoever in his diseased mind he thinks it is. Well, there it is, then. Two birds with one stone. You stop the bloodletting and put an end to his miserable existence by facilitating an early meeting with his maker.
QWhoa. Hold your horses. This is . . . We’re treading on delicate . . . on . . . thin ice, here. Let’s get our bearings right here, because this is not the proper forum for . . . Well, damn it. Let me just ask you, upfront. Tell me to my face: Are you seriously suggesting that President Duterte be assassinated, Mr. Martinez?
[To be continued]