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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

My drugs, I hate God

His face contorted in raging fury against the menace of illegal drugs, Rodrigo Duterte emerged as the poster boy of political will rare in this country. Masses were convinced that what ailed the Philippines was narcopolitics, that here at last was a man who can reform dirty politics using drugs as the pivot.

Mr. Duterte was an instant symbol for the millions frustrated with transactional politicians who merely toyed with their poverty and the dysfunctions of public services. That he came from a Mindanao city packaged as “crime-free” made people think there was evidence of their newly found adulation, although that later crumbled.

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“My God, I hate drugs” didn’t just become a brutally frank index of that perceived political will. It became a battle cry symbolizing no-nonsense transparency at running after the ills of a country plagued by traditional politics.

Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., said to be a drug lord, was killed in November 2016 inside the provincial jail where he served prison. In July 2017, Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., long notorious for shabu trade, was gunned down inside his house.

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But street talk recurrent in Mindanao is not actually charitable to Mr. Duterte. For instance, there goes the narrative some cite, uninvestigated as yet, that both were killed because they knew too much about the Duterte family’s own incursions in the illegal drugs trade. How much of it is true, how much of it is false? Mr. Duterte must bare his soul to be fairly acquitted of such accusations. When?

Then the layers of faux pas came, first with Peter Lim (successfully escaped, is possibly abroad) and now Michael Yang (appointment as presidential adviser first denied, then admitted when ample documentation appeared). Incendiary dossiers gathered by veteran antidrug cop Eduardo Acierto say Yang was in the illegal drugs trade. Both lead to an erosion of the Duterte might, that his drug war is selective. Albeit only a perception that does not inflate the Duterte image, the equation does not change: Public office is a public trust and Mr. Duterte must be more forthright. Does he have an unholy alliance with drug lords?

Recall that these follow the P6.4-billion shabu shipment where a broker who turned whistleblower intimated about the existence of a “Davao Group,” documented by mobile text message exchanges. Sen. Ping Lacson’s subsequent presentation confirmed there was a Davao Group in the Bureau of Customs.

In the interest of the common good, we must return to the critical questions that remain hanging: If Yang is into the drugs trade, has Mr. Duterte’s coddling of him led to the proliferation of Chinese drugs in the country? Is Paolo Duterte a drug lord as detractors allege? What role did presidential son-in-law Mans Carpio play in the Davao Group as alleged? And the nagging question that persists till this day, thanks to Sen. Richard Gordon: Who is “Tita Nani”?

If proven to be malicious, no doubt the Dutertes deserve acquittal. But because they are in power, the only test now, albeit the toughest for them as it is for any other public servant, is to shed off untouchability. They must open themselves up to full transparency in the interest of good governance. Their vaunted political will, their main political capital, begins by offering themselves up to public accountability. They have chosen not to.

If Acierto is lying, why must Mr. Duterte say he must be killed? He makes a conundrum out of it, feeding instead a belief
that perhaps Acierto is telling the truth.

Mr. Duterte is authoring his own decline. If he does not stop atrophying, “My God, I hate drugs” now gangrenes into “My drugs, I hate God,” a battle cry fit only in the theater of pretense where political will is faked, as all politicians before him have done.

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What then is the people’s alternative? Let us not put the brakes on checks and balances by filling the next Senate with political wimps, videoke bar singers and a selfie-crazed utility man good only for tarpaulins, all petrified to ask who Tita Nani is. If the Dutertes renege on their political oath, our silence will not save us.

On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. E-mail: [email protected]

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TAGS: Antonio Montalvan II, Eduardo Acierto, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs
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