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If I were to sum up the first year of PDiggy’s presidency, it was a time where government actions struck closer to home. It was a time, as a friend puts it, when the government was closer to the Filipino people. It was a time that majority of the Filipinos realized, as MY President puts it, that “genuine change is what this country needs”. It was a time when we scratched our head in disbelief and told ourselves “pede naman pala”.

Like in the previous government functions, PDiggy’s SONA was void of the usual pomp and pageantry. It had a mix of a structured speech intertwined with his personal thoughts on how the country’s Chief Executive looks at the current issues hounding the nation. It was very bold, softened by PDiggy’s own brand of humor. It was a message addressed to Filipinos with the intent of making us understand the why’s for these government efforts. The SONA was not delivered to impress a particular audience but was delivered to Filipinos to digest. It was delivered right and to its rightful recipients.

I loved the way he spelled out the issue of human rights and the hypocrisy of the supposed guardians of it. Though I am not disregarding the need to investigate the “possible” abuse by the police in some isolated cases, the same “outburst” should also done to victims of heinous crimes. Politicians, eager for positive ratings, should not add too much drama to the deaths of suspected criminals, because they fought back to resist arrest, by trivializing it in the guise of human rights and due process. The truth is that these politicians take on the banner of human rights violation with so much passion for these suspected criminals and yet they remain silent over heinous crimes committed against innocent lives. When you are against crime, you should be against all forms of crime. If you create noise and clamour on the death of a suspected criminal, we expect to create the same noise and clamour for the victims of these suspected criminals. Noise created in one and silence with another does not make sense. It makes one a hypocrite and Filipinos can see these intentions.

Martial Law in Mindanao was justified in one sentence – it is the fastest way to quench a rebellion by terrorists in Mindanao. It will take a Mindanaoan to understand the situation of what is happening in Marawi and the risks that it entail. It is not just a simple faction throwing its tantrums at a government. It is a group that is very eager to carve out a caliphate in Mindanao and struggling to get the world’s attention. It is important that the government shows it force against these groups now. An iron fist is needed to eradicate this group for the nation’s safety. It is only PDiggy who has the balls to take this brave action to address this security concern and we can all see how swiftly key people of the Maute group fall into the hands of authorities.

In the same frame of thoughts, all these perceived Martial Law abuses are yet to be properly reported, documented, and investigated by the right government agency. We cannot rely on hearsays alone. The right and justified way to address these issues is through channelling it through the right government agency instead of mere press releases.

“I will not take to you (Leftists). Why should I?” was a bold statement from PDiggy. This comes after several incidents of treachery on the part of the NPA. I mean you cannot talk about peace and stage surprise attacks that claimed the lives of our police force. That is a complete opposite of the why we are on a negotiating table.

This statement was further emphasized by PDiggy’s show of support to the AFP and the PNP. This administration has, by far, shown the most support to the military and police force, not only with the promise of modernization programs but also with the moral support for our troops. You have to admit that this administration has inspired a whole nation, except for a minority, to rally behind our troops. Stories of simple citizens extending small acts of kindness and support to our troops are no longer confined to stories that we read from other countries. We now have our own inspiring stories to tell from simple Starbucks coffee treats to airline’s extending free baggage weight allotment for our troops. You cannot deny that the way we see the police and the military are slowly shifting. There are still some scalawags on the line but we do not let the SOME taint the image of the whole. Besides, the some will soon be taken out of the line.

Speaking of strong words, the call to return the “Balangiga Bells” is one of the strongest points of PDiggy’s SONA. It was definitely a bold statement that made a number of pro-American politicians, and probably even the US Ambassador to the Philippines, a bit uncomfortable on their seats. The President was right in saying that the bells belong to the Philippines and they are part of our country’s national heritage.

For me, the statement goes beyond just the act of returning the bells to its home. It is a statement that mainly emphasizes three things:

  1. PDiggy believes that what is ours is ours;
  2. The US has no moral right to keep prodding and interfering with how we are dealing with our issues on the West Philippine Sea; and
  3. PDiggy is putting emphasis that we are no longer the “little brown American” as we are an independent nation.

I could probably write a separate blog about this but, for the purpose of this blog, I will try to give a short summary of my points.

It may seem that it is just a material thing compared to the West Philippine Sea Issue but the Balangiga Bells stands more than just a bell. It is a national heritage that was forcefully taken from us. It is a symbol of American defeat and by returning it to us is a recognition by the US that they have strong respect for our history and heritage. It is a statement that they recognize our independence as a nation and the respect for our values. Furthermore, the US should not prod us to go against China on the West Philippine Sea issue with them giving us support. As a matter of principle, how can the US demand from the PDiggy Administration to act the way the US want this administration to act on the West Philippine Sea issue when the US themselves cannot even return a national heritage to its rightful owner? Again, it is hypocrisy. Return what is ours first if that is the principle that US is really standing up and working on.

The protection of the environment is a non-negotiable for this administration. This statement, for me, was a bold statement after the non-appointment of Gina Lopez as DENR Secretary. The President emphasized the need to exercise extreme care in the extraction of minerals from its sources by creating a mining economy that is responsible, regulatory, and sustainable. He emphasized the need to raise taxes on mining so as to have funds for the rehabilitation of the local community affected by this industry. Simply put… there are two viable options that goes hand in hand with the care of the environment – raise taxes or stop mining.

Speaking of taxes, a good message that made an impression on me was PDiggy’s stand on the strong need to bridge the gap between those who are paying taxes and the elimination of corruption in the government. It emphasizes that this two goes hand in hand that we as private citizens and companies have a deep responsibility in paying our taxes while the government works on the right appropriation of these funds for the government’s project especially on its “Build, Build, Build” projects. The President made it clear in his SONA that they “will not spare no one for cheating the government what is due” hence the call to “declare the right income and pay the correct taxes”. On the President’s end, he gave us the assurance his fight for corruption will be relentless and also calls for the public’s cooperation on fighting corruption.

Right after PDiggy’s SONA, I read varying comments on social media and I restrained myself from giving my reaction not until after I have heard the whole address. I have to say that one thing that makes this administration effective, as reflected by the President’s address, is that its programs strike very close to our homes. These are programs that make us feel the presence of the government in our daily run. Again, it makes you think and say “kaya naman pala, bakit hindi pa nagawa noon?”

PDiggy’s address was simple and straightforward. Much was already done and much still remains to be done but as PDiggy puts it, it also needs our cooperation.

Now if you only counted the cuss words or something less relevant during the SONA, something is terribly wrong with you.

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Dear Mr. Jegou,

It took me a lot of thinking whether I should respond to your article that was published on rappler.com just last week about President Duterte’s war on drugs where you played it as an act similar to opening Pandora’s Box. Although you placed a disclaimer that you are not an expert on Philippine politics, I honestly feel that some of the arguments that you raised were erroneous and that you need not be an expert in politics to be able to identify that.

First, your claim that President Duterte openly called for the murder of drug dealers and addicts is unfounded. He had only one call made during the campaign period until now – to apprehend and rehabilitate drug dealers and users. In the event that these individuals fight to avoid arrest then the police would have to fulfil their sworn duty to protect the public and, if need be, fight back even if it meant that either parties may incur casualties. I think that is logical.

President Duterte never called for the murder of anyone. He encouraged these dealers and addicts to surrender peacefully. The proposition is for them to let go of their old ways and be rehabilitated. Daily news reports have seen hundreds of users and dealers surrendering peacefully. In fact, as of this writing, an estimated 60, 000 drug suspects have voluntarily surrendered to authorities and yet none of those who surrendered were murdered. So to stake your claim that President Duterte openly called for the murder is completely baseless and is just your attempt to react on and feed people with misinformation.

Yes, we cannot discount the fact that we have seen an increase in the numbers of deaths due to police encounters and summary killings. In your accounting, you have mentioned 119 individuals who received no investigation and no judgement. Though I am with you on certain points on this one, I also would like to give a different perspective on this issue.

I believe that police authorities are in a solid position to enforce the law and to apprehend individuals who violate it. In situations where suspected drug dealers and users become aggressive and becomes a threat to public safety or theirs, I expect the police force to neutralize the person. If the suspects decide to fight it off until death then I expect the police force to do the same. If in the process, death comes to the suspects then that is a consequence of their decision. It is NOT murder. In the same way, if death comes to any police officer then it comes with their national duty and, again, it is NOT murder.

I have often wondered why a small number of drug suspects would take the brazen act of engaging police forces into a fire fight and face death rather than surrendering peacefully. My initial conclusion is that the neglect to empower our police forces by previous administrations and the possibility of drug links of the country’s top officials have implanted into the minds of these criminals that they are above the law. In the same way, that our police forces are laughed at for doing their job.

It does not help that government bodies have put too much premium on upholding human rights in such a way that criminals have comfortably placed themselves that apprehending them for a crime is a human rights violation. They can initiate engagement with our police forces in a firefight because they feel very secure that their “human rights” will be protected by the government should they die or get injured but NONE of our police forces get the same treatment if the same thing happens to them. The way previous governments have treated criminals have given them the confidence that they are above the law.

I stand by President Duterte’s recent statement that if suspected criminals want due process then they should go to the courts. The ONLY way that they can get due process is when they surrender peacefully and go through the due process accorded by law. If they decide to engage in a firefight and they die in the process then these suspects have decided upon themselves not to go through the due process. Again when our police forces are engaged, I expect them to keep public safety their priority and to defend themselves when needed. When suspected criminals get killed in a firefight with police authorities that is not murder. It is a consequence of their decision to evade the law.

But then again you will argue that we cannot discount the fact that we still have a number of dead bodies popping up around the city. These victims of summary killings, I would presume, you would associate to the current administration. However to associate it to President Duterte as an action in response to his call against drugs would be premature. Again, no full investigation has been done on these killings and it would be an injustice to blame it on the current administration.

I guess the big question that really needs to be answered is whether these killings are done by vigilante groups heeding the call against drugs or is this the work of drug syndicates as a means of cleaning up their ranks? Both are possibilities. Unless a thorough investigation is already done, we would have to wait for the answers and hold off any premature judgement.

Yes, the drug problem in the Philippines is a deep-rooted problem and it needs to have everyone involved. Filipinos have a choice to become this administration’s partners for change hence the call for the active participation of every Filipino to help fight the problem of drugs in the country. But President Duterte never gave direct orders to anyone to murder or kill these drug dealers and users as per your argument. His instructions was simply to assist police forces to identify these suspects. A citizen’s arrest is the last resort. If the suspect resist arrest and poses a threat to the community then regular citizens have the right to defend themselves.

You were right in saying that the current drive against drugs opened a Pandora’s Box. It has clearly given every Filipino a picture on how big and wide the problem that we need to deal with. It made us realize that we need to take a strong stance and be partners for change. Our desire to rid our nation of this problem is not a war against our fellow Filipinos so it is not the first step of a civil unrest. It is a fight against drugs, not against anyone so please be wary of the words that you use, as you suggested.

Again, I thought about whether to write this blog but I wanted to also give you an insight of how I have seen my country deteriorate and the need to address the REAL issues at hand. I think that it is better to focus on the 60, 000 Filipinos who voluntarily and peacefully surrendered to the police force rather than focusing on the hundreds who died because they opted to pursue their old and illegal ways. Again, their death is not murder but a consequence of their decisions and actions.