It is in times of national tragedy that the character of a people and the society they form become most evident. Last night, a bomb detonated in the midst of a crowded night market in Davao City that reportedly killed 14 people and injured 67. Whilst there was general solidarity expressed across the country in condemning this cowardly atrocity, there is cause for concern over the response taken by some camps in the Opposition to the event.
The following tweet from a certain Netizen who goes by the name “JR Castillo” on Twitter captures the general sentiment of a noisy clique of critics of the government of Duterte…
In essence, Duterte’s most rabid critics, many of whom remain staunchly loyal to the camp of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III and his endorsed candidate who failed in his bid for the presidency in this year’s election, Mar Roxas, would be quick to use a tragedy such as this to further their agenda.
The way these rabid anti-Duterte fanatics think follows an over-simplified narrative that can be summarised in three points:
(1) This recent tragedy is likely to be part of a government conspiracy to invoke state emergency powers that could ultimately lead to a declaration of Martial Law;
(2) The bombing is evidence that the Duterte government — after just over two months in power — has failed in its “all out war” against crime and lawlessness; and,
(3) The fact that the tragedy happened in Duterte’s hometown in Davao proves that the President is really in no position to protect anyone nor make good on his promises to win his war against crime.
The trouble with this sort of thinking is that it deliberately sidesteps the crux of situations such as terrorist acts like these — that they happen because of the actions of bad people like terrorists. If there was any negligence involved on the part of the Philippine Government that led to this tragedy, it was certainly not because of any lack of foresight in efforts to make Davao City capable of taking care of its own people. The Queen City of the South is famous for the quality of the emergency response systems it has in place that is the envy of city governments across the Philippines. IBM Philippines which had worked with the Davao City government to implement many of the support technologies essential to its legendary Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) cited all this as a “first in the world”.
Much of the noise being added to the chatter also originates from the supposed “national trauma” suffered by Filipinos during the Marcos years — a sentiment that was manufactured by the Philippines’ corporate news media industry over the last 30 years. But then, what is the alternative to a strong government response that may possibly come at a cost to a cherished way of life? In the aftermath of the bombings in Bataclan theatre in Paris, France in 2015, French President Francois Hollande was unequivocal in his condemnation, calling the attack “an abomination and a barbaric act”. More importantly he used strong words to rally his people…
“France will stand firm,” he said. “We are going to fight and our fight will be merciless.”
In contrast, many Filipinos seem to be unable to let go of their liberalist position on matters that touch on the issue of “human rights” in the Philippines. A deep fear of “a return to Marcosian authoritarianism” remains raw thanks to a 30-year-long conditioning of the national psyche by the post-1986 power structure that filled the void left by former President Ferdinand Marcos following his ouster.
The fact that terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, which has since reportedly claimed responsibility for the Davao attack, has flourished over those 30 years points to the culpability of previous post-1986 governments that erred towards excessive “freedom” at the expense of greater security.
It is high time Filipinos face the reality that things need to be done differently in the Philippines if we are to realistically expect different results in the future. Much of the fear spun by Duterte’s critics around his different methods owe their potency to an unwillingness of many Filipinos to embrace change. What separates the men from the boys will be an ability to mount the courage to face the obvious changes that need to be implemented to lend real substance to the “hope” we aspire to regard the future with.
[Photo courtesy International Business Times.]
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