The criminal in every Filipino

Prisons were ruled by convicts and drug dealers lived a convenient life. And the political establishment, after the lofty promises of the Edsa Revolution, continually failed them. They are sick and tired of the empty promises of politicians, who, despite the economic growth, failed to provide them safety and security. They are indignant about the pretensions and civilities of liberalist politicians who preached reforms but robbed the people blind. They are powerless and ashamed. They are frustrated by the very essence of being a Filipino.

And so, they expected change. And they wanted an abrupt dramatic renewal. They wanted someone who could release them from the bondage of corruption, from the clutches of drugs and crime. They found a savior in President Rodrigo R. Duterte, a paternalistic, compassionate, and fierce leader.

President Duterte promised and he delivered. He touched a nerve in the Filipino, the angry and frustrated reservoir waiting to explode. He stroked these raw emotions masterfully. Together with a minion of die-hard legitimate supporters, he controlled the national narrative – either you are with me, or you are against me. He is not a legal dictator, but a moral dictator – he intimidates everyone, any established institution, who questions his moral crusade.

He galvanized and fixated in the Filipino the dream of a peaceful and prosperous country. He gave them hope and national dignity. He made the Filipino look up to the world with honor and pride. Overseas Filipino Workers found a champion who redefined their wretched situations. He gave them power – the power to articulate their hate against the pretensions of civility; the power to question the tenets of human rights and due process which, they argued, were coopted by the rich and the powerful to shield them from their shenanigans. As such, any form of criticisms levelled against Tatay Digong is considered a personal affront against their ideals of a better Filipino society.

He entranced the Filipino people – goading them to kill, to physically eliminate those who oppose their visions. He justified deaths in the name of protecting the country. He rationalized killings as a raw message to the addict, the criminal, the corrupt and the terrorist – don’t touch my children; not in my time, not in my watch. He promised to destroy and kill, in the hope of building a new society. And he agitated against those who could not see the righteousness of his cause, those who chastise this crass and unpretentious ways, those who criticize his swift delivery of justice.

And so, Filipinos cheer. They celebrate death. For them, the deaths of the Parojinogs is a great moral victory. And the more dead bodies pile up, the more popular Tatay Digong becomes. The more carnage displayed in the public view, the more he captures their hearts. The blood lust will continue, with no end in sight.

There is a crime wave that penetrated every nook and corner of the country – a wave that unleashes the penchant for violence in the Filipinos; a wave that approves the use of brute force; a wave which knows no moral qualms. 

Surreally, Filipinos hate crime. But in their hearts dwells crime. –

The author is assistant professor at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice of the Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.