Tuesday, 17 April 2018 15:57

Is Duterte a dictator?

The answer is not as simple as one would like, and the reasoning is necessarily nonlinear.

Part of the reason this is so lies in the Philippines’ own recent history of dictatorship. Ferdinand Marcos, a consummate lawyer, created an elaborate legal infrastructure to enable what was called constitutional authoritarianism — what Marcos critic turned foremost apologist Teodoro Valencia called “martial law with a smile.”

In his younger days, Marcos could orate for hours — not in the mold of President Duterte’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings, but in the vein of Fidel Castro’s extemporaneous political philosophizing. He hardly used directly threatening language (one famous exception was his retort to student leader Edgar Jopson as a mere “grocer’s son”). While he was a brutal dictator in fact, he was very conscious of appearances and careful to keep them.

Mr. Duterte does not often give a damn. He holds his tongue only when it comes to former president Fidel Ramos’ criticisms; he pays tribute to leaders who do not criticize him (Vladimir Putin: “My idol.” Xi Jinping: “I simply love” him. Donald Trump: “A deep thinker.”) Everyone else, especially women critics, gets the full I-am-the-President-not-you treatment—and many people see this as a form of dictatorship, or at least of dictatorial impulses given free rein.

Another part of the reason is we’ve called other presidents dictatorial before — which makes Mr. Duterte’s actual embrace of the dictatorial possibilities in the Philippine presidency that much harder to counter.

In “Marcos was the worst (3),” part of my occasional series on the true and perfidious legacy of the Marcos family, I wrote about the Singapore fantasy of the Marcos loyalists: the idea that, in the words of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his father would have turned the Philippines into another Singapore if he had continued in office.

“Why is it that some Filipinos — not only those who are too young, but even those old enough to have lived through the Marcos years — seem ready to buy into this counterfactual version of history?

“Many factors must be at work. The loss of perspective: The events have receded into what is now the distant past (more years separate our time from the declaration of martial law than from the start of World War II to military rule in 1972). The failure of education: Our generation has not done an adequate job of reminding the nation of the atrocities of the Marcos dictatorship. The power of myth: Marcos allies have been successful in presenting the beginning of an alternative history, especially online. The relativism of protest: Antigovernment critics of whatever stripe fall into the relativist habit of denouncing the incumbent president as the worst of the time (scroll through newspaper pages and see the vilification of one president after another: Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo, Aquino again). Not least, the lure of innocence: Media organizations today are too noisy, busy with present-day stories of iniquity and inequality.”

That relativism of protest has led protesters—including but not limited to Bayan—to denounce every single president since Marcos as an incipient or undeclared dictator. A Bulatlat article on “progressive groups” marking the 42nd anniversary of the declaration of martial law, in 2014, was headlined: “Groups call to end ‘Aquino dictatorship.’” A 2007 story by DPA News on the 35th anniversary of martial law carried this omnibus quote attributed to Karapatan and Selda: “There is a new dictator and kleptocrat in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her cohorts under an undeclared martial law.” That narrative of absolute power concentrated in a presidential dictatorship goes all the way back, through Joseph Estrada and Fidel Ramos, to Corazon Aquino.

It is true that the Philippine presidency, despite its single-term limitation, retains vast powers, including command of the administrative infrastructure of justice and oversight of a quarter-million members of the uniformed services. And it is also true that a vindictive or single-minded president can use these powers to retaliate against critics; this is how I understand (and to point to only two examples) the jailing of Ka Jimmy Tadeo under Cory Aquino and the unseating of Dick Gordon under Estrada.

But if these presidents were dictators, understood in the usual sense, what does that make of President Duterte? Galactic overlord?

A third part of the reason: Despite the absence of a new constitution (the centerpiece of Marcos’ strategy), influential people in and outside the government already act as though the President were a dictator: the pliable majority in the Supreme Court that privileged his election mandate (a plurality) over public support for the Constitution (an overwhelming majority); local officials and intimidated businessmen who fail to vigorously question the legal basis of the Boracay closure; bureaucrats and advertisers who put pressure on the media to please him.

President Duterte has dictatorial tendencies, but is the Philippines back under one-man rule? Not yet — but we’re getting there, fast.

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/112516/is-duterte-a-dictator#ixzz5CulTX7JQ 
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Published in News
Duterte given patently false data

First of 2 Parts

PRESIDENT Duterte last week argued for the return of the death penalty by referring to the purported statistics reported by the Bureau of Corrections head Benjamin de los Santos in his recent testimony to the Senate.

The bureaucrat testified: “BuCor statistics show that before the abolition of the death penalty we had 189 inmates convicted for the commission of heinous crimes. After such abolition, a staggering 6,024 were sentenced for heinous crimes, an astonishing 3,280 percent increase.”

That’s a total lie, a patent fabrication: The Senate must cite the BuCor official for perjury, and for attempting to fool it to pass a law re-imposing the death penalty by presenting false information.

There is no such data: Neither the BuCor nor its mother agency, the justice department, has collated information on convictions on heinous crimes.

The only BuCor data that could approximate the number of “inmates convicted for heinous crimes” are the number of its yearly admissions of convicts. The number of those convicted of heinous crimes—such as murder, rape, and kidnapping— may be estimated based on its data that 48 percent of convicts in its prisons are “maximum security” inmates.

(To clarify, the BuCor under the justice department is charged with supervising six national prisons, including the biggest, the national penitentiary at the New Bilibid Prison, with its inmates consisting of those already convicted and with sentences of more than three years. On the other hand, the inmates in the jails of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which is under the Philippine National Police, are those still on trial and with convictions of less than three years.)

As the data below show, after the June 2006 ban of the death penalty, there was very minimal increase in the number of those convicted for murders and rapes, the two most frequent crimes punishable by death, with very little deviation from the yearly average of 2,558 incidences.

The slight increases are due of course to the increases in our country’s population, which grew from 87 million in 2006 to 101 million in 2015. Indeed, for both 2016 when there was no death penalty, and 2005 when there was, the heinous crime rate per 100,000 population, was the same, at 2.8.

The data therefore indisputably shows that the abolition of the death penalty had not encouraged more heinous crimes, contrary to the claims of the BuCor official and proponents of the death penalty.

The Philippine data isn’t at all surprising: rigorous, scientific studies show that the death penalty has no impact on the incidence of heinous crimes. Two studies in the United States that claimed to prove that the abolition of the death penalty increased murder rates in certain US states, were later proven to be “fundamentally flawed” by that country’s National Research Council.

In fact, murder rates from 1900 to 2010 in American states in which there is no death penalty were even lower than in states with capital punishment. A 2009 survey of criminologists showed that over 88 percent believed that the death penalty was not a deterrent to murder.

The issue is really so commonsensical. As Amnesty International has pointed out: “The threat of execution at some future date is unlikely to enter the minds of those acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, those who are in the grip of fear or rage, those who are panicking while committing another crime (such as a robbery), or those who suffer from mental illness or mental retardation and do not fully understand the gravity of their crime.”

In essence, the death penalty has been a remnant from our civilization’s violent past, unenlightened by humanity’s higher values, mainly the recognition of the mystery and wonder of a human life, that took more than a thousand years to develop. We have only learned in the past 50 years that a human does not totally have free will, with his baser instincts capable at times of completely taking over his reason or values, even as we have to pretend we are captains of our souls.

From being a penalty imposed by all nations in the past, 140 nations have abolished it in law and in practice, and only 54 retain it in practice. Only the US (31 out of its 52 states) among the Western nations retain it, and not even “violent” Russia in practice.

It’s not a coincidence that many of the American states that do have the death penalty are those where Christians who take the Bible literally dominate.

Excluding in the discussion China and other nations whose cultures are still dominated by the primacy of the group — as in an ant colony — rather than the individual, the most important reason why there is still capital punishment in this day of enlightenment and age of reason will surprise you.


It is religion, particularly Christianity and its offshoot, Islam. Christianity and Islam have molded most of humanity’s values for at least a thousand years, and these two have always brainwashed people to believe that God himself sees vengeance as a value to be upheld, that an eye must be paid for an eye taken, a life for a life extinguished.

As late as 1952, Pope Pius XII even made the ridiculous argument that the “State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life.” Rather, he argued, “in expiation of his crime, [the criminal]has already disposed of his right to life.” Until 1969, the Vatican City’s statutes had capital punishment — for the crime of attempting to assassinate the Pope.

Pope Francis has stated that he is against the death penalty, but that it is his personal opinion and he is appealing for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it is “cruel and unnecessary.” The Vatican had officially supported the 2015 United Nations campaign against the death penalty.

But believe it or not, Catholic dogma still doesn’t see anything wrong with capital punishment as a right of the state to defend itself. No wonder the support of many, if not most, Filipinos for the return of capital punishment in this unlucky, dominantly Catholic nation.

We will be the first country to re-impose the death penalty, and the second time around after the ex-general Fidel Ramos rammed a law through Congress in 1993 authorizing it. Gloria Arroyo abolished it in 2006. Duterte wants it back, after given false information.

What a country that keeps changing its mind on such a fundamental issue.

(On Friday, it was not the 2006 abolition of the death penalty that encouraged more crimes, rather it was the incompetence of the BS Aquino III regime and I will show that with facts, figures, and logic.)
Published in Commentaries