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Politics as farce

/ 04:05 AM September 14, 2021

They really are not surprising — the revelations coming out of the Senate blue ribbon committee with regard to the procurement of items necessary to combat the pandemic that were apparently bidded out to fugitives from the law and friends of the “Davao Group.”

What’s really surprising is how those investigating the procurement have suddenly turned on this administration. Because for the most part, they have stood with and stood by President Duterte.

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The hostility is surprising, because Sen. Richard Gordon once washed the Duterte administration’s hands clean of the bloodbath arising from the war on drugs. As chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights in 2016, Gordon shut down the chamber’s probe into Mr. Duterte’s role in the spate of extrajudicial killings way back when the drug war was only beginning to take its toll. He concluded that Mr. Duterte did not order the killings, and neither were they state-

sponsored. These conclusions now seem to be the opposite of the preliminary findings the International Criminal Court (ICC) has as it lays out its own investigation. Gordon dismissed all the serious allegations of state-sponsored killings as an offshoot of a personal vendetta between Mr. Duterte and Sen. Leila de Lima.

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Sen. Ping Lacson’s hostility is also surprising because, in 2017, he ended the Senate’s inquiry into the Davao Death Squad after just one session. At least Gordon pretended to be interested in finding out the truth over six sessions. Lacson said he found no value in Arthur Lascañas’ testimony as a self-confessed former member of the death squad.

We have seen this before. As general elections near, the political power of the chief executive wanes. Other politicians begin to strive for political brownie points from the electorate. Voters, exhausted from six or more years of the current administration, begin to look at alternatives.

And so we see the likes of senators suddenly calling out a president they had referred to as their friend and ally for years. After all, they too see the wheels of justice about to grind as the ICC begins the prosecution process. Their continued silence would be a mark of guilt or cooperation.

Mr. Duterte, in any case, is a creation of the Aquino regime. Filipinos were alienated by the neoliberal policies of the Manila-based elite who promised a “Daang Matuwid” administration that was supposed to uplift them from the margins. While there was indeed an economic updraft created by the Aquino-era policies, they came a little too late. The benefits failed to perceptibly trickle down to the grassroots. And whatever economic gains the country had from the previous administration were altogether wiped out by the pandemic.

But if Mr. Duterte was created by the perceived socioeconomic elitism of today’s opposition, his power was fed by aligned politicians. He could not have become what he is now if not for Tito Sotto, Richard Gordon, and Ping Lacson, who never publicly harangued him for the genocidal drug war but are crying wolf now; Koko Pimentel and Manny Pacquiao, who, believing they could benefit politically from Mr. Duterte, allowed PDP-Laban to be hijacked (Nene Pimentel must be turning in his grave); Isko Moreno, who, before trading insults with Mr. Duterte, had graciously accepted a Duterte appointment as social welfare and development undersecretary in 2018; and everyone else who has remained silent while considering the political ebb and flow.

This is politics as farce, where dynasts and plutocrats converge around a populist with a supermajority and rally behind his policies no matter how destructive those policies might be — until the Big Boss’ time is up. With no true party system existing in the country, these politicians all look alike as they now jump ship in the last year of Mr. Duterte’s term.

And yet, as they make noise, we are still surprised.

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Gino LS. Paje is an underbar working for the environment department. He believes a civil servant must be beholden to the people and not to the government that appoints him.

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TAGS: Commentary, Davap Group, Gino LS. Paje, politics, Rodrigo Duterte
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