Walking the Way of the Wise

Every step we make may be headed toward the right or wrong direction. We need wisdom in small and big matters. In major decisions, how to choose and why we choose are as crucial as what we choose. Our daily life, our destiny —- yes, even our eternity —- may hinge on it. Therefore let us be wise. “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand…” (Proverbs 8:1-2)crossroads-997123_640

Lying is No Light Matter (Part 1): Truth is Sacred

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When a witness is called in to testify in court or in a legislative proceeding, he takes an oath that runs this way, “I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God…” The witness raises his right hand and declares this oath, an outward pledge of rendering a truthful testimony in the immediate presence of God Almighty.

Truth is a sacred word attached to God’s character of holiness and perfection. For this reason alone, telling the truth should never be taken lightly. Truth is the state or quality of being whole, honest, just, fair and right. God’s Word says that God is Truth. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

In the courts, truth consists of facts and evidence of reality corroborating testimonies of credible witnesses. To ascertain the truth, a fair trial should be conducted or in a legislation inquiry, a fair proceeding. The burden of the accuser is to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a crime charged was committed and that the defendant is the person who committed the crime.

Lying is the opposite of truth and it comes in different forms. Libel, slander, fabrication, obstruction of the truth, cover-ups, half-truths, flip-flopping statements, inconsistencies, distortions, obscurity, exaggerations, minimizing of truth, deception, manipulation or twisting of facts, deceit, malicious spreading of false reports, baseless facts, diminished facts, blatant lies and outright denial of truth are all different ways of lying. In a judicial proceeding, lying is a false testimony given by a witness.  In a legislative inquiry, lying under oath is called perjury.

God hates lying. “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Lying has personal, relational and national consequences. A lie sears the conscience of the one speaking falsely, destroys relationships, contaminates civil and public discourse and creates discord that endangers society.

In various courts around the world, perjury and false testimonies carry punitive sanctions. Likewise, because of its destructive effects, God in his “heavenly court” judges every false word. Lying has four spiritual consequences. First, destruction: “You (God) will destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6). Second, separation from God’s presence: “He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence” (Psalm 101:7). Third, punishment: “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape” (Proverbs 19:5). “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies shall perish” (Proverbs 19:9). And last, eternal death: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

So, it is no light matter to lie — it carries temporal and eternal damning consequences.

This should remind the House of Congress of its sacred duty to process truth in its ongoing inquiry of the proliferation of drugs at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) that began on September 21, 2016. The entire nation has been begun to witness the initial proceeding of the House Committee on Justice to find out whether it would keep its word to ferret out the truth about the alleged multi-billion peso narcotic industry in the national penitentiary, supposedly to aid legislation.

But the quality of the proceedings, the character and intent of the witnesses, and adequacy of their testimonies are questionable and fall short of establishing de Lima’s culpability as the alleged mastermind of the NBP drug matrix. Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II of the Department of Justice (DOJ)  lined up nine witnesses, seven convicts serving sentence in the national penitentiary, two of them National Bureau of Intelligence agents. All pinned down the senator as having received payola by the millions for protecting the drug trade in the Bilibid; but none yet has proved the senator had received money from them.

Aguirre admitted he has yet to build a solid “airtight” case against de Lima; and yet in the house hearing he has somehow succeeded in a trial by publicity that has put de Lima’s   reputation, honor and future at great risk and has endangered her life as well. To date, the beleaguered senator has reported having received 2,000 text messages and calls harassing her with vulgar words and death threats.

Consequently, the apprehension of many that the congressional hearing is a retaliatory move by the president against the senator’s initiation of the hearings in the Senate on the spate of extra-judicial killings in the country is somehow being played out. It is one thing to build a strong case against a legitimate suspect; and another of building a case upon half-truths, hearsay and undocumented allegations with possible dubious intent.

Despite the grim start,  truth-loving Filipinos are still keeping a watchful eye, hoping and praying for a truthful and fair investigation of the reprehensible illegal drug trading inside the NBP, not a zarzuela, a lutong makaw, a rigged process. The cry for reforms in our criminal justice system is deep but reforms can only succeed if investigations are based on truth, not false evidence or perjured testimonies; otherwise, the nation will suffer from the pain of seeing truth, justice, righteousness and peace mocked, their meanings lost in the maze of lies that only sow confusion, chaos, dissension and division.

May the legislators and the justice secretary, along with his witnesses and their battery of lawyers, ALIGN with God’s standard of integrity, honesty and propriety  as they fulfill their roles as elected and / or appointed public servants. It is their solemn duty to seek, speak, sustain and defend the truth at all cost because a just proceeding is not only a public trust but also a sacred trust. May they have the fear of God and not be hasty with their condemnation but ensure that due process is observed to all. May they choose to bring the true culprits behind bars and not allow the innocent ones to suffer as scapegoats.

Furthermore, may they realize there is a Higher Judge who watches from above, examining every motive and judging every human action. He will destroy deceitful and wicked schemes. May they not allow themselves to be deceived for God cannot be mocked — whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Galatians 6:7). May they pursue honesty, probity and justice, and discern right from wrong. If they choose this moral course of action, God will be pleased. If they do not,  God’s wrath awaits them, for “an honest witness tells the truth, but a false witness tells lies…  [and] the Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” (Proverbs 12:17,22). In the end, no matter how thick the lies are, GOD WILL CAUSE THE TRUTH TO SHINE AND TRIUMPH!

Spiritual Consequences of an Electoral Choice: Sizing Up the First 100 Days of the Duterte Presidency

Almost five months ago, President Duterte won by a sizable plurality, but he was not a majority president. He racked 16.6 million votes (38.6%) in the May 2016 elections gaining 6.6 million more votes than his closest rival and became the 16th president of the Philippine Republic, but there were still about two-thirds of the voting population who did not vote for him.  Obviously, with these statistics alone, unity was Mr. Duterte’s topmost challenge when he assumed office.

But unity was going to be elusive. The pre-election campaign issues geared the nation for one of the more bitter, divisive and controversial elections in Philippine history. The division was so sharp that it estranged families, friends, churches and the nation. Perceptions differed on the  credible criteria for judging the presidential candidates’ credibility, platform and policies based on moral principles and convictions.

Almost all Filipinos supported Mr. Duterte’s direction to eradicate drugs from the streets but his “shoot and kill” policy and pronouncements of a “bloody presidency” divided the nation. Many debated on whether it was morally right to kill without due process in light of God’s command, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). They questioned the rightness of extra-judicial killings of suspected drug criminals and giving the government blanket authority to use ruthless means as an instrument of wrath for evildoers.

The fear of the rise of vigilantism on a national scale was predicted throughout the campaign. Allowing the burial of the body of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani  became a contentious issue. An imminent return to Martial law or authoritarianism and the plan to rebuild a powerful military reminiscent of the days of the dictatorship prompted a clash of opinions on national TV and the social media.

In addition, Mr. Duterte’s personal morality and character flaws – his speech interjected by curses, cusses and vindictive remarks and extramarital relationships — were central moral issues raised to determine his fitness for the presidency.

The president promised radical change. “Change is coming!” was the election mantra. Indeed, many Duterte fans voted for him because they truly believed Mr. Duterte would bring real, positive change or transformation. Some even perceived Mr. Duterte as the last man standing, short of a demigod, who will save the nation “from going the dogs.”

But now, these moral issues remain unabated, their fire being stoked by controversial statements and decisions coming from President Duterte himself in each passing day. Less than 100 days in office, the number of extra-judicial killings has risen to 3,000 and still counting, 50% of these done by vigilantes or unknown assailants; a bomb blasted in Davao City, killing 14 and injuring 67 others; bomb threats have spread across the nation; the president has declared a state of emergency due to lawless violence; protests have intensified over Malacanang’s directive to give a dictator a hero’s burial; and the insulting, undiplomatic rhetoric and unstable foreign policy of the president have cast a bad image of the Philippines in the international community..

In light of these, Filipinos are asking: Did we elect the right person to the presidency? Is the national direction of the Duterte administration leading us to peace, justice and prosperity? Are we headed for a government for righteous change or a government for ruthless change?

These issues have moral and spiritual implications found in the Bible or the Sacred Scripture. For 81 million Filipino Roman Catholics and the 11 million Filipino Christians from different denominations, the Bible is considered the highest authority — the very Word of God. On its sacred pages lie the root causes and problems of societies like drug criminality, poverty, corruption, injustice, oppression and violence, and their solutions.

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To move the nation to unity and strength, it is imperative for the nation’s leaders and the people to seek counsel from God’s Word. God’s definitions of TRUTH, RIGHTEOUSNESS, JUSTICE and PEACE, and many more values apply to every generation and nation. If we are aligned with His Word, there will be fullness of blessing. If we are not aligned, then there will be curses in store for us. This is true for individual, family and national choices. As Psalm 33: 12 states: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…“(NIV).

It will be worth the time of President Duterte, his cabinet, the legislative branches and the judiciary to learn of leadership principles and examples of the the rise and fall of kings and of nations. As Psalm 2: 10-12 declares: “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.  Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (NIV).

Let us confront national issues with spiritual lenses. I pray that  President Duterte, who is surrounded by many professing Bible-believing Christians, will  be advised on the right course of action, and warned not to take the wrong path before things spin out of control. President Duterte has declared a massive war on drugs; but biblical wisdom is needed in the means and methods to succeed in this war. The Bible says, “By wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 24:6, NIV).

The president’s cabinet officials and staff should help counsel him to go the RIGHT WAY; and if the president listens, God will help the administration navigate the nation not only throughout the next six months but also the next six years of his presidency.  If not, the nation might go down further to a dangerous path of no return.

 

 

 

Counting the Cost of Voting for Duterte (Part 5): The Return of Martial Rule

Envisioning Martial Law and a Revolutionary Government

Once elected, Duterte will change the political landscape of the Philippines from a democracy to a dictatorship. Duterte envisions a government run by a vast and powerful military. This he needs in order to rid the country of crime “within three to six months,” to manage and counter the rise of state-run and private vigilantism under his bloody presidency, and sustain maximum “obedience” to the law.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City has consistently pronounced he will declare Martial Law as an extreme option and set up a Revolutionary Government once he gets elected as president. He will enlarge and expand the powers of the police and military to be able to “shoot and kill.”

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If this happens, would Filipinos be ready to experience another era reminiscent of the Marcos Days typified by barbarism, cruelty and violent behavior? Are Filipinos willing to pay the cost of a Duterte leadership — the dissolution of democracy and the giving up of the gains of the “People Power” EDSA Revolution of 1986?  Of EDSA Dos? Of EDSA Tres?

Are we seeing a repeat of a despotic and dictatorial Marcos’ rule under a Duterte-style leadership?

Two years into his first term, Marcos bloated the military budgets, drafted more bodies in the Armed Forces and appointed military men and overstaying generals in civilian positions.

It is a “garrison state,” Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr. in 1968 said, raising a public alarm.  Marcos’ second term was plagued by an economic turmoil, a rising crime rate, a growing insurgency problem and a restless student population that agitated for educational reforms.

To ascertain loyalty, Marcos ordered that all institutions carry a picture of the president and that all available billboards be draped by propaganda messages about his new society.

Duterte has no qualms at all in saying his leadership will be a dictatorship. In an interview with Maria Ressa of Rappler on October 29, 2015 before he decided to run for the presidency, the strongman of Davao City was asked whether “one man can make a difference — to turn the entire system upside down” and Duterte replied: “Yes. It’s always – in every dictatorship. It’s going to be a dictatorship. It’s the police and the military will be the backbone.”

“Alam mo kasi ganito yan, Ressa, dito sa Plilipinas, there’s such thing as obey the law. Ang problema, halos lahat … because if you become the president, you do not only change leaders, but you have to change the Filipino himself. Kasi ang Filipino ngayon, hindi mo masabihan na obey the law. Sige, sige …”

“Sabihin mo sa kanya, this is the law. Putang ina, pag hindi mo sinunod ang batas, putang ina ka sa akin. There is no fear of obedience of the law. It is everywhere in the country. Walang takot sa batas.”

“The mandate to obey the law is really just an option for the ordinary guy … kita mo dadaan nagsasalubong ng traffic diyan.”

“Pag ako ang nasalubong mo, sagasaan talaga kita. Pag namatay ka diyan, pasensiya ka na. I told you to obey the law. So if you go against the traffic at nagdala ako ng tractor, at nasagasaan kita, putang ina ka, pasensiya ka. Leche ka. Sinabi ko sa iyo, sundin mo ang batas. Kaya dito sa Davao, sundin mo ang batas, bawal manigarilyo. Kung manigarilyo ka, ipapakain ko talaga ang sigarilyo sa iyo.”

Manila Times reported on January 14, 2016 Duterte won’t shun the installation of a revolutionary government: “’If you threaten me with impeachment and create a constitutional crisis, I will be forced to declare a revolutionary government,’ Duterte said at a special joint meeting of the Rotary Club of Makati and Manila. He said he will appoint former military officials to his Cabinet because they can help him address corruption in government and maintain the integrity of his administration.”

At the inauguration of the Jose Maria College (JMC) Law in Davao City on February 29, 2016, in which he was invited by friend and supporter Apollo Quiboloy to speak, Duterte said he might install a Revolutionary Government if all systems fail and he cannot get Congress to agree with his orders. Duterte said he will authorize the police and the military to “go out, hunt for them and kill them.He said that once the fiscal, ombudsman or a human rights organization files cases against his men and they are convicted, Duterte will invoke the constitutional provision granting him the power as president to give pardon –absolute or conditional –to as many as maybe needed; for in his view the law does not impose a limit.

On April 21, 2016, perhaps due to public pressure, Duterte’s spokesman Peter Lavinia issued a statement “there is no need for Duterte to declare martial law. He needs only to enforce the law, the enforcement agencies to do their jobs, the judicial and penal system to work, and the community to cooperate.”

Recently on April 27, 2016, Senator Antonio Trillanes exposed Duterte’s alleged hidden accounts at the Bank of the Philippines Islands (BPI) containing P211 million that Duterte had failed to declare in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in 2014. Trillanes challenged Duterte to come out clean for if not he might be impeached by Congress once he is elected in office. The following day, Duterte retorted, I’ll close down Congress and be a dictator first.”

“Pag i-impeach ako, sabi ni Trillanes, e ‘di isara ko ‘yang Congress. Eh ‘di wala nang magimpeach sa akin…. In every revolution that succeeds, siya ‘yung tigas. He now becomes the authority… Tingnan mo si Marcos. Pero kaniya, Martial Law, iba yun. Dictator? Ah, eh ‘di alangan. Ako na ang Congress, ako na ang president, dictator ka talaga,… “Sabihin ng congressman, ‘Bakit mo naman kami isara?’ Eh p—ina, impeach-impeach kayo diyan.”

Why will Duterte need to impose martial or military rule or a revolutionary government?

  1. Martial Law is needed to legalize the power of the military to make arrests, detain, torture suspects of criminal offenses.
  2. Martial Law is needed to paralyze Congress and the judiciary branch so that the executive department can move and sustain its goals and operations (e.g.,removing criminals on the streets without due process; remove deadlocks).
  3. Martial Law is needed to create order in the midst of expected resistance from local mayors and governors, even congressmen and the senators who will oppose him when he enforces their obedience to his agenda.

For millennials who are not grounded in history, Martial Law might not ring an ominous bell; but for those who have lived through more than a decade of martial rule under the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, Martial Law is a haunted byword for massive government corruption, despotism, nepotism, political repression and human rights violations. Marcos pampered his generals and high-ranking police officials to gain their loyalty.

Before the elections in 1973, Marcos engineered his stay in power. Under the pretext of communist insurgency, intense student activism and plots of treason coming from his political opponents, Marcos justified his signing of Proclamation No. 1081 on September 21, 1972 that declared Martial Law and consolidated all powers — executive, military, judicial and legislative powers upon himself.

A day after, Marcos ordered the manhunt and arrest of 400 opposition leaders and journalists critical of his administration.[1] This was the end of liberal democracy and the beginning of the dark years of repression of freedoms, political oppression and great atrocities.  Thousands disappeared and were salvaged and thousands more were detained. Marcos dissolved the bicameral Congress and created a kowtowing unicameral National Assembly that replaced the 1935 Philippine Constitution with the 1973 Philippine Constitution, a move that upheld the constitutionality of Martial Law and suspended habeas corpus.

Alfred McCoy who wrote the Dark Legacy: Human Rights under the Marcos regime in 1999, reported that there were 3,257 extra-judicial killings, 35,000 tortured and 70,000 incarcerated. Of the 3,257 extra-judicial killings, 737 Filipinos disappeared from 1975 to 1986 while 2,250 were salvaged – tortured, mutilated, and dumped on the roadside for public display.

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Now Duterte is running for the highest office of the land and his followers seem unbothered by the traces of the Marcos regime stamped all over Duterte’s bloody pronouncements and platform.

It is not hard to explain why Duterte is enthralled by the idea of wielding dictatorial powers. Dutete has shown great sympathy and a unifying spirit with the Marcos camp represented by his son vice-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” E. Marcos Jr.

During his campaign in Laoag City on February 23, 2016, Duterte said “if he is elected president and fails to stop criminality in three months, he will resign and give the presidency to Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.”

Duterte also said added, “he has a bond with Bongbong because during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte’s father was a member of the cabinet as the secretary of general services.He described his father as a true “Marcos boy.” 

“When Marcos first run for president, all Mindanao governors that time jumped to Liberal Party except two—(former Zamboanga del Sur) Governor (Bienvenido) Ebarle and my father (Vicente Duterte) who stood by Marcos all the way,” Duterte said. He also added, “speaking of loyalty and friendship, I am proud to say that my father was a close ally of President Marcos until his death.”

Duterte said he is willing to bury Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

It is sad that Alan Peter Cayetano, although obviously less preferred as a running  vice-presidential candidate on Duterte’s ticket, could still be swayed into believing that Duterte cannot be corrupted by power. Many voters like Cayetano are turning a blind eye at Duterte’s choice of a vice-president and at the the possibility of Duterte’s tyrannical disposition.

The bitter lessons of 20 years of repression and oppression under a corrupt dictator should forewarn us of these clear and present dangers. Many voters with a look of incredulity, however, choose to ignore these lessons and say this cannot happen with Duterte, their purported “savior” of the Philippines.

They forget that without the checks and balances of a democratic systems and personal strength of character that only God can sustain, the best of leaders can be seduced by unbridled power.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

ENDNOTES:

  1. Robertzon, R. (2016, January 17). Duterte: Kill me if I don’t resolve crime in six months. The Philippine Star. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/17/1543436/duterte-kill-me-if-i-dont-resolve-crimes-6-months
  2. Horario, R. & Depasupil, W. (2016, January 14). ‘President’ Duterte: May declare martial law if needed. The Manila Times. Retrieved from http://www.manilatimes.net/president-duterte-may-declare-martial-law-if-needed/239460/
  3. Macas, T. (2016, April 28). Duterte eyes revolutionary government if elected. GMA News Online. Retrieved from http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/564250/news/nation/duterte-eyes-revolutionary-government-if-elected-president
  4.  

[1] The list includes Senators Benigno S. Aquino Jr., Jose Diokno, Francisco Rodrigo and Ramon Mitra Jr., and journalists critical of his government such as Joaquin Roces, Teodoro Locsin Sr., Maximo Soliven and Amando Doronilla

 

Counting the Cost of Voting for Duterte (Part 4): A Rising Vigilantism

Encouraging the Rise of Vigilantism

Duterte encourages a “mentality of lawlessness and vigilantism,” as a Manila Times editorial twice noted.  Vilified as a human rights violator, Duterte is allegedly responsible for the disappearances and salvaging of “criminals” in the city with 300 killings from 1995 to 2005 and about 700 to 720 from 2005 to 2008. He has been linked with the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS). Recently the Open Source Intelligence (OPINT), an intelligence coming from public sources, released on April 20, 2016 a US State Department stating “Duterte is behind the Davao Death Squad.

chaos-485491_640 When Duterte was asked in Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa in May 2015 whether he was linked with the DDS that is known for killing these criminals Duterte dithered, then categorically denied involvement. When asked whether he or his police officers were connected to the DDS that is responsible for the killings, Duterte said no and even denied the existence of DDS. There is no Davao Death Squad, only Davao Development System. When asked who was responsible for the killings or disappearance of criminals, Duterte could only reply these were members of gangs warring at one another.

Whether these are gangs or armed vigilantes, there is a death squad on the loose in Davao City. Vigilantes are defined as members of a “volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily” especially when “the processes of law are viewed as inadequate,” and broadly it means “a self-appointed doer of justice.” The DDS as a vigilante group keeps Davao City supposedly “safe” from criminals by killing the hoodlums, the addicts, the drug smugglers, the drug pushers and the rapists in the city. It is unknown who pays this group. It is unknown who arms this group. But they are known by the name Davao Death Squad. If they are not of the police or the military, then who are they? Who authorizes them to kill, even if they kill criminals? Is Davao City truly safe with these outlaws roaming the streets?

If Duterte denies the existence of DDS, then he must be hiding the truth or refusing to own up responsibility. For years, he has been on close watch by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Commission on Human Rights  that have called upon Duterte to investigate these extra-judicial killings and have criticized his toleration, support and condonation of summary killings even involving youths as young as 14 to 18 years old.

An HRW in-depth report, however, verified and confirmed its existence from interviews with “insiders” — former relatives and friends of DDS members familiar with its operations, journalists, community activists and government officials. For years Davao City residents have known this group exists and is operating as guns for hire.

Insiders said that DDS members include former communists or New People’s Army rebels who have joined the government and former DDS targets recruited to join to avoid liquidation. DDS members report to bosses they call “amos” who provide them with training, weapons – usually .45 caliber handgun, ammunition, motorcycles and information. They get a complete list of targets usually provided by barangay officials with just the name and sometimes with a photograph and address. They are paid from P5,000 to P50,000 per target. DDS connect with the police to let them know of the operations and to alert them not to be there when the killing happens. This is corroborated by evidence that in all 28 killings, there was consistent failure of the local police to arrive at the scene of the crime and to investigate evidence and failure to conduct interviews with witnesses and suspects. There was also a pattern observed in the killings:

The assailants usually arrive in twos or threes on a motorcycle without a license plate. They wear baseball caps and buttoned shirts or jackets, apparently to conceal their weapons underneath. They shoot, or increasingly, stab their victim without warning, often in broad daylight and in presence of multiply eyewitnesses, for whom they show little regard. And as quickly as they arrive, they ride off – but almost always before the police appear.”

HRW corroborated insiders’ details describing those killed as small-scale drug dealers, petty thieves and direct drug users, gang members and street children and DDS members who know too much. Targets usually receive warnings from barangay officials and from the police and government officials. Killings usually occur after these targets are released from police custody or come out of hiding. The HRW report also documented cases of unintended targets – “victims of mistaken identity, unfortunate bystanders and relatives and friends of apparent target.”

The case of Clarita Alia whose four sons died in the hands of the death squad from 2001 through 2007 was reported by Davao Today on April 13, 2007 with this headline: Mother Loses 4th — and Last — Son to Davao Death Squad but the report links cannot be traced any longer. However, the HRW posted on Youtube an investigative report in 2009 pointing the responsibility for the killings to Duterte.

If Duterte denies involvement with DDS, then he should concede he is not in full control of the city and its safety. If he acknowledges that he and his police are linked with the DDS, he should confess a power-sharing scheme with the outlaws. This will explain a lot of things. This will explain why Davao City is a safe city as Duterte has claimed:  “We’re the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all [criminals].

The claim is based on Numbeo, a crowd-sourcing database that ranked Davao City as the 5th safest city in 2015. Duterte and his fans are riding high on this fame to heighten his presidential campaign. This ranking, however, is based on perceptions of 723 respondents as of April 2016 and not on actual data. A blogger has researched other online rankings and found Davao City is not listed among the top 50 safest cities in other databases.  The Philippine National Police (PNP) reported on April 2, 2016 Davao City has the most number of murders from 2010 to 2015 with 1,032 cases.

Miguel Baretto Garcia, a Ph.D. student studying neuroeconomics at the University of Zurich, however, has tried to make sense of the statistics. In an interesting article, “Is Davao City still the murder capital of the Philippines? Three-Part Series” published by Rappler, he shed light on implications of the data on crimes provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority and the Philippine National Police to dispel confusion reported in the media by various camps. He analyzed that although Davao City posted the highest murder rate based on crime volume from 2010 to 2015, the city has indeed come a long way in reducing crime, similar to the effort of Quezon City. He said that Davao City is not the “the safest city” but is a “safe city” in the same level as other cities in Mindanao such as Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and General Santos.

Many do not discount the good efforts of Duterte for Davao City. Duterte has imposed a ban on alcohol, smoking, firecrackers, and imposed speeding limits. He has improved emergency response measures with 10 ambulances, 35 new mobile patrol cars and a 9-1-1 system for the city.  These are all commendable; but in light of the mysterious reports of extrajudicial killings in same city, question marks dot the campaign trailer that projects Davao is truly safe.

Come to think of it: If the DDS is hired to keep villains at bay, then why are they not credited as the real law enforcers? They do the dirty job that the police are supposed to do to keep the city functioning smoothly and soundly.  They are the Punishers, the Batmen and the Robin Hoods, the Huntsmen and the X-men, the Avengers of the city of Davao. They are the guardians of the city. The problem arises, however, when the plot thickens with a twist and the supposed guardians become the real villains. Then who will guard the guardians? Will Davao City truly be safe with them around?

If only the peace and order situation in Davao were a comic book universe, then the residents there would all be happy, safe and untroubled; for then the outlaws can be heroes, the heroes can be guardians, and the guardians can never go wrong. But we don’t live in the world of the Marvel or DC comics; we live in a world where men and women are flawed – morally flawed; and without enough checks and balances, without the law to rein the spirit of mortal men, without sound application and structures set in place, without the spiritual awakening within, good heroes can become their worst enemies as they fall into their own deceptive and distorted imaginations. The tragedy of all is when they die in the script and they leave a vacuum for another evil to rise. And the people they deemed to protect are left in the cold galaxy to suffer under hideous oppressors. That would truly be a great tragedy.

Now, Duterte voters want Duterte to become president so he could replicate Davao City across the entire Philippines. To date there are already cities following Duterte-leadership style. In May 20, 2014, the HRW published a 71-page report, One Shot to the Head: Death Squad Killings in Tagum City, Philippines in which it was found that the death squad consisted of “14 hit men and accomplices on the government payroll, with active involvement from local police all the way to Tagum City’s former mayor, Rey “Chiong” Uy who was in office from 1998 to June 2013. In addition, HRW has listed General Santos City, Digos City and Cebu City as creating their own vigilantes.

If Duterte wins, local-government-run vigilantes are expected to rise. The greater problem is when an elected mayor or governor is corrupt and resists the call for change. He would also put up his own private army or guns for hire at his beck and call to supposedly “guard the city” and chase the national police away. Furthermore, rich and corrupt drug smugglers, syndicates and even tax evaders could raise up their own private armies to defend themselves against the government’s police. These huge moneyed syndicates will not go without a bloody fight. Thus it is safe to foresee that vigilante groups –whether they are fighting for just causes or not — will multiply under the pretext that they exist to keep law and order or justly defend their rights.  Certainly, it may not be a happily-ever-after ending for the Philippines.

A sense of peace and order could emerge with a Duterte style of leadership – but may not last for long for it is not rooted in righteousness. As the king in Psalm 94: 15 expressed:  “Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it.” Voters must vote with eyes open and understand at what price a Duterte presidency would cost the nation.

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Counting the Cost of Voting for Duterte (Part 3): A Moral Descent

Expecting A Moral Descent

In a Duterte leadership we can expect a moral decline that could erode the spiritual values and strength of the nation and ironically engender more crimes. Defiant in his use of vulgar language, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is running for the highest position of the land has also exhibited defiance towards marital fidelity. He is a womanizer and flaunts it without batting an eyelash. He fails in moral excellence.

Duterte has a failed marriage of 27 years with Elizabeth Zimmerman with whom he has three children and who had filed an annulment because of her husband’s persistent unfaithfulness. They have three children. Today, he lives with a common-law wife with whom he has a daughter and two mistresses whom he supports and cohabits from time to time. Duterte brazenly flirts with women, even coddling female fans on his lap or kisses them on the lips during campaign sorties. Without guilt or shame, he likened running the Philippines to maintaining his mistresses.

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People are asking, if he gets elected: Who will he bring to Malacañang? Will the First Lady be the original Mrs. Duterte or will he bring the three others to occupy rooms in the presidential palace? Even his daughter who is running unopposed in Davao City offered that it would be a different First Lady every month. Duterte fans need to realize the absurd moral implications of voting for him.

Certainly on this alone the country cannot rely on Duterte’s moral backbone.

But Duterte’s political backers and loyal supporters staunchly defend him, saying his morality is irrelevant to his bid for the presidency. They justify their vote by saying Duterte is indispensable in stomping out criminality and in establishing “peace and order” across the country, as he did in Davao City during his 22-year term as mayor.

Are the fans correct? Are the moral character and conduct of a leader irrelevant to his application for a position of leadership? The answer is no.

Our choice of leaders reveals who we are and what we believe. Our convictions are reflected by the choices we make. Good leadership requires that the political candidate is not corrupt or immoral; thus we need to make wise political choices to choose leaders who possess moral strength of character and could lead the nation with exemplary lives.

Duterte has no moral credibility to lead. The Philippine Revised Penal Code Article 333 and 334 classify adultery and concubinage as criminal offenses. This puts Duterte’s morality on the spotlight.  If any ordinary Filipino man or woman could be convicted and penalized for philandering, then how much more the highest official of the land. Would not Duterte be guilty of violating this law?

Duterte vowed that if elected he would instill discipline among the Filipinos and a fear of the law. He lamented though that obedience to the law is optional in the Philippines and vows to ensure every Filipino obeys the law:

“’The obedience to the law is almost optional,’ citing the rising drug problems and criminality in the country. ‘My God, I hate drugs and I have to kill people because I hate drugs,’ he said, adding that if elected as president there would be no bloodless cleansing.”

Duterte seems oblivious to the fact that he has broken the law of marital fidelity. How then could he encourage Filipinos to be law-abiding citizens when he refuses to obey the laws governing family conduct? Shouldn’t he be the one, by his example, encourage men to be faithful to their wives? If he does this, he will surely raise the dignity, stature and value of Filipino women and do them great service.

His actions speak louder than his words. We cannot choose which laws to obey and not; otherwise, we will get into trouble. But Duterte by his life is not ready to submit himself to the laws of fidelity and chastity, which are important to the preservation of the family. By his act he says he does not respect the law and is not interested in following the law. Sadly, he is applying a double standard when it comes to the call to obey.  Duterte voters, however, do not see the inconsistency with his lips and his life.

If Duterte will be elected as president, he will likely promote the breakdown of families. As written in Making Your Votes Matter, an immoral man “… will tacitly approve and encourage immoral behavior by his own lifestyle. Even if he is competent, he is still immoral. The land will be polluted with promiscuity and licentious behavior. Since a leader leads by example, he will unknowingly or knowingly be an agent of social destruction, wrecking marriages and families, and corrupting the innocence of youth. Is not the ancient biblical proverb right? “But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).”

The problem of the Filipino society is the missing or absentee parents when the family ties are fractured. If families are whole or intact with the father and mother instructing, protecting, providing and nurturing children in the right way, there would be fewer problems of delinquency, truancy or being in conflict with the law. A criminal or a drug addict was once a child; the problem is somewhere along life’s journey he or she was left alone to veer to his own path, without parental guidance or support. As the biblical proverb instructs, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

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But how could a child be instructed when the family is shattered because of marital infidelity on the part of the husband or wife? Suddenly the protective veil on the child is ripped open, leaving him exposed to every evil dart.

“And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful” (2 Malachi 15-16).

In a country steeped in Roman Catholicism with a growing evangelical and charismatic group, Duterte’s immoral lifestyle is an assault to the Christian traditions most families adhere to in the Philippines.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has issued statements strongly condemning Duterte’s vulgarity, murder and adultery as forms of corruption. The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) along with other religious Protestant organizations with about 33,000 churches across the nation has written a letter calling his attention on the rape joke involving an Australian missionary.

Evangelical groups like the G-12 movement, however, have joined “Christian” cults to officially endorse Duterte, placing him on a pedestal like a demigod who will solve the country from its troubles. Unfortunately, they have turned a blind eye on the blinking red light. They consider Duterte’s adulterous life irrelevant to the political life and choice of a leader. It seems that they have forgotten or ignored God’s biblical stand on adultery and other forms of immorality as sins against Him that will incur far-reaching earthly and eternal consequences.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” (1 Corinthians 6:18-19).

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“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Do they also forget that those who approve or ignore the practices of others are judged accordingly?

“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32)

And more importantly as the prophet Ezekiel did in his days, should it not be the duty of pastors, ministers and shepherds around him and those who have the Christian light to warn Duterte to refrain from the errors of his ways, to repent of his sins and receive God’s forgiveness and grace and turn from the wicked to the righteous path?

When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul” (Ezekiel 3:18-19).

Certainly the consequences of immorality are sapping out the strength of families like cancer. Immorality strains family relationship, disrupts trust and loyalty, creates chaos in the home, erodes security and stability and drains the family budget.  Immorality is a spiritual door that leads to destruction of relationships with God and within the family, the children being the most vulnerable targets of the enemies of the state who instigate wickedness such as drugs and crimes. Because they fall prey to the forces of darkness, children are much more prone toward the path of ungodliness.

A number of studies locally and abroad have proved that adultery often leads to separation of spouses (or divorce in other countries), destroying the family units in which the children suffer as direct “casualties,” making them vulnerable to delinquency and crime.

The Future of Filipino Children: Development and Trends published by the UNICEF and the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (2011), is a compendium of articles on the situation, trends and the dangers children live through their adult lives. Dr. Trinidad Osteria mentioned the difficult situation faced by Filipino families that are shifting from a two-parent to only one parent and said that “children in families disrupted by separation are more likely to have emotional and behavior problems.”[7]

In Being Tough on the Causes of Crime: Tackling Family Breakdown to Prevent Youth Crime a report published by the Social Justice Policy Group in the United Kingdom in 2007, author Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith looked into the role of family breakdown in pathways to crime, and pointed to three distinct forms of family breakdown: dissolution, in which parents part after having children together; dysfunction in which parents are unable to adequately provide a nurturing environment; and dadlessness in which resident fathers fail to provide essential security for children.[8]

The Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention and the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Honk Kong published a study titled Drug Abuse Among Youths and Family Relationship led by Paul Yip et al (2011) and found that “Drug use… [is] affected by dysfunctional families due to unstable family condition (e.g. poor marital relationship, family crisis, divorce, single-parent family)…”

Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Council, psychologist Patrick Fagan (1995) wrote that the real root cause of violent crime is the breakdown of marriage, family and community.

Lastly, in Davao City, church planter Paul Barner did a case study in 2011 of 21 of the most delinquents among 500 children at Barner Learning Center in Davao City and found that love, discipline and guidance were key factors absent in the homes of delinquents and without proper intervention from the schools or the church could become children in conflict with the law

There is no doubt the etiology of crime and drugs has been traced to broken families as a result of marital infidelity. Children are often left with a single parent or abandoned to the care of grandparents or relatives.  Neglected children grow up insecure, unprotected without strong family attachments. The absence of a nurturing home bereft of moral, emotional and physical moorings is an open door to bad influences from peers and social deviants. Children are left to find their happiness in the wrong places. If the family comes from the poorer class and the home is located in a marginal and unsafe neighborhood, the children and the teenagers are at greater risk to become easy targets of drug pushers and criminals.

Moral integrity is holistic; it is not fragmented. A presidential candidate must have a high moral credibility for it is only then that he could fully assure the nation he will never be aroused to take the wrong course. That is why not many can run for office. Sad to say, if we do not screen wisely, Philippine politics will be run like a circus and the presidential office will be free for all. It is a bad decision to ignore a president’s moral qualifications – bad for the voter, bad for the country. Why? A public office is a public trust and the quality of leadership of a president depends on his moral convictions. Every leader’s character and conduct will have a cascading influence on the morals and the national culture. Duterte’s bad moral influence will open a wider spiritual gate for all sorts of immorality to flood the nation that will eventually erode his fight against criminality and take us down the slope of moral descent.

 

Counting the Cost of Voting for Duterte (Part 2): An Ethics of Violence

Endorsing an Ethics of Violence 

Duterte endorses an ethics of violence or “instant justice” as a means to achieve peace and order. Duterte said  killing all criminals is the only way to solve the problem of peace and order in the Philippines. This is based on the Machiavellian ethics  — “the end justifies the means.” Decisions are based on what is expedient and convenient. These ethics are utility-driven producing distorted realities that go against universally accepted moral principles. So is it right for public officials to plunder so they can give the money to the poor? Is it right for poor mothers to prostitute themselves to send their children to school? Is it right for married men to be unfaithful because their wives are sick and cannot satisfy their biological needs? The answer is no.

Duterte expresses bifurcated thinking or false dilemma that argues that there is no other way to resolve crime except through “instant justice.” This is a fallacy of reasoning because solutions are categorized as an either-or proposition that leaves no room for the balanced or the middle ground approach, or for any other options.

Why is the proposition that the ethics of violence is the only way to solve crime not right?

  1. It upholds — sometimes glorifies — instant justice as the only tool to solve crime and ensure peace.
  2. People become easy targets, especially the poor who are usually forced into criminality.
  3. Killing as a solution is easier, convenient; and other intervening factors to reduce  crime are not explored.
  4. It could result in killing innocent people caught in the crossfire.
  5. Human life is dispensable and human rights could be disregarded.
  6. It deals with the symptoms of crime rather than root causes  (i.e., spiritual, financial).
  7. It is a live-or-die solution, which is a false dilemma.
  8. It does not consider the repercussions of the act. (For example, it may pave the way for interlocking crimes to happen such as torture, abuse and salvaging. An ethics of violence could lead to a culture of violence.)

Emboldens the use of violent communication

Consequently, Duterte’s ethics of violence arouses violent speech. He cusses and swears, curses and lashes out at critics, and orders the local police to “shoot and kill” targets for assassination at the slightest suspicion that their lives are in danger. He threatens to kill any police officer who does not kill. He justifies these all as part of his anger – his anger against the criminals he vows to kill.

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Duterte emboldens others to resort to “violent communication,” which is a type of written or oral expression that is manipulative, coercive and angry — one that induces fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment and reward[1].  Public servants who are called to administer with dignity and respect will take his cue that violent communication is acceptable even at work. His generals and police officers will have no reservations imitating his vindictive leadership style and vitriolic language.

Duterte says he blames his mouth on his uncouth upbringing and the rowdy neighborhood where he grew up. Whether neglectful parents, a childhood that sucks, or a bad neighborhood, Duterte must realize he needs to own up his mistakes. He cannot blame his corrupt speech or moral flaws on anyone or any circumstance but himself.[2]  He should be responsible for how his actions will affect others. He owes it to himself to reform his ways; he owes it to his children to set a good example; he owes it to his constituents to prove good conduct. Now with his bid to be the president of the Philippines– the highest official –of the land who shall represent us, he owes it to the 100 million Filipinos to lead a dignified and exemplary life for the children to follow, the young men and women to emulate, and the old to admire.[3]

During a Duterte reign, violent words and violent actions will be the new norm. For violence begets violence. Christians who believe in spiritual warfare know how words carry power in the realm of the spirit as it is in the physical world.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21-22).

Violent words activate the spiritual atmosphere with more acts of violence.

Duterte’s loose and violent tongue will be counterproductive to his aims of peace and order. Instead of preventing crime, he will encourage a culture of violence because of his unrestrained words and actions.  Duterte’s speech is rife with expletives; it lacks decency and self-control. Many are turned off.

“Do not envy the violent, or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence” (Proverbs 24:1)

Most importantly, there will be no peace and security in a city whose leader is without self-control.

“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28).

Security is not only financial or physical, but also moral and spiritual, the latter two being more subtle. Parents know that once children get hooked up with the wrong friends, habits or vices, they could be spiritually and socially infected and misled. Consider this biblical counsel to guide who should we support:

“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God – I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Unfortunately, many among Duterte’s fans and followers defend him to the hilt, placating his errors with rationalizations and justifications. They bash those who call attention to Duterte’s scandalous speeches with all sorts of names, criticizing his critics as moralizing and judgmental. They are amused at or shrug off the green and sexual jokes that degrade women. Would they want their children to imitate Duterte’s bitter, angry and dirty remarks? Would their children be safe around him?

As if he did not learn his lesson from cursing the Pope whom he called the son of a whore,[4] Duterte’s  loose tongue backfired on him and created uproar in the local and international media when he joked about the raping of Jacqueline Hamill, a 36-year old female Australian missionary who was taken captive, raped and killed during a hostage-riot in a Davao prison in 1989.[5] Duterte said that when he saw her he marveled at her beauty and said she looked like an American actress, but he was mad because first they killed her and mad because the mayor should have been the first (to rape her). This set the crowd laughing.

Duterte’s morality contradicts his mission. How could a crime-buster who fights for people’s safety, especially that of the women and children trivialize crimes such as rape and appears to promote it? Could it be that we are seeing through the kind of heart beyond the façade that we need to seriously consider before we vote for Duterte? The Bible is clear:

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from what which fills his heart” (Luke 6:5).

When pressed for answers, all he could say was he was angry — he was angry at the culprits. He refused to apologize in the first interview after the rape joke became viral. He said, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul” and that he could not care less whether this would bring down his presidential bid.”[6] At the beginning of his campaign, he also said, “God will weep if I become president” when he vowed to kill 100,000 criminals. [7] What did he mean by that? Is he saying that the killings will be so massive that there would be too much bloodshed that even God will have to grieve? Those comments are bordering on sacrilegious; but again, loyal fans would say, “he was only joking.” Don’t such statements reveal a strain of self-importance, or pride?

He finally apologized a week after; but it is not clear whether he meant it or was pressured by the crowd.  This rape joke and a string of scandalizing comments in the past show, however, how contagious his violent speech has become, infecting many of his die-hard fans who have defended him even when he is clearly wrong. Sadly, they have disregarded that words are a measure of the glory of a man — whether he is a wise man or a fool.

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end” (Proverbs 29:11).

Eloquent words are not fitting for a fool; even less are lies fitting for a ruler” (Proverbs 17:7).

“Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 29:20).

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ENDNOTES:

[1]https://www.heartland.edu/documents/idc/What%20is%20violent%20comm%20and%20nvc%20(Winters).pdf

[2]http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/04/18/1574145/rody-no-apology-rape-remark

[3]http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/04/18/1574145/rody-no-apology-rape-remark

[4] http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2015/12/01/archbishop-duterte-remarks-i-grieve-great-shame-444524

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36067011

[6] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/779961/duterte-apologizes-to-filipinos-for-gutter-language-over-1989-rape-slay-of-foreign-missionary

[7] http://news.abs-cbn.com/halalan2016/nation/06/04/15/duterte-god-will-weep-if-i-become-president

[8] http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/563033/news/nation/cayetano-defends-duterte-on-rape-joke-sa-davao-lang-bawal-bathing-suit-sa-beauty-contest

 

 

Counting the Cost of Voting for Duterte (Part 1): A Bloody Presidency

Embracing a Bloody Presidency

If I become president, it would be bloody because we’ll order the killing of all criminals, ang mga durugista at drug lords,” Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said in the first national debate on TV 5 on February 21, 2016.[1] For Duterte, the promise of peace and order will come at a hefty price — bloodshed on the streets and on the countryside.

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Alam po pag ako ang president, I will warn you I do not covet the position. Pag naging president ako, magtago na kayo. Yung 1,000 nayan it would reach 50,000. I will kill all you [expletive] breaking the life of the Filipino miserable. Papatayin ko talaga kayo…Manalo ako kasi because of breakdown of law and order. I do not want to commit a crime but if by chance, God will place me there, magbantay kayo. Yung 1,000, magiging 100,000. Dyan mo makita tataba yung isda sa Manila Bay. Dyan ko kayo itapon.I do not want to be president. I do not want to kill people so do not elect me as president.”[2]

A bloody presidency may satisfy a public demand to serve “instant justice,” but it is not the best or a just method to solve crime; in fact, it may worsen an already struggling criminal justice system. Why?

In the Philippines where judicial reforms are lacking, a shoot-to-kill policy will unjustly target the poor. Rich criminals will easily slide in and out of the underworld unnoticed. They can hire and pay good lawyers, delay litigation, evade conviction and go scot-free. But the poor criminals will have no place to hide, no good lawyers to defend them, no police to believe their stories or protect them. Sadly, it will be their blood  that will dampen the streets; their bodies that will disappear in the night.

Our law enforcement agencies will mark for target not the “dangerous” but only the “dangerous and poor.”[3] Those that are dragged in the net are the little fish: the street urchins vulnerable to the wiles of the wicked; the hirelings on the streets who trade for a measly sum to push and cart drugs away; the robbers and thieves, the pickpockets and those who kill in order to survive; and the “common tao” who happen to pass by will mostly likely suffer the brunt. But the big fish: the kingpins of smugglers, the godfathers of gangs, the corporate frauds and the circle of plunderers will all be safe and sound with their girls, goons and guns –gambling and drinking the nights away, happy and gay, untouched by the rod of fury in the mayor’s hand.

scales-of-justice-450203_640Without a strong judicial process, the method of targeting criminals with lethal force becomes discretionary and arbitrary.  For who will become the judge? Who will become the executioner? Who will determine which crimes deserve death or not? Who will decide whether killings are murders or homicide?This will be lopsided justice.

Duterte promises to build a vast and powerful police and military force reminiscent of the Marcos Days, which could become an instrument of police abuse and brutality. They will be given blanket authority to kill troublemakers in the act of committing a crime, rascals on the run who resist capture, and those who even if they freeze in surrender still pose a threat to the lives of the officers. Killings during these instances are permitted by the law to protect enforcers. With no other witnesses, however, police arrest could deviate from the protocol. Governors and mayors can carry out executions without proper disclosure and accountability; and no one will be there to tell the real story. The possible loopholes are many when an order is  made to shoot and kill.

Furthermore, the killings become dreadful when these are politically or personally motivated. Who will stop the powerful political elite or dynasties from spilling blood because of personal grudge or vendetta? Who will make sure that the police are carefully doing their job and are not on a rampage or killing spree? Only a just and balanced process can ensure justice and peace.

Some Christians justify  Duterte’s ‘bloody’ presidency based on the persona of the Avenger of Blood in the Old Testament or the “bearer of the sword” in the New Testament. Although self-defense, social defense and national defense are all allowable in Scriptures, there is danger in baptizing a Duterte-style of justice as God-mandated even if the necessary conditions are absent such as the integrity of law enforcers, the absence of political motivations and the consistency of application of justice to all social classes. [4]

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/02/21/1555393/duterte-admits-bloody-presidency-if-he-win

[2] http://news.abs-cbn.com/halalan2016/nation/06/04/15/duterte-god-will-weep-if-i-become-president

[3] (Akhilak). (2010, May). The rich get richer, the poor get prison… http://akhilak.com/blog/2010/05/17/the-rich-get-richer-the-poor-get-prison/

[4]   Note:However, in the history of Israel, there were times when God used evil kings, mean and vicious, to rule over His people and give them a rod of beating. The sins of  idolatry and false worship, sexual immorality, murders and killings, injustice and unrighteousness, apathy towards the poor are enough for God to discipline His people  so they could turn back to him. )

Making Our Votes Matter

Philippine Elections 2016

16Ps or 16 Principles to Guide Us in Our Choice of Good Leaders

We need to make wise and sound judgments when we choose candidates for elected positions of leadership in government. Below are sixteen principles  (16Ps) to help us point to the right man or woman who can be worthy to lead us, worthy of our trust and confidence, and worthy of our votes. Principles 1-8 assess a candidate’s CHARACTER AND CONDUCT; Principles 9-16 rate a candidate’s COMPETENCE and COURAGE to lead.

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Personal Moral Conduct and Character Are High or Incorruptible

FIRST, VOTE for candidates whose personal moral character and conduct are high or incorruptible. Incorruptible leaders are not susceptible to acts of misbehavior. This is an important criterion, a non-negotiable principle for choosing presidents, vice-presidents of nations and leaders of all types of organizations. Character is the sum of a person’s disposition, thoughts, intentions, desires, and actions (A.W. Tozer). (1) The actions, ethics, values and behavior of leaders will have a direct impact on the attitudes and behavior of those they lead and the organizational culture.(2) Indeed, the morality of a leader will lead the nation down two different paths. Leaders with high morals will lead a nation to a righteous path. Leaders with low morals will lead a nation to a crooked path.

Your vote matters in the destiny of the nation; therefore, DO NOT VOTE for the corrupt or immoral person, the one who has a tainted record of wrongdoing, an allegation or even a hint of bribery, extortion or thievery. Even if he is brilliant, he is still corrupt. If elected, he will plunder the nation and plunge it to a path of poverty and misery. “By justice a king gives a country stability, but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down” (Proverbs 29:4). He is a rebel at heart and a companion of thieves (Isaiah 1:23) and will twist the truth, subvert justice and abuse power for personal gain, cultivating a culture of corruption that will cascade down to the lowest among the citizens. “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).

Likewise, DO NOT VOTE for the sexually immoral — the fornicator, adulterer or philanderer. If elected, he will tacitly approve and encourage immoral behavior by his own lifestyle. Even if he is competent, he is still immoral. The land will be polluted with promiscuity and licentious behavior. Since a leader leads by example, he will unknowingly or knowingly be an agent of social destruction, wrecking marriages and corrupting the innocence of children and the youth.”But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself” (Proverbs 6:32).

Instead, VOTE for leaders who can be admired and emulated by their exemplary lives. They are ethical, honest, truthful, upright and just. Leaders with integrity have strong moral principles. Their morality is consistent, whole –not fragmented — tried and tested in every situation. They don’t live double lives.”Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment” (Proverbs 12:19). They are good role models. “Those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes who stop their ears against plots of murder and shut their eyes against contemplating evil—” (Proverbs 33:15)

Choose God-fearing men and women who TRULY acknowledge God and TRUST in His wisdom,  knowledge and understanding. “Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully” (Proverbs 28:5). For God hates pride, arrogance and immorality; but He exalts humility and godliness. God values character more than competence. Man looks at the the outward appearance but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). By the strength of their moral character and conduct, righteous leaders are a blessing to the nation. They will lead the nation to a just, upright and prosperous path, without blame or shame.“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to the people (Proverbs 14:34). “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…” (Proverbs 33:12).

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Principled Philosophy of Governance  

SECOND, VOTE for candidates with a principled philosophy of governance. Are their ways democratic, just and upright? Do they respect and support basic freedoms? Do they treasure professionalism and pursue high accountability? Do they practice wise management of human and capital resources? Do they maintain law and order justly? Are they strong in punishing disobedience to the law and praising upright living?

Rulers are meant to establish peace and order. “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 1:4). But as they punish criminals and lawbreakers, they are not lawbreakers themselves, using ruthless and cunning means to dispense justice. Justice is a strong component of a righteous society. It secures and stabilizes the nation.  Justice has two sides. One side says, “Do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit”(Exodus 23:3) and the other side says,“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits”(Exodus 23:6). Leaders are law abiding citizens and provide justice to all — the rich and the poor, the guilty and the innocent, the delinquent and the tame. They turn a blind eye to identity, status or class. They recognize that although the journey toward a righteous, peaceful and prosperous nation is difficult and long, they will not use unjust methods because they believe that “the end does not justify the means.” They are not Machiavellians who will violate democratic processes and the the rule of law under the pretext of pursuing the public good. Their philosophy of governance is balanced and just.

Principled Political Partnerships and Alliances

THIRD, VOTE for candidates who practice principled partnerships. You will know them by their past political parties and present alliances. Ask, who are supporting their campaigns? As the quip goes, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” Have they consistently aligned themselves with principled leaders in our political history — those heroes who have fought and died to restore our democracy?

partnership-526413_640Trustworthy public servants will connect with political supporters and allies that contend for truth and righteous leadership. They know friends can have a powerful influence on the integrity or independence of their decisions once they are elected in office, so they are careful with whom to partner politically. Do they have no pacts with political groups, people or previous administrations that have ongoing cases of graft and corruption or plunder? Principled candidates do not forge unholy alliances. Many politicians are shady; the principled ones are a rare breed. Examine well the past and present alliances of your preferred candidates.

Pure Intentions and Purpose of Running for Public Service — Not Power-grabbers

FOURTH, VOTE for candidates that have pure intentions and purpose for running for public office. The presidency and the vice-presidency are positions of power. Power-hungry politicians will pursue their personal ambitions. They are lured by the lust for power. You will know them by their fruit. When members of his family are in top government positions and running for public office –beware! It is a red flag. That politician could be building a political dynasty. Shift your vote! Spare the nation from the tragedy of being under a powerful and abusive leader. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton) (3)

Political Legacy is Honorable and Praiseworthy

FIFTH, VOTE for candidates whose political legacy is honorable and therefore praiseworthy. Look into their political heritage. Do they come from a line of noble public servants? Some political candidates are second or third generation public servants, that is, they are the sons or daughters of  past leaders who used to have a high political profile in our national history.

Examine their family track record in public service. Is it outstanding? Did their parents or grandparents serve with commitment, sacrifice and love of country? Or do they belong to a political family that betrayed the public trust, corrupted and looted the government coffers, and brought our nation to public shame and international disgrace? Do they belong to political clans that gained wealth at the expense of the poor and the weak, who abused power and set a bad precedence of undemocratic governance, oppressing and trampling the rights of the people? THEN DO NOT VOTE FOR SUCH CANDIDATES.

yes-1015483_640.jpgVOTE for the good ones who are following closely their parents’ noble footprints. Do not vote for those who have not even repented of or acknowledged the faults of their predecessors. Most likely they will repeat the past mistakes of their progenitors and worse, restore their past abuses. Why? Because there is no evidence of a CHANGED HEART, MIND AND DISPOSITION. A spiritual and moral awakening is the only assurance of hope that children of wicked rulers, who are vying for political offices, will never ever go down the path of unrighteousness, immorality and injustice. In contrast, those good ones who belong to an honorable line of public servants have grown in political maturity through the valuable experiences and good examples of their predecessors. They are inclined to lead well and perpetuate a good legacy to the leaders of the next generation. Our nation will be safe in their hands. They will continue the good fight their political forebears had begun.

Pursues Ethical and Effective Public Communication and Discourse

SIXTH, VOTE for candidates who pursue ethical and effective public communication and discourse. Those who are able to articulate the national vision and able to impart instructions down the line make the best leaders. Do they have the persona and charisma to be in the top positions of government? Are they inspirational and motivational communicators who can unify people to act towards a common vision? Remember the presidency and vice-presidency offices are prestigious and powerful executive positions demanding great responsibility. In real life as in the movies, the script is true: “With great power comes great responsibility“(Spiderman).

“The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse” (Proverbs 10:32).”

Thus good leaders do not release unethical, empty and exaggerated rhetoric of promises. True public speakers have lips that are clean, truthful, honest and respectable. They are careful with their choice of words and do not use vain language or profanities. “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse” (Proverbs 10:32). They do not have lying or double-edged tongues. “Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler” (Proverbs 17:7). When you size up candidates, watch their actions and their words.The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).

People-Oriented Leader with Genuine Interest to Serve

SEVENTH, VOTE for candidates who are people-oriented. True leaders have servant hearts. Traditional political candidates ignore the true value of their elected positions. They forget they are vying for positions of service to gain the privilege of working for the benefit of the public. People-oriented leaders are genuinely interested in the welfare of their citizens. They are not in position for power or prominence but to serve the people.

Pro-poor and Promotes Compassionate Service

EIGHTH, VOTE for candidates who are pro-poor or who have truly done good service to the poor. Their compassion for the poor translates to pro-poor action plans and programs. Pro-poor and compassionate leaders pay more attention to the marginal members of their communities. They believe that government should provide help and resources to those who have less in life. They work for the general interest of all but are concerned over the interests of the poor. They go the extra mile, spending money, time, energy and resources for their constituents, especially the poor and the homeless; the orphans and the widows; the women and the children; those who are physically disabled and the senior citizens of our society. Servant-leaders have true compassion for the less privileged. They follow the example and teaching of Christ:“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 10:44-45).

Precision of Vision of Progress and Development and the Passion to Pursue It

NINTH, VOTE for candidates who have the precision of vision of national development and progress and the passion to pursue it. Leaders with a coherent vision of

vision-1018104_640righteousness, justice and freedom for the nation will direct its course well. Extraordinary leaders possess a clear vision of what the country could be, not only in six years but in the next 50 or 100 years. Visionaries carry progressive concepts and ideas to improve the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation. Leaders realize that an excellent and noble vision for the country creates hope and excitement among the people for a brighter destiny. Without a vision, leadership becomes lackluster –devoid of passion. Without a vision, leaders cannot motivate their people to work and complete tasks toward common goals. “Without a vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). The power to see the future greatness of a people or a nation is a rare quality among leaders. But Jesus  aptly described the pathetic lot of a leader without spiritual vision and insight when he admonished his disciples: “And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit (Matthew 15:4).

Pursuable Platform of Right Priorities

TENTH, VOTE for candidates with a pursuable platform of right priorities. While they are great visionaries, good leaders are pragmatists. They implement well-defined goals and measurable plans and strategies. They conceptualize political platforms that contain the content or specifics of governance and execute them within a given time and resources. Good public service platforms for a developing country include the promotion of a culture of righteous and efficient governance in all executive, legislative and judicial branches; the elevation of a disciplined police force and military to maintain peace and order and national security; the furtherance of a vibrant economy — the agriculture and the industries — and of ethical business; and most especially and importantly, the reduction of poverty or narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor. Thus people should vote for candidates whose platforms give priority to a process of monitoring, assessment, and reporting of goals, activities and outcome to determine actual achievements.

Performance or Track Record Outstanding –Very Prepared to Lead

ELEVENTH, VOTE for candidates whose performance or track record in governance is compelling and outstandingbacked by credible references on character, work ethics and achievements. Track records reveal competence and who are best prepared for the job of leadership. Managers don’t hire people on the basis of their potential but on the basis of their actual performance and experience. Choose those who have evidence of outstanding leadership, those with adequate knowledge and acquired hands-on experience. Good leaders also demonstrate spiritual, mental, emotional, physical and social stamina to lead. That is why educational preparation counts; work experience counts, exposure to difficult situations counts, and an overcoming spirit counts!

Productive, Professional and Possesses Organizational Skills

TWELFTH, VOTE for candidates who  are productive and possess organizational skills. They practice professionalism as they run their offices. They are task-oriented and value efficiency and effectiveness in governance. They are able to create simple strategies to achieve their goals. They know how to delegate tasks to those that are best suited for the job. They are action persons. To get things done, they device strong monitoring and reporting schemes to ensure projects are done in the right way and for the right purpose with effective results. “Execution is the ability to mesh strategy with reality, align people with goals, and achieve the promised results“(Larry Bossidy).(4) Many politicians have big plans but small accomplishments. VOTE for the one who can deliver public goods and services!

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Participatory Leadership in Solving National Problems

THIRTEENTH, VOTE for candidates who are problem-solvers and participatory in seeking out solutions to national problems. Problem-solvers have sharp intelligent minds that are able to make contextual and cognitive judgments about situations and people. Ask these questions: Do your preferred candidates have a comprehensive grasp of the problems of the society? Do they have realistic and ethical solutions for removing social ills? A good leader engages other problem-solvers to participate in the government’s think tank. These participants have eager and analytical minds, who are experts in their fields, believe in the same vision and who can draw up realistic and pragmatic solutions. Developing a pool of thinkers and experts to help find solutions to the problems of society is a trademark of great leaders.

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Participatory Leadership that Empowers the Poor

FOURTEENTH, VOTE for candidates participatory in their style of governance. As participatory leaders, they listen to people from the grassroots. They do this by creating mechanisms for dialogues and forums that draw out feedback and suggestions from the people on the periphery — the poorest and weakest members of society. Good leaders do not only consult the stakeholders and the technocrats, but also ordinary citizens. They create workable structures and processes to empower the poor, giving them a voice to articulate their problems and ample opportunities to be part of the political decision-making.

Process-Oriented Leadership — Patient and Persevering

FIFTEENTH, VOTE for candidates who are process-oriented and therefore patient and persevering in getting things done. They are in positions of service not for the short-term gain but for the long haul. They do not forget that the process of completing goals is as significant as the results or the outcome. They treat their immediate colleagues and workers and supporters with dignity and respect. They are interested in developing the potential of their workers. They motivate, warn and discipline non-performers. They reward outstanding officials in governance.  Good leaders are team workers and recognize the importance of  hardworking and loyal supporters in achieving good results. They know that getting from Point A to Point B is a feat in itself.

Political Will and Courageous Leadership to Create Changes for the Common Good

SIXTEENTH, VOTE for candidates who have the political will and courage to lead the nation and to create changes for the common good, even in the face of opposition. The best leaders are advocates of good causes. They have the ability to assert the right path, overhaul old structures and procedures, revitalize or create new ones that could become the new norms or processes by which government runs effectively and efficiently, honestly and with great accountability.  Courageous leaders have the political will to try new things within the bounds of law, mobilize groups to build communities, strengthen principled connections, win foes to the cause of righteousness and coalesce people to national goals.

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Summary 

These 16Ps can guide us in assessing our leaders. Principles 1 – 8 involve the CHARACTER AND CONDUCT OF THE LEADER, which are rock-bottom principles that create a solid foundation for leadership; while Principles 9 to 16 involve the COMPETENCE AND COURAGE TO LEAD which contribute to superior performance in leadership. With these parameters in mind, seek  information and examine documented evidence that prove your candidates are measuring up to the principles of great leaders and are worthy of your vote. CHOOSE CANDIDATES that have BOTH CHARACTER AND COMPETENCE; but if some candidates have HIGH MORAL CHARACTER and LOW COMPETENCE and other candidates have LOW MORAL CHARACTER and HIGH PERFORMANCE, VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WITH CHARACTER. CHARACTER IS DECISIVE! Again, here are the 16Ps in order:

  1. Personal High Moral Conduct and Character
  2. Principled and Democratic Philosophy of Governance 
  3. Principled Political Partnerships and Alliances
  4. Pure Intentions and Clear Purpose of Running for Public Office
  5. Political Legacy that is Honorable and Praiseworthy
  6. Pursues Ethical and Effective Public (Speaking) Communication 
  7. People-Oriented with a Genuine Interest to Serve
  8. Pro-poor with Compassionate Service
  9. Precise and Comprehensive Vision of Development and the Passion
  10. Pursuable Platform with Right Priorities and Programs
  11. Prepared to Lead with Outstanding Performance and Track Record
  12. Possesses Productive, Professional and Organizational Skills
  13. Participatory Leadership in Solving National Problem
  14. Participatory Leadership that Empowers the Poor
  15. Process-Oriented Leadership with Patience and Perseverance
  16. Political Will and Courage to Lead and Create Changes for the Common Good

Let your votes matter! VOTE WISELY!

Notes & References:

  1. Tozer, W. (1961). The Knowledge of the Holy. HarperCollins.Retrieved from http://www.ntcg-aylesbury.org.uk/books/knowledge_of_the_holy.pdf
  2. Span, S. (November 2012) Leadership And Unethical Behavior: How Does It Impact The Organization? Retrieved from http://www.eremedia.com/tlnt/leadership-and-unethical-behavior-how-does-it-impact-the-organization/
  3. John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902). The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.

  4. Larry (Lawrence) Bossini, a business executive rose to power as CEO of General Electric. He then became chairman of Honeywell. He wrote the book Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done (2002).

Politics in the Philippines

Elections 2016: Filipinos at the Crossroad of Change 

On May 9th of this year, many Filipinos here and abroad will go through a political event considered one of the greatest hallmarks of a free and democratic society. We shall hold our national elections –the 16th   elections since the Republic of the Philippines was formed in 1935. We will once again choose candidates for the highest offices of the land – a president and a vice-president – as well as senators, congressional representatives and officials of the local government above the barangay level whom we believe are worthy of our trust and confidence.

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Why Filipinos Should Vote Wisely

It will be a critical time for the nation because the elected leaders will hold the reins of government for the next six years. The leaders whom we choose will determine the kind of governance that will prevail, and their respective administrations will either bring hope and relief or hardship and frustration to many Filipinos. If we choose bad leaders we will face the dismal fate of moral decline, political and economic instability, and social stress that could bring more misery.  But if we elect good leaders, we can be assured that our country will progress, our morale will be lifted up; and our livelihood, especially that of the poor among us, will improve.

What It Takes to Vote Wisely

Choosing good leaders is a crucial task to ensure a better Philippines.  It requires that we take on the responsibility of knowing well who our candidates are, what they stand for and what they have done in their public or private capacities. We need to know and judge their character, their biographies and their fitness for public office. Our choices must be fact-based. Indeed, when we say we want to have good leaders and not bad leaders, we argue for a choice based on what constitutes a morally sound and strong leadership. Thus, we need to have a clear and credible standard for assessing their moral conduct and competence.

What Happens When We Vote Unwisely 

If we do not have such guidelines we will vote unwisely. We will end up confused, unsure and overwhelmed with our choices. We will also risk the results of the electoral process to the whims of imprudence or chance. The elections will then be a lost opportunity for true social change and an exercise in futility. If we fail to understand and use comprehensive, reliable and valid measures to size up the candidates then we will default on one of our most solemn duties of participating wisely in shaping a just, righteous and prosperous society.

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