The other view

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

A number of people are questioning the methods being employed by President Duterte in his fight against illegal drugs, methods that have never been secret to the public before they voted overwhelmingly to install him in office. In fact, Duterte issued a caveat before the elections - if you are not sure about him, do not vote for him.

Unlike other candidates who would move heaven and earth if they can for every vote, who would use every trick in the book to attain electoral advantage, it was only Duterte who had the gumption to leave his fate entirely in the hands of the electorate. After the votes were counted, it was clear the people not only elected a new president, they also approved of everything he had threatened to do.

And so, for starters, Duterte named five police generals that he said were involved in drugs. But no sooner had the words left his mouth than a few bleeding hearts started to take issue with Duterte regarding his public shaming of these generals without presentation of evidence. What if Duterte is wrong, they ask. What if he had been fed the wrong information?

The questions are valid, of course. That they are valid, however, does not necessarily invalidate the action being questioned. When Duterte came out with the names of police generals he suspected of involvement in drugs, it was not as if he did so by complete surprise. He has actually been warning about it for some time and repeated it just before taking his oath of office. If those named are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the namer also needs the benefit of the doubt.

When you consider that only small fry started surrendering in droves, except for those killed by cops who suddenly discovered a surprising zeal in going after pushers and peddlers, and that no big fish really emerged from the vast ocean of illegal drugs that has swamped the Philippines, it becomes crystal clear that no big fish is going to surface unless Duterte does the surfacing himself.

So he did. But now it appears as if he is the bad guy. For the first time since the country came under the overpowering influence of illegal drugs, here is a man who has finally decided to take the bull by the horns. And now he is being pilloried for his actions. But why, because the people he named are generals? If hearts have to bleed at all for justice, let the bleeding apply for all, and for whatever cause or circumstance.

One thing that ought not to get lost in all the brouhaha following the First Friday Bombing is the fact that Duterte is the president. And that does not mean what you probably have in mind. What it means is that there is no person in the entire country who has access to as much information as he does. And such information does not get provided him only when he assumes office.

As early as possible, probably right after his proclamation as winner, a president already starts getting high-level top security briefings that just do not get reported to the public. The reason for this is that a president cannot be groping in the dark if he is to be clueless on his first day in office. So vital is the presidency that even during the campaign, all candidates for president are already assigned presidential security.

In other words, the presidency and frivolity just do not mix. When the president opens his mouth, everyone must take seriously every word that comes out of it, regardless of whether you like it or not. Any doubts can be validated or checked against facts. Failure to do so can result in a huge embarrassment, as when the media reported a Duterte joke as fact and got burned.

It is indeed a sad thing to be shamed, and it must be terrible for the families of those who have been named. But they will have their day in court. And they can always sue Duterte after six years if the circumstances allow. But Duterte has to be given the chance to do it, as well as the presumption of regularity in what he is doing. Unless it isn't pretty obvious yet, he is probably our first and only chance against the menace. Heaven help the Philippines if he fails.


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