Duterte Doctrine and the generals wbur.org

Duterte Doctrine and the generals Featured

THESE past weeks, the airwaves have been dominated by the spectacle generated by the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings that started with the Bureau of Corrections’ (BuCor) Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) anomalies, then segued into the illegal drugs inside the prisons run by high-value prisoners, culminating into a probe of the involvement of the police. As always, this Senate committee’s main purpose is to investigate government anomalies in “aid of legislation,” trusting that the results of these hearings will be used as inputs in the drafting of new laws or amendment of old ones. As the hearings are widely covered by national TV, there is something mesmerizing about a TV camera when directed towards a grandstanding politician. This induces a Jekyll and Hyde behavioral change as this could be worth millions of pesos in media exposure.

The current hearings started as a reaction to the public outcry over the impending release of the rapist-murderer mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna. Under the GCTA Law, those convicted of heinous crimes are excluded from being considered. The investigations revealed that money allegedly exchanged hands for the convict’s inclusion, and so too with those thousands freed during the terms of the BuCor chiefs, now Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Nicanor Faeldon.

Drug trade at Bilibid
The probe exposed the rampant trade of illegal drugs in the prisons where convicted drug pushers and drug lords have been given the run of the place. The high-value convicts were practically in control with the collusion of prison guards. This has been denied by the former BuCor chiefs.

The inquiry further uncovered that some of the illegal drugs were sourced from police officers. This is an altogether different breed of uniformed officers with this latest moniker entering the lexicon of common criminal usage: “ninja cops.” Picture the ramrod no-nonsense stance of a Philippine Military Academy (PMA)-trained police general, and as shadows fall, is transformed into a practitioner of the occult. Such is the image of the more than a dozen police officers, now arrayed before the senators. They confiscate illegal drugs and recycle the same within the prison’s walls.

Ninja cop coddler
Thus, the Senate blue ribbon committee stumbled upon a criminal conspiracy involving the highest leadership of the Philippine National Police (PNP), with Director General Oscar Albayalde no less being named as the alleged ninja cop coddler.

But this is not a simple story of just one general. Albayalde (PMA ‘86) denied all accusations. I cannot recall an instance when a general was accused of crimes by his peers. In an eyeball-to-eyeball konfrontasi, Director General Aaron Aquino (PMA ‘85) testified that Albayalde interceded for 13 “ninja cops,” reputed to be his chosen people. Aquino’s testimony was corroborated by retired general and now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong (PMA ‘82), former head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

By now volumes have been written in the dailies, broadsheets and social media and video capture from the Senate hearings replayed in You Tube and Facebook, that my recounting of this sordid narrative will be superfluous. This article will not examine the guilt or innocence of these public officials. This will be an apt topic for another time.

The doctrine
This part delves on nuances impacting governance and the role of our President in unfolding events and his crusade against corruption. To recall, DU30 has been very emphatic that he will “…not tolerate any corruption in his administration and he will dismiss from office any of his men (women) who are tainted even by a ‘whiff of corruption’; and he is ready to sack any public officials even on the basis of false allegations of corruption.” (Inquirer.net, March 30, 2017.) Thus was born the Duterte Doctrine of a “whiff of corruption.” This mantra was a keystone of his anti-corruption initiatives barely a year into his regime. This was welcomed chiefly by the DDS and Fist Bumpers, which saw the need for an iron hand to eliminate the single biggest festering sore underlying good governance. The constitutionalists, liberal democrats and human rights advocates were skeptical but had no collective voice as the Deegong effectively castrated the vanishing opposition.

He then demonstrated the specifics of this doctrine by firing the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) for “loss of trust and confidence.” Imputations of corruption and illegal payoffs were added to the menu of charges. The head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) was likewise sacked. Both were disposed of with a minimum of fuss and investigation, unable to formally defend themselves and leaving their good names and reputations shattered. There followed several more over the next few months simply on a “whiff of corruption.”

Erosion of the doctrine
Then the Duterte Doctrine began to erode. In August 2018, P11 billion worth of shabu (an illegal drug) was smuggled through the Manila International Container Port in magnetic lifters, which were later found empty and abandoned in a Cavite warehouse. Gen. Isidro Lapeña (PMA ‘73) Bureau of Customs Chief was implicated in the smuggling. It was untenable for Lapeña to stay on as Customs chief. He was rewarded with a Cabinet position as chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority by PRRD. Lapeña was part of DU30’s security team during his presidential campaign.

But the incident that may yet plunge the doctrine into a chasm of incredulity is his dogged attempt to defend Albayalde, the alleged coddler of the ninja cops. The contradiction is in DU30’s insistence that strong and clear evidence be produced on the general’s involvement, despite the testimonies of Generals Aquino and Magalong. This is a drastic departure from his “whiff of corruption” refrain in firing Ismael Sueno of DILG and Peter Laviña of NIA. The President did not fire Albayalde, but the latter has resigned.

Rule of law axiomatic
I will quote from my column of Aug. 31, 2018:
“There is no question that the President has the power to terminate from [the] government bureaucracy anyone who fails to serve at his pleasure. But the President must be subject to the minimums of fairness and the etiquette of dismissal, for no apparent reason than that the process is widely regarded as civilized behavior. But more importantly, there is a greater overarching principle that covers the conduct of the mighty, the powerful and the humble — the Rule of Law.

“In a democracy under which we claim we practice, prudent laws are its foundation and the glue that must bind a civilized society. It is imperative that the laws laid down by government must be followed by all its citizens. The simplicity of the concept of the rule of law is oftentimes made complicated by those authorized to uphold it.

“From another standpoint, nations with weak leaders breed weak laws and will find themselves in a quagmire of corruption and lawlessness. Nations with prudent laws but governed by leaders void of political will to implement such laws may only cripple the primacy of the rule of law. But strong leaders with political will must understand that all are equal under the dominance of the Rule of Law; none above. President Rodrigo Duterte must aspire to be one of the latter.

“By these precepts, the Duterte Doctrine is defective.”000
Read 507 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 October 2019 12:15
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