DUTERTE AND THE LASCAÑAS AFFAIR
I’ve spent perhaps at least an hour watching those Youtube streaming videos on the Lascañas testimony on the Senate hearing. If any bombshell was detonated, I did not notice or probably I missed. All in all, the ‘show’ did not appear to have lived up to the expectation of the sponsors.
What took most of the blast away it seems was the impression that it was all staged to destabilize the new government, or at least shave off from its popularity. From where I sat, there was utter lack of authenticity in the claim that Arthur Lascañas had a recent bout with his conscience leading to a so-called spiritual renewal hence the new revelations and the recantation of an earlier testimony made just a few months before in the same venue. Now, if there was any truth in his revelations, they were surely drowned by suspicions of ulterior motive and machinations of vested interest. After all, it was pretty undisguised where all the reinforcement was coming from. For all their protestations that they were not villains out to destabilize the government, the Yellows, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, unmistakably looked and acted the part. (By the way, is it true white men (Americans?)have whisked out the entire family of Lascañas out of Davao City?)
I would not say though that Lascañas was lying through and through. Give or take some obvious inconsistencies, there must be some truth to some of these, although laced with exaggeration and lies, to make the man he betrayed, President Rodrigo Duterte, an out and out, cold-blooded murderer. To be sure, the President has on several occasions actually admitted responsibility to some killings of criminals in the past. In fact, his most famous line publicly addressed to the bad guys is a menacing “I will kill you!” Hence, for all intents and purposes, the revelations somehow jibed naturally with the image that even earlier had earned him the moniker The Punisher.
The point of attack is plain: that Duterte himself was ordering the bloody extrajudicial murders in Davao City where he was mayor for so many years, the implication being that presently as President he is applying the same strategy all over the Philippines. That the dead were vicious criminals is beside the point, or so their argument goes; that these were done outside the bounds of the law is. That it sends them rascals scampering away is not the point; that they are being chased not in accordance with the legal system is. That there is relatively better peace and order situation now is beside the point; that the right to the presumption of innocence of the crime suspects was violated is the point.
A suspect is a suspect, the principle goes; he is presumed innocent until proven guilty. And no one and no one has any right to pronounce anyone guilty, let alone mete out punishment, but the courts— after due process of law. We are in a modern society; in modern society, vigilante justice has no place.
Well, no quarrel there, but if this is their strategy to provoke anger and condemnation of the President, it might just be the wrong one.
For, in popular culture, the vigilante is a beloved figure. Dirty Harry, Rambo, Mad Max, Batman, The Punisher, to name a few from a long list, are famous characters for hunting down the bad guys and smashing them to kingdom come, surely not with any judicial imprimatur. Instant justice, swift retribution, no questions asked— it actually appeals to the base instinct of any man. That thing called due process which demands long, expensive court trials, eventually ending in the acquittal of the criminals— what charm does it have? If anything at all, what the Lascañas revelations did, true or not, was bolster that same image in Duterte. Indeed, the The Punisher/Dirty Harry persona may even be part of his charisma given that he won the elections by a landslide even as that image was already appended to him. Well, unless, people begin believing that indeed the crusading vigilante has gone rogue, targeting his enemies and the innocents instead, as Lascañas and his sponsors in the Senate were trying to angle the investigation.
The reality is, especially when the justice system is weak and the bad guys of the world are getting the upper hand, the Rambos and Dirty Harrys get the applause not the boos, the gratitude not the condemnation.