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OFFLINE: Desperate Duterte now living in fear

Nowhere is the oft-overused ‘karma’ more apt than the case of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

His crimes against the Filipino people are many, but none were worse than his ordering the police to go on a killing spree against suspected drug dealers and users.

The operative word is suspected. There are strong indications that a good number were little more than poor, young men stereotyped by the Philippine National Police as druggies.

Perhaps they did not dress too well, appeared unkempt, and had an attitude that made them unlikeable. Then there was the fact that they usually lived in low-income neighborhoods.

These were more than enough for Duterte’s goons in the PNP, along with sanctioned vigilantes to kill the suspects by the thousands.

The exact number remains unknown, although government figures cite a figure of around 6,000 while human rights groups say it could be as high as 30,000.

Perhaps the true figure is somewhere in between.

I can only cite my own anecdotal  evidence.

In the first few years of the Duterte regime, when I would take taxis nearly on a daily basis to head to work, I made it a habit to chat with the drivers whenever possible. Almost all of them had stories to tell of the ‘tokhang’ – the term used by the Duterte administration to refer to the operations against the drug suspects – that took place where they lived.

Most taxi drivers do not live in exclusive, gated communities. Some live in middle class condos. But mostly they called residential areas within Metro Manila home, although it was not unknown to meet those who lived just outside the National Capital Region.

I had always felt that taxi and jeepney drivers were the pulse of the nation. They could live relatively comfortable lives, but they had to work hard for the money. Twelve to 16 hour work days were not unusual for them, especially those raising families. 

They could, if lucky, be part of the middle class that all nations aspire to have as a large percentage of the population.

It is, therefore, in their best interest to have a country and economy that is stable and growing. Most of all, political stability is a must for them. For us all, actually.

At the height of Duterte’s drug war, the drivers I talked to were a frustrated lot. Some initially welcomed the iron fist approach against criminals. They welcomed their neighborhoods being safe, even in the absence of security guards or cops patrolling their streets.

It was when a growing number of possibly innocent victims were becoming known that their frustration turned to anger. Many personally knew tokhang victims, and said they were nothing more than ‘kanto boys’ at worst. Not criminals. Just young men looking for regular jobs without too much success.

I do not know exactly when it happened, but at a certain point during the Duterte regime, the killings had become so widespread that even PNP officials began to reject the kill, kill, kill policy of the president.

Professionals in the police force, in particular, realized that they were no longer existing to serve and to protect. They had become feared by the general public.

By that point, however, the damage had been done.

Only a handful of cops were charged for committing the heinous crime of murder of minors. Their victims were not kanto boys, but ordinary students, enrolled at public schools.

Three of the teens – Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz, and Reynalo de Guzman – became the poster boys of the innocents who were brutally killed in the name of the Duterte drug war.

Part of Kian’s abduction and killing were caught on CCTV. It is a sight that is impossible to forget. The boy was begging for his life, and was saying he had classes to attend the next day.

No parent who has seen the video that went viral can help but feel heartbroken. The crime took place in Aug. 16, 2017.

The murderous cops who ended his life were later charged and convicted of the crime.

But the question remains: What if there were no CCTV to capture the poor boy’s last moments?

As for Duterte, he never addressed the killing of innocents in the name of his drug war. Worst of all, known drug lords were never apprehended, much less charged. One notorious gangster was even seen attending functions at Malacanan Palace. He was even “allowed” to leave the country, and cool his heels in some foreign land where he enjoys the millions of pesos his drug empire earns per day.

To repeat, the drug war is not the only crime committed by Duterte. His regime is peppered with incidents showing he allowed wholesale graft and corruption to take place under his watch.

The Pharmally caper involving his health secretary is but one of many scandals that Duterte tolerated.

Then there is his letting a supposed religious leader accused of multiple serious crimes in the US to receive protection from the government. The man is a rapist, among other things.

About the absolute worst thing that Duterte did in his six years as chief executive was his tweak towards China at the expense of the Philippines’ longstanding close ties with the US. He even acted as Xi Jinping’s lapdog in his many visits to China, all for the promise of mega loans for various projects, none of which panned out.

Last week, the Great Wall that protects Duterte from facing his crimes in a court of law appeared to crumble.  Finally.

Everyone wondered why he had suddenly gone on the offensive against Bongbong Marcos, calling the incumbent president a drug addict and a son of a bitch. He then followed this up with a threat to have Mindanao secede from the republic.

Meanwhile, his son Baste – mayor of Davao City – called on Marcos to resign, no doubt with the tacit approval of the former president.

The reason for the sudden change became clear when his former spokesman said Duterte had received reports that his arrest by the International Criminal Court was imminent.

This may or may not be true. But his recent actions are clearly of a man living in fear.

Not too long ago, it was learned that Duterte had purchased no less than 300 firearms. Why anyone would need that many is mind boggling. It’s more than enough to arm a large private army.

Assault weapons were part of that armory, by the way.

Digong Duterte may be preparing for war with the government. If so, it will be a war that he cannot win. No soldier or cop in his or her right mind would join his lost cause.

Desperate Digong Duterte’s days are clearly numbered. The only thing left is for him to choose to either face the music and die like a man. Or run and hide like the cowardly, sniveling rat that he is.