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The Artist Abroad

Name and shame is the new game

/ 01:13 AM August 26, 2016

NEW YORK CITYIn a recent editorial cartoon on The New York Times’ website, by the artist Heng, President Rodrigo Duterte is shouldering a portable missile launcher, with “War on Drugs” imprinted on its side. He is taking aim at an apple positioned on the head of a luckless figure, “Philippines” written on his shirt, back to a tree.

The allusion is of course to Wilhelm Tell, the hero of Swiss legend and a formidable warrior and crossbow marksman, who successfully hit an apple placed on his young son’s head, by order of a tyrant, without harming a hair of the boy. Of course, with a modern weapon such as depicted in the cartoon, the apple will be obliterated but so will the man.

It is a darkly humorous retelling of that adage, “The operation was a success but the patient died.”

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So far in Duterte’s war the body count has been close to 2,000 casualties and rising. The victims are often shot dead while in police custody, their killings covered up in a brazen manner, with such clichéd excuses as the victim attempted to flee or to grab a policeman’s service pistol, justifying the taking of life.

Who have been the victims? Mostly from the marginalized and the powerless—folks who live in shanties, and lead hardscrabble lives. Killed not just by cops but also by vigilantes, for being suspected drug dealers and/or addicts. The operative word here is “suspected,” that is, their supposed guilt has been unproven in any court of law. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty itself has been disappeared.

Name and Shame is the new game in town. Apologists for the government point to legions being shamed into turning themselves in to the authorities as proof that the war on drugs is a success.

That being so, Duterte should consider expanding his war on drugs to other areas of public life and governance, so as to replicate this success. Thus, to resolve the traffic that renders daily excursions in the National Capital Region hellish, he might encourage traffic enforcers to rid our mean streets of suspected traffic violators by shooting them on the spot, confiscating their vehicles and taking them off city streets, thereby unclogging vital arteries.

To root out corruption in government, as he has promised, list publicly all suspects, particularly in agencies notorious as hotbeds of malfeasance, such as Customs, Internal Revenue, and Public Works and Highways.

Name names, Mr. President! Anyone living high off the fat of the land at these government agencies: feed them to the vigilantes! If they were allowed their day in court, we’d never get anywhere, as you, a former prosecutor, so rightly imply.

While you’re at it, Mr. President, you might as well add a list of suspected crooks in Congress, even those allied with you. Fearless former Davao mayor: name them!

And let’s not forget the police. This would be tricky, of course, since this would essentially involve cops pointing fingers at fellow cops. However, eliminating the suspects from the ranks would not only save money but make for a more cohesive and disciplined force. That is, assuming there are cops left standing after this beneficial and cathartic process.

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Have new lists published every week, Mr. President. Just look to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution as an inspirational guide. It might even be worth bringing back the guillotine and having public executions for all to see. Nothing drives home the message more than a decapitated head lolling a few feet away from its now limp body.

Of course, by and large, the Reign of Terror was also a Reign of Error. Which seems to be happening now, and you don’t wish this to continue, do you, Mr. President? For the error of taking an innocent life can never be rectified.

L.H. Francia Copyright 2016

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TAGS: Extrajudicial killings Philippines, Heng, Philippines war on drugs, Reign of Terror, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs casualties, William Tell
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