No matter their official justification for being — whether “so the trains will run on time,” “to save the Republic and reform society,” or “to rid the country of crime and illegal drugs” — dictatorships are premised on the presumption that the dictator knows best and everyone else is ignorant and incompetent.
Within months of his coming to power in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte’s profanities, tirades, threats, outrageous remarks about women, human rights, heads of foreign states, and what he was actually doing, had called the attention of international media — in Japan, the United States and Europe — to what was happening in the Philippines.
The killing of three priests over the last six months — of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June — has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.
His defenders and partisans, as well as the trolls his regime pays out of public funds, describe President Rodrigo Duterte’s “leadership” as “decisive.”
They’re referring to the speed with which he tried to address the drug problem — the extent of which his minions, among them Alan Peter Cayetano, and he himself, exaggerate — and his promise to end it within six months. (Cayetano told the United Nations last year that seven million Filipinos are drug addicts, while Mr. Duterte pegs the number at four million. PDEA, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, put it at less than two million in 2016.)
The killing of young people, minors and children that have been blamed on the police of the Duterte regime is not without precedent.
The same atrocities were committed by the then PC-INP (Philippine Constabulary Integrated National Police) and the military of which it was then a part during the Marcos terror regime, which even before the declaration of martial law in 1972 was already abducting and murdering youth activists. Both are crimes against the future that is the youth’s promise. There is a difference between the intent of one and that of the other, but their consequences are the same.