IWKY and other threats

ICYMI, ATM, OOTD, OTW, LMK, GBU, and HBD are some of the most common abbreviated messages we often read on our gadgets. Test yourself if you know what they stand for. IWKY, though not one of the messages likely to land on our gadgets—God forbid—is a threat we often heard from no less than the elected former president of this republic whose middle name might as well be IWKY. It stands for “I will kill you.” He often said it as it is or in so many mouthfuls and with expletives to go with it. In one column piece, I did give him that middle name. Rodrigo “IWKY” Duterte. How about that.

He might not have killed her but he did will to have former senator Leila de Lima suffer in solitary confinement in a well-guarded detention facility in Camp Crame for close to seven years. It is hard to believe that he had nothing to do with it. Now freshly out of detention after a judge allowed bail last week for her third and last case that is being heard (having been acquitted in two), De Lima, Duterte’s nemesis, did not mince words when she said, “There will be a day of reckoning.” In the language of the streets and movie scripts: “May araw din kayo.” The day will come, she said in so many words, for the chief jailer whose admirers fancied calling him “The Punisher” and also for those who conspired to punish her for exposing the so-called Davao Death Squad that he had allegedly willed into being. De Lima headed the Commission on Human Rights and, later, the Department of Justice before she was elected senator. Her lawyer said that De Lima, now out on bail, could help in the International Criminal Court’s investigations of Duterte’s bloody drug war.

Recently, Duterte had his mouth in full throttle with IWKYs directed at ACT party list Rep. France Castro who lost no time in filing a criminal case citing grave threats. Castro had opposed Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte’s (the former president’s daughter) request for confidential funds. News reports said he refused to file a counter affidavit, that he would rather see himself languishing in a congested city jail (why not?) unless authorities offer better accommodations for a former head of state. Castro is no pushover and the grave threats case would be a test case on how far it can go for those like him. Him, the misogynist former president who made people laugh at how he might also want to fall in line to rape a foreign missionary. Him, whose bloody drug war saw tens of thousands of victims filling up morgues. A must-read is newly released “Some People Need Killing: A Memoir of Murder in my Country” (Random House, 2023) by journalist Patricia Evangelista who risked life and limb to tell the story.

And so it has come to this.

If I might write a sequel to a piece of fiction I had written in this space (“Autumn of the Autocrat, a simulacrum,” 9/20/18), it might begin this way:

Several men in police uniform, one of them with a pair of handcuffs, came at mid-morning and found him soaking in his sweat and other body juices inside his mosquito net that he fancied to be bulletproof. “I had a wonderful dream,” he mumbled, “but you cut it short. I will kill you!” He looked ashen and dejected, smelling of herbal potions that his factotum rubbed on the soles of his feet every night. “Anong meron?” he asked.

Here he was now, the autocrat who liked tasting the livers of his enemies and of those who defied him. Ecce homo. This particular day had long been prophesied by those who could read the signs in the wind and the waters, in the way gunshots rang out in the wee hours of the morning, in the way blood in the city alleys and the grassy hillsides gave out a red, ominous glow even in the faint light of the waning moon. “Maayong buntag,” he mumbled. (To be continued.)

But yes, I do worry about the security of De Lima and of the men, convicts in prison among them, who had testified against her about drug money she had allegedly received—and who later recanted. It would not take much for evil men to simply silence them one by one and for good. But her faith sustains her, had, in fact, sustained her during her long dark night, as she had narrated in a long interview that I shared in four parts in this space in 2021. Her well had not run dry or, even if it nearly did, she kept on drinking. In detention, she had become a contemplative in the heart of a world fraught with cruelty. Danger lurks still. One can take comfort in the words of Jesuit Fr. Thomas Green in his “Drinking from a Dry Well” (one in his spiritual series): “The real danger is in trying to keep the control of my own life and destiny to myself.”


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