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The administration’s biggest, most brazen lie

The biggest, most brazen lie ever, at least in the history of the current administration, was told by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque in a recent press briefing. Oh, you might say, Reader, smothering your yawn, doesn’t he do that practically every day? What else is new?

You may be right, but the sequence of events leading to the briefing, in fact the actions of the administration since Day One, are so at odds with what came out of Roque’s mouth that one is literally stopped in one’s tracks at the magnitude of his lie.

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What did he say, anyway? “Impunity has no place in the Duterte administration and whoever violated the law would be responsible and punished under the law.” With a straight face, mind you. Without even batting an eyelash.

Let’s talk about the sequence of events: Last Friday, in Cagayan de Oro, the President, speaking to the police and military (see this paper’s editorial two days ago), told them that if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the NPA, they should just “kill them.” “Make sure you really kill them, and finish them off if they are alive… Forget about human rights. That’s my order.”

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Less than two days later, early on Sunday morning, nine people were killed and six were arrested in a series of simultaneous operations that were supposedly conducted by police and military forces, which sparked national and international outrage.

The police claimed it was all legal, that they just wanted to carry out the search warrants but the activists fought back: “nanlaban.” It would appear that Roque has serious competition in the untruth-telling business.

But at this juncture, exactly what was the military’s role in the operations? It seems the Philippine National Police is dragging the military in (perhaps to gain some credibility), but military officials are disclaiming any responsibility. Theirs was only a support role (what does that mean?), claims AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana—they didn’t see anything. In other words, the military aren’t backing up the police in their “nanlaban” defense.

And they shouldn’t. There is the Philippine Army Transformation Roadmap 2028 that is at stake here, where the Army has been trying since 2010 to clean up their act, including on human rights. And they have been on the whole (with some notable exceptions) succeeding. I hope the Army doesn’t get infected by the virus, worse than the coronavirus, that has been spreading over the PNP since the Duterte administration. Don’t take your eyes off the ball, Army.

But I digress. Last Friday’s Cagayan de Oro remarks weren’t the first time that the President invited our security forces to kill, with his blessing. And he has matched his actions to those words. He has in fact encouraged Impunity.

Remember Rolando Espinosa, who was killed while in jail by police forces? At that time, the word “nanlaban” was not yet in fashion, but the police said that Espinosa used a gun on them, so actually, “nanlaban.” The head of that killing force was handled with kid gloves, because Mr. Duterte, if you remember, had previously named Espinosa as a drug lord. The National Bureau of Investigation, if I remember, was asked to investigate, but its report was ignored—because it was unfavorable to the police. The police got away with murder.

And here’s data on extrajudicial killings that you may not be familiar with:

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Marcos years (13 years of dictatorship): 3,257 (estimate by Alfred McCoy, adopted by R. Robles), or roughly 250 per year.

Aquino: 556 (from 1986 to June 30, 1988 or 30 months [Kessler, from Task Force Detainees]), or 222 per year

Arroyo: 1,205 (for 10 years, from Karapatan), or roughly 120 per year

Aquino (P-Noy): 294 (from July 2010 to September 2015 [Ambay, Truthout]), or roughly 56 per year

The combined total of EJKs over a period covering almost 31 years is 5,312.

Compare that with Mr. Duterte’s total number of EJKs issued by the government: 20,322. That figure appears in the government’s report of accomplishments issued at the end of 2017 and circulated in the media, covering the period July 1, 2016 to Nov. 27, 2017. So that is only 18 months of Mr. Duterte.

So far, we’ve talked about what happens to “reds” and “druggies.” What about what happens to his perceived enemies? Think of Leila de Lima, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Maria Ressa, Antonio Trillanes IV, to name a few.

Impunity has no place in the Duterte administration? Shouldn’t that be: The Duterte administration has brought impunity to never-before-achieved depths?

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TAGS: Duterte administration, Harry Roque, impunity, Lies, Military, Palace, PNP
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