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A feminist fearless forecast

No! Somebody please tell Leni not to accept the offer! It’s the Greeks bearing gifts.

The gift is the war on drugs on a silver platter with the bestowal of power, position (“drug czar” no less), support and all that. It’s the big campaign promise of the President.

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The bearer is the President himself. Why would he pass his centerpiece program, the accomplishment of which would immortalize him, to somebody else? Was this another instance of his loose riposte to any criticism? Was he perhaps sorry that the offer dropped so quickly from his lips? But chief interpreter and translator Salvador Panelo did not say it was a joke. He backed it all the way. Did they realize that the widespread undercurrent of this action was the admission that the war on drugs, such as it is, has been a failure?

The person being “gifted” is Leni. Who is she to the President? She is the half-term-long marginalized VP, another woman who the President does not particularly like. With Leila de Lima, senator; Lourdes Sereno, chief justice; Maria Ressa, Rappler head; she is another target the President wants to neutralize. Bongbong Marcos is trying tooth and nail to finish the job. Thanks to a slowly but surely increasing portion of the citizenry, however, pushing and resisting, Leni is proving harder to deactivate. Still, the “punisher” is punishing her with an ongoing sedition charge.

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Nonetheless, Leni accepts. This feisty woman must know something we don’t. She may look like a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread, but her mettle may be made of sterner stuff.

And might there not be a tinge of divine intervention she alone divines? God writes in crooked lines, and this must be one of the crookedest lines yet. Might Leni not turn out to be the leader people pine for? Might this most unlikely meeting of two immovable forces turn out to be the flash point of this historical moment? Might this be the turning point, as when Marcos too confidently or desperately called for a “snap election” that reversed his political fortune?

In the face of this misogynistic president, a woman mused that she believed women would save the day. Not impossible when one looks at the array of women of sterling integrity and steadfastness — powerless, by the way—before powerful machinery, powerful men and a clutch of powerful women, too.

My friend was thinking of Leila, Leni, Sereno, Ressa; of Conchita Carpio Morales, Ellen Tordesillas, Gina Lopez, Samira Gutoc, Sister Mary John Mananzan, Sister Teresita Alo, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, Solita Monsod, Zenaida Quezon Avanceña, Alice Murphy, Rorie Adriano. Armed with truth to power, such as they are invincible.

Now that Leni has crossed the Rubicon, the least we can do is fall in behind her: as individuals, even as “we tend our own gardens,” as loose, woke groups of friends, as civil society groups, women’s groups like Gabriela and TOWNS, professional groups, faith-based groups. This fight, Leni says, “is the entire nation’s, so we must help each other.”

What can happen — what must happen? First, we must know exactly what the appointment is: position, powers, term, coverage etc., signed and sealed. Does it include selecting her people? Is that “drug czar” title reality or flattery? Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it’s “cochair” of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, not “overall commander.” So, what is it?

Statistics is basic in any study. May we now have the correct figures — how many million users; how many killed, imprisoned, released, rehabilitated; how many cases filed, solved, ignored, etc.? The public is still in the dark.

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May we now get answers to big-time, big-bucks questions: Where and from whom do the drugs come? Through whose powers or clearances are they allowed to enter the country? Where or to whom are they addressed or delivered? Who distributes and how are they distributed? What happens to confiscated drugs?

If you want to kill a plant, uproot, not trim. “Tokhang” trims—the lives of the poor. Uprooting the source will come closer to “stop the killings.”

And “Free Leila” — why not? She is the first big “collateral” victim of the drug war. No case, but jailed.

Neither messianic nor masochistic are we; just steady with unequalled staying power. We are woman.

* * *

Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor and book editor; columnist since 1984 and contributor to the Inquirer since 1992.

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TAGS: Asuncion David Maramba, drug war, Inquirer Commentary, leni robredo, Rodrigo Duterte
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