Turbulent transition for Rody

CANBERRA—In the wake of strong condemnation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s support for extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, Duterte opened a running war of words on two fronts—not only with the United Nations but also with the Philippine news media.

In a statement posted on the UN website, Ban voiced concern over Duterte’s statements seen as justifying the murders of journalists.


“I unequivocally condemn  his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said. “Such comments are of particular concern in  light of ongoing impunity for serious cases of violence against journalists in the Philippines.”

Duterte campaigned on an anticrime platform, pledging to end crime within six months by killing tens of thousands of suspected criminals. He has since offered large bounties to security forces, as well as urging the general public to kill drug traffickers.



Ban’s intervention internationalized the vigilante killings linked to Duterte’s death squad in Davao City, where he had been mayor for more than 20 years, running it like a provincial warlord.

Ban’s statement followed a report by UN rapporteurs on the summary executions, urging Duterte to stop deadly violence, especially against journalists.

A UN expert on summary execution, Christof Heyns, described as “irresponsible in the extreme, and unbecoming to any leader” inflammatory remarks by Duterte, who won the presidential election last month.

Heyns cited, among other things,  Duterte’s statement that there was justification for killing journalists who took bribes or engaged in other corrupt activities.

He noted that Duterte had not formally started his term, and expressed hope that a common ground would be found between the media and the incoming President, because what would a six-year term be without communication. “No relationship works that way,” Heyns said.

Turbulent affair


This exchange marred Duterte’s transition from a provincial official to a head of state, and foreshadowed a turbulent adversarial relationship between the media and the incoming administration.

Aside from this incident, Duterte opened the transition from the Aquino administration, which steps down on June 30, on a sour note, as he  snubbed the congressional joint session proclaiming him as the 16th President of the  Philippines.

He stayed in Davao City in a gathering with members of his family and close political supporters. On that day, the center of gravity of Philippine politics shifted to his hometown.

In deciding to send his lawyers to Congress to stand in for him, Duterte ruffled feathers, showing disrespect for the protocol that officially stamps the legitimacy of his succession to the presidency.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the proclamation came after only three days of canvassing, showing not only the stability and maturity of the political system but also the clear and peaceful  transfer of power from President Aquino to Duterte.

Air of arrogance

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.  said Duterte should attend his proclamation because “it is an important part … it is the beginning of his presidency. It is the seal of his victory in the last election.”

In contrast, Duterte belittled the proclamation. In a  press conference in Davao City,  he appeared disdainful of the proclamation as a process of legitimation.

He displayed an air of arrogance when he announced he was staying away from the event and was sending his lawyers instead.

In announcing his boycott, Duterte said, “I am not attending any proclamation, I’ve never attended any proclamation in my life.”

The Davao mayor for two decades left the impression he did not need Congress to validate his victory. He said he would rather spend his last few days in his hometown before he formally takes office in Malacañang on June 30.

Recipe for dictatorship

In a political system where the principle of majority rule is held sacrosanct for the operation of a functional electoral democracy, the election of Duterte defies the conventional rule.

He did not win by a majority; he was  elected by a plurality of just over 39 percent of the total vote.

This boils down to the fact that 60 percent of the voters did not vote for him. This did not stop his supporters from  claiming he won by a landslide and he received a mandate to run the country the way he pleases, that is, according to his whims and caprice.

The question arises: What is his mandate? This is subject to various interpretations by Duterte’s supporters.

According to some of them who claim to read the mind and intentions of Duterte, the election results showed he was given a mandate to install a benevolent dictatorship.

There is no such mandate given to Duterte by the voters. His followers are reading too much from the election results. This notion of benevolent dictatorship has no basis on fact.

It is a contradiction in terms. This doctrine is arrant nonsense that presents a dangerous and antidemocratic perversion of constitutional democracy.  It is a recipe for one-man rule, unchecked by institutional constraints on abuse of power.

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