Dateline: Hong Kong.
Just got off CX906 from Manila.
I just spent a week in Manila -- and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was at the Shangri-La Makati, one of the best hotels I've ever stayed in. Everything was luxurious, the breakfast buffet was stupendous, and they provided an excellent lunch on the job -- a rarity. The room was great, and everyone I had contact with on the hotel staff was friendly, courteous, and helpful. I visited the Greenhills Market and did a little shopping -- Ralph Lauren Polo shirts, 3 for $25 -- and saw a couple of movies, American Made and American Assassin. I don't know that I'd recommend either of them, but they were all right.
So why the title of this post? Because when I arrived at the airport, I picked up a copy of the Manila Times ("Trusted since 1898," according to the masthead), and read three headlines:
1. Sandigan allows bail for Jinggoy.
"A special division of the Sandiganbayan [an appellate court] has voted 3-2 to allow jailed former senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada to post bail in connection with the plunder case filed against him for allegedly misusing P183 million [Philippine pesos, about US$250,000], court sources told the Manila Times."
This was the major headline, and it's a run-of-the-mill story about political corruption -- as I learned from the job I did all week, an arbitration involving billions of dollars and the government-run lottery corporation, there are plenty of these "plunder" cases, where influential politicians or their cronies siphon off huge amounts of taxpayers' money. So yes, there's political corruption in the Philippines. This was the least alarming of the three headlines.
2. Bells Toll In Drug War Protest.
This one was considerably more disturbing. It got the picture: funeral workers handling a bodybag. Subheads were "War on drugs in the Philippines: Police say over 3,800 people killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's drugs war" and "Thousands of other people have been killed in unexplained circumstances; rights groups warn that police and state-sponsored gunmen are committing mass murder."
Click here for the Wikipedia entry on Duterte (nickname, Digong). As Trump might say, he's a bad dude. Another nickname for him is DU30: the Urban Dictionary says "DU30 is a shorthand nickname for Filipino politician (and president as of 2016) Rodrigo Duterte, as a pun pronunciation of "thirty" as "terti" or "terte", so DU30 is said like
The big front page picture is a graph, showing the steady acceleration of killings of alleged drug dealers on the street, which started after Duterte was elected president in 2016, including 400 in August.
"Church bells tolled across the mainly Catholic Philippines late Thursday as bishops rallied opposition to the 'reign of terror' that has left thousands dead in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. Duterte has made the drug war the top priority of his administration, and has regularly encouraged more bloodshed with comments such as describing himself as 'happy to slaughter' three million addicts."
3. "'War on drugs' becomes a war on human rights." (It's a long article; I've reproduced it in full in the next post.)
It was proposed that the Philippine government fund the Commission on Human Rights to the tune of P678 million (US$13 million). However, they're setting the funding at a little less than that. The House of Representatives has just passed a bill setting this year's grant at P1,000 -- US$20.
Yes, you read that right. That's less than the price of three Polo shirts at Greenhills Market. (And I thought Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus were a bunch of crazies.)
The Senate -- like in the U.S., a more temperate body than the House -- seems likely to resist passage of such a bill.
The article goes on to mention "the unverified allegations about [Duterte's] eldest son Paolo's involvement in illegal drug smuggling and with the Chinese Triad."
"Like cats that had just swallowed their canaries, they posed for pictures after their ignominious act, smiling and gloating and flashing DU30's symbol of a clenched fist [fitting]." I don't entirely approve of Mr. Tatad's sentence structure and choice of adjectives, but the meaning is clear.
"DU30 showered then-US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, US President Barack Obama [he famously called Obama a 'son of a whore'], UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the leaders of the European Union, and UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, Agnes Callamard, among others, with sexual curses for expressing their concern about the extra-judicial killings carried out by the Philippine National Police and so-called 'vigilantes'."
"In recent days, DU30 told the police to shoot human rights workers who would 'interfere' in their 'work.' 'Work' usually involved killing alleged drug suspects while reportedly 'resisting arrest.'" Shooting human rights workers? Insanity.
"From May 23 onward, there was a brief lull in the killings because of the Maute Islamic State-influenced attack on Marawi City, which created a new front. But the war on drugs resumed with new kill quotas for the police, and an increased bounty of P20,000 [about US$400] per kill, according to highly informed police sources."
How does this compare to atrocities which have historically been committed in the Philippines? "In just 13 months of the DU30 presidency, some 14,100 human rights incidents were reported to have occurred." If that's the number reported, how many actually occurred? "In all of Ferdinand Marcos' 21 years, nine of which came under Martial Law, fighting bloody communist and Moro [Muslim] rebellions, some 9,400 incidents were reported to have occurred. In the [Mexican] Sineloa cartel, there were supposed to have been 100,000 incidents in eight years [that's just over 12,000 per year]." When your human rights record is in the same ballpark as Ferdinand Marcos, something's wrong.
Recently, at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, Prince of Jordan, said: "In the Philippines, I continue to be gravely concerned by the President's open support for a shoot-to-kill policy regarding suspects as well as by the apparent absence of credible investigations into reports of thousands of extra-judicial killings and the failure to prosecute any perpetrator."