Poking at 'narco-pols' is exciting feat

The Freeman

The highly-anticipated naming of alleged narco-politicians by the president came at an ungodly hour, past midnight on Sunday. Those in the list woke up that morning to a nightmare come alive.

When the President Rodrigo Duterte named five alleged narco-generals four weeks ago, he said he was compelled by his sense of duty to the country. The president knew he may be unfairly subjecting the generals - and now the politicians, judges and police officials - to trial by publicity.

But as it happened, he saw no other way to jolt the enemy in the war against drugs than resorting to this. Use the presidential "bully pulpit" to destroy the name of public officials in the list; that is, even before they could be charged in court.

Yet I yield to the wisdom of the president on his decision to name the public officials in the list provided by his intelligence apparatus. It is unfortunate that we have come to a point where we would rather pin our hopes to a single strong leader than to the pompously complex legal processes and institutions whose foundations have for years been chipped away, brick by brick, by corruption and dishonesty.

In desperation, people are allowing the straight-talking and highly-trusted leader to pull out all the stops - permissible or otherwise - to win the war against drugs. Never mind that an accused shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Strictly speaking, that edict is addressed to the court of law not to the court of public opinion.

Will shaming public officials suspected to be protectors of drug lords win us the war against drugs?

Well, it will help us win some battles; satisfy our appetite for scandal and public drama of extra-judicial punishment and suffering. However, in the long term, I think it is dangerous to our civil institutions if we solely rely on one leader who undeniably offers bold solutions and shares the commoners' contempt for institutional lethargy.

What will happen after that leader leaves office?

Indeed, the success of democracy and the rule of law in a country depend not on having strong leaders, but on having strong institutions.

Make no mistake, I'm excited about what the president has done. By naming the alleged big fishes, President Duterte placed his political capital on the line. He knows that with the vast intelligence resources of his office, the government now has the burden to build a solid case against those he named.

As president, he owes it to the nation to see this through up to the end with deft and authority: Make the legal processes work in order to hold the alleged narco-politicians and narco-generals accountable under the rule of law.

That should be the more highly anticipated part.


Another exciting but totally unrelated thing is the arrival in the Philippines last Saturday of the much-anticipated augmented reality game Pokémon Go. This latest craze, played on smartphones and e-tablets, is probably flooding your Facebook feeds by now. So if you're still not into it, why don't you give it a try.

A word of caution, though; it can be distracting and a waste of time. But for me, it gave me an excuse to walk more and increase my regular exercise-looking for those wild Pokémon lurking somewhere. When the wife asked me to accompany her to the grocery store last weekend, I immediately said yes - for the strong chance of encountering a Pokémon or stopping by a PokéStop.

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