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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Is Davao an empowered city?

Counterattacking the rape joke critics of her father, Sara Duterte retorts: “What have you done to help Davao City?”

Sara Duterte is, indeed, her father’s daughter: She has the capacity for astounding speech. Except that, in this case, what astounded was her logical fallacy. That makes her a Duterte first, a lawyer second, and, just perhaps, a public servant third.

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That counterattack was an ad hominem. Verbally attacking her family’s critics proves nothing about the truth or falsity of the rape joke critics’ claims.

But the mayor seems to be aware of the power of her sound bites. How to understand that? In our post-2016 political climate, ad hominems, despite being unethical, can manipulate voters by appealing to irrelevant foibles instead of addressing core issues. It is a Duterte trademark.

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That is exactly the secret of the Duterte family management style: short-fused, impervious to criticism, closed to any form of public assessment. Diatribe is the mark of public speech among every one of the Dutertes. They know they can hold their public audience captive with that.

By watching the family’s deportment and multiplying this to more than 20 years of being in power, the assessment becomes telltale. Davao City is a city where public criticism is suppressed.

And, although one reads truncated criticisms of public programs emanating from the Dutertes by some of Davao’s public writers, one sees zero writings that attack them frontally—when attacking them frontally becomes the right thing to do because, as public servants, they should be fair game.

The sustained national mania on social media for Paolo Duterte’s association with the still unresolved P6.4-billion shabu caper, for example, is a topic that is unmentionable anywhere in Davao City’s nooks and crannies.

This is where Davao City makes for an interesting study. While the rest of the nation has learned to pierce the Duterte façade, Davao City remains in a culture of silence. Pundit friends maintain that the killing of broadcaster and Duterte critic Jun Pala 15 years ago this Sept. 6 serves as their milepost.

For instance, the question “Who is Tita Nanie?” (of the same P6.4-billion shabu conundrum in the Bureau of Customs) remains unanswered until this day. Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV put forward a possible identity: Nanie Cabato Coronacion. Sources in Davao City offer in hushed tones who she is and what she is to the Duterte family. But no one in the city itself has bothered to do investigative writing on the query.

“There are three kinds of journalists in this country,” President Duterte said at a press conference on June 2, 2016. “Those who are the crusaders, telling the truth. They do not accept money. The second class are the mouthpieces of vested interests, the publicists. The third are the lowlifes who are nothing more than extortionists.”

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Was he speaking from his Davao City experience? No doubt, of course. But the solution he proffers is one that is a scourge for all journalists—“Kill journalism.”

No one but no one in Davao City can invoke the right to freedom of expression. Mocha Uson’s fake dichotomy of “mainstream media” and “pro-Duterte media” is simply a reflection of that Duterte modus operandi and its snarling contempt for all writers critical of the family’s every public move.

It is also a fact that, in Davao City, there are many secret Duterte critics we have personally encountered. Remember that the first comprehensive scrutiny of extrajudicial killings was initiated in Davao City, and not even by a public analyst but by a man of the cloth, the Redemptorist priest Fr. Amado Picardal.

Father Picz has gone public this past week with the threats against his life. And what remedy does Harry Roque offer to this priest to whom we owe a multitude of gratitude for his truth-telling? Seek a writ of amparo from a court of our justice system, Roque said—the same justice system that granted a hero’s burial to the greatest violator of human rights in Philippine history.

Duterte critics see black from white. But if they are from Davao City, they must publicly say they see only white.

antonmonta@gmail.com

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TAGS: Davao City, Philippines, Sara Duterte
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