Dealing with a monster

17

Written on 9:39 PM by isko b. doo

Stirring the dying

When Mayor Rodrigo Duterte admitted that city government is having a difficult time controlling the harbingers of death roaming the city's streets on board a two-wheel contraption boasting 125 cc of horsepower, I said to myself: finally!

There's nothing whimsical in that statement because it takes a lot of guts/humility for the mayor to concede that a.) the killings might have gotten out of control; b.) the city government has been helpless in curbing the killings.

Yes, he accepted responsibility for the killings but the heroic(?) gesture rings hollow when he exonerated the Davao City Police Office (which incidentally won the best police office in the country) of blame by claiming that killings are not unique to the city and that he was satisfied with its performance, and in the same breath, challenged his critics to produce evidence on the existence of the Davao Death Squad.

I mean, are you kidding me? For all his vaunted obstinacy, bipolar statements like that just leave everybody confused. I think he has become a victim of his own image. That's the only explanation I could think of. Growing up, I've heard the rumors: of death riding on motorcycles, their scythes shooting .45 caliber of hot lead. To this day, I never heard anybody allegedly belonging to the vigilante group (if there ever was one) arrested, much less incarcerated.

Don't get me wrong. To think there's a single organized group out there that's cleaning the streets of criminals would be a stretch even for a paranoid bastard like me. It would be more logical to think the killings are perpetrated on a hit basis in exchange for a monetary reward. But the paranoid in me can't help but think the killings won't last this long without the go signal from the police and, by extension the local government (one of the mayor's famous words was nobody will fart in Davao City without him knowing about it) and sadly, the public itself.

Why else would the killers insist on using the same M.O. and risk arrest when each Pedro and Maria is already familiar with their methods? Unless they were meant to be a warning, a badge of immunity if you will. Back off, or else.

This tacit approval by the public can be gleaned from the comment made by a Ms. Rosie I. Tan who said:

“True the street maintenace is not something to be proud of. The infrastructure needs a little boost. But I’ll take that anytime knowing that my kids are safe when they come out of school to buy project materials in the malls. I’ll accept that as fair trade knowing that my husband will be safe on his way home from work. Maybe Vigilantism is a monster in a bottle. Maybe it has some casualties. But I’d love to hear a Davaoeno lambast the Davao Death Squad, face a kidnapper and say he forgives him for killing a loved one. Criminals harm and kill ordinary citizens. Vigilantes kill criminals. That’s justice for me.”

I'm not going to belabor her point but for a full text of here comment click here. She is right, however, I have yet to hear a massive outrage from ordinary citizens. Duterte has an explanation for it: the culture of violence that started in the late 1970s and early 1980s -- when killings are a daily occurrence and as boring as watching ice melt -- still pervades in the city to this day.

I don't buy it. The killings continue because the public allowed itself to be cowed. In the words of Ms. Tan, the killings are a fair trade to knowing your husband and kids go home safe. She called it a monster in a bottle which presupposes a semblance of control but as I told her, the monster is no longer bottled up. Keeping that monster on a leash gives her a sense of security, but what’s stopping evil men from using that same monster against you and me?

Apart from desensitizing the public, the killings are breeding copycats. And yet the police and the Commission on Human Rights pointed to the lack of witnesses as the main reason why the investigations could not get off the ground. Hmm... ya think anyone likes to get involved if he/she thinks the government is the enemy? Who will protect them then, the criminals?

Let's get it out in the open. Do I believe the city government is behind the killings? I have no proof to categorically say yes. But the funny thing is it doesn't seem too concerned about being seen by everybody as a such, apart from the ministerial denial and directives for investigation. At the most, the local government is guilty of being phlegmatic.

The public and even the media have even stopped making the police accountable. After all, what's the difference between one murder or two?

Now Duterte has directed the police to unmask the killers to dispel the notion that the murders are sanctioned by the state. Knowing the tendencies and bipolar statements of City Hall, I'm going to hold my applause for this one. Let's see how he can control this multi-headed monster.

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17 Comments

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