Biggest crooks in the Philippines are Presidents and Congressmen, not drug lords or terrorists

What is it about vigilantism that appeals so much to Filipinos? The thought of taking the law into one’s hands is a common Filipino fantasy. Philippine cinema reflects this as have many recent public explosions of uncontrolled often violent rage coming from ordinary Filipinos, many of which were captured in videos that went viral over the Net. It seems these are all signs of growing public frustration over banal criminality in Philippine society that pervades from the very top all the way down to the grassroots. Crooks routinely get away with murder and massive thievery in the Philippines whether it be perpetrated by Senators and Presidents skimming “commissions” off slush funds rendered immune from public audit by administrative sleight of hand or by drug-crazed bus drivers and their bosses to whom putting thousands of lives at risk is but a part of another typical day at the office.

Becoming more appealing: A return to the police state or an embrace of vigilantism?
Becoming more appealing: A return to the police state or an embrace of vigilantism?
One of the many illegal activities that seemingly remained beyond the reach of the law but has now been the subject of much headline news is rice smuggling. “Businessman” Davidson Bangayan (allegedly a.k.a. David Tan) has been alleged to be the mastermind of massive rice smuggling operations. And renowned Law-West-of-the-Pecos mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City is on his case. Invited to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food inquiry on rice smuggling, Duterte reportedly went as far as threatening the life of Bangayan after he positively identified him as being “David Tan”, something that Bangayan has repeatedly denied…

“I will gladly kill him. I could go to prison for it. I’m old, your honor. I could spend the remaining days of my life (there). Matanda na rin ako. Marami na rin akong sakit. The most is about five to 10 years. I can do away with the stress by reading books,” said Duterte, referring to Bangayan, who is being tagged by the intelligence community as David Tan, the alleged king of rice smugglers in the country.

As to why resort to killing crooks, Duterte went on to spell out the bottom line…

“The trouble with us in government is that we talk too much, act too slow and do too little. Don’t we?” he added.

Quizzed by Senator Jinggoy Estrada on which branch of government he was referring to, the mayor said he was referring to the Bureau of Customs, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Justice (DOJ). All three agencies, he said, failed to address the issue of smuggling.

Duterte is known for his personal brand of iron-fisted rule which he has applied for years in Davao City. The city is specifically known for the infamous “Davao Death Squads” or DDS. Duterte once joked about the “D” in DDS standing for “Duterte” in a TIME Asia article that ran with the title “The Punisher.” Whether Duterte’s links with the DDS are true or not, he seems to find no reason to distance himself from the brand of rough justice that vigilante groups like it stand for…

Duterte is unapologetic about his willingness to venture beyond what legal niceties might permit. Criminals and rebels, he says menacingly from his perch at the bar, “do not have a monopoly on evil.” A long, hard stare leaves little doubt that this is not idle talk. One day his methods might be unnecessary, he says. But for now, he insists on what most people from this town have also come to believe: “The only reason there is peace and order in Davao is because of me.”

…an attitude that has earned him many fans in the Philippines’ southern provinces and pretty much secures his family’s dynastic rule over Davao.

The use of state-sanctioned vigilantes also became prevalent during the regime of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos who, in 1984, deployed plain-clothed police personnel in public buses and jeepneys with orders to shoot criminals on sight. This was a drastic measure supposedly to curb rampant criminality back then. More than 50 suspected criminals were killed in just one month over which this police approach was in effect. More recently in 2006, then Cebu Roman Catholic Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal endorsed the deployment of secret marshals under similar premises in Metropolitan Cebu City which at the time was being wracked by a crime wave.

As layer upon layer of instances of failure in law enforcement pile up and as Filipinos’ already meagre faith in their country’s criminal justice system further erodes, the case for vigilantism gets stronger as the public grows restless. Reports of Mexican drug cartel operations making inroads into the Philippines are not helping considering that Mexico has itself reportedly “essentially legalized” vigilantism…

The government said it had reached an agreement with vigilante leaders to incorporate the armed civilian groups into old and largely forgotten quasi-military units called the Rural Defense Corps. Vigilante groups estimate their numbers at 20,000 men under arms.

But that is Mexico. The difference is that, in the Philippines, it is key officers of the government itself that are regarded by the public as the very crooks that need to be subject to this ancient form of justice. Indeed, unlike Mexico, in the Philippines, the biggest stakes as far as the amount of money involved, involves not drugs but discretionary government funds used by officials to buy and sell political favours — which means that, in the Philippines, the biggest crooks by far are not drug lords and terrorists, but Senators and Presidents on account of their having a direct hand in this massive institutionalised thievery.

It is the worst form of national criminality — one where the crooks themselves are the very people whose duty it is to catch crooks and prevent crooked activity. It does not really take a rocket scientist to figure out why none of the Philippines’ big issues ever get convincingly resolved.

Could I have a large fries with my vigilante burger plez?

[Photo courtesy Philippine News.]
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14 Comments on “Biggest crooks in the Philippines are Presidents and Congressmen, not drug lords or terrorists”

  1. I do not endorse “vigilantes”. Inspite of the crookedness of our political leaders. We are living in a civilized world. Where laws are enacted and enforced…we are now degenerating to the Old American Wild West era…where the law of the land is a six shooter revolver.

    This is the result of us, electing these bastard political leaders. Who only want to steal from the national treasury…

  2. the problem with the Philippines is RULE OF LAW is never applied. The country is in dire need of Iron Fisted leadership.the country is overpopulated. Crime is rampant. Its just a matter of time that China will invade us. You idiots out there better start getting your act together or the Philippines is doom to fail or be conquer again.

    1. @Captain, O-Hoy matey!!! ‘doomed to fail’?

      the Philippines, right now, is the epitome of a ‘failed state’. with who knows how many millions living on less than P100/day, it can not get much worse.
      Ironically, the ‘massa’ go about their misery in seeming contentment instead of turning their wrath on those who really do deserve it.I mean, wowo, they really do deserve it(a damn good wacking, that is).

  3. Well, they do refer to the Philippines as Island Mexico.
    We might as well go full on wild west. Six shooters and ten gallon hats for everyone!
    Yeehaw!

  4. Mayor Duterte reportedly/’allegedly’ has had pot-smoking ‘drug-addicts’ murdered, and the idiotic citizenry stand, even cheer for it! How sad. it seems that this guy is a li’l behind the times and it would indeed be a sight to see him or his daughter personally, without the help of his PAID thugs and outside of his home territory, take a joint out of ,say, a “DEAD-HEAD”s hand while they are enjoyin’ a smoke in say, Colorado.This antiquated excuse for a politician/tough guy is a prime example of what is wrong with the Philippines.The guy and his whole family masquerade as ‘do-gooders’ ‘for the people’ when all they really are is, well…the article sums it up pretty well.

    Duterte’s delusional belief that “the only reason there is peace and order in Davao is because of me.” is cow-dung. The guy PAYS people well to go out and kill those he deems fit for death. Without his money his ‘long hard stare’ would get him his head handed to him in seconds flat, outside of his l’il fiefdom…say, in Rikers Island Jail. He would see how tough he isn’t. By himself??? a mere delusional old-man.

    in a place as backwards as his,seems he fits…in the rest of the world…he has no place and would find it out quickly….should he venture out into it.

  5. A delusional old-man who marks pot-smoking ‘drug-addicts’ for death….and gets away with it? Yet, without his money? His thugs wouldn’t listen to a word the guy says.
    The old-mans belief that the ‘only reason there is peace and order in Davao is because of me.’ is a fantasy he probably believes. Take the old-man out of his place and put him, by himself and without his well paid thugs, in a biker club house in any-town USA/Europe/Canada where people are smoking joints (legally) and he would find out how tough he isn’t, quickly. His ‘long hard stare’ would get him his head handed to him anywhere that is not as backwards a place where he ‘governs’.

    looks like the old-man is a prime example of what is wrong with the Philippines.

  6. Criminals and rebels, he says menacingly from his perch at the bar, “do not have a monopoly on evil.”

    What!? The hell kind of statement is that? It almost sounds like a non-sequester. So it’s only him and his crew who has any discretion to “monopolize” evil? What does he mean by that?

    But anyway, this article reminds me of a movie called “Hot Fuzz”. It’s a brilliant comedy film were a city cop gets stationed in a seemingly peaceful and prosperous little town. The cop, in the end, managed to convince the locals that they were “brainwashed into naivety by an old man with a murderous ambition”.

    While he did, or so he claimed, maintained the peace he still overstepped the bounds of leadership. Plus, he made his townsfolk believe that progress can be attained through his dirty tricks, therefore turning them into meek sheep. The end doesn’t justify the means, Duterte, and no amount of pogi points from you is going to change that.

    But then what the hell do you expect from these jerks? From what I’ve seen from politicians branded as “heroic” by the media lately, nobility doesn’t count since what matters in the end are results. Never mind having to bribe anyone “after the fact” just so you can get what you want.

  7. “Might makes Right” or “Legal Positivism”

    But then again it feels like the Philippines is still stuck somewhere in the middle ages anyway so no surprise there.

    I’m in a conversation right now with a friend who is lamenting that in El Nido, illegal logging is so bad that the trail the logs make when the loggers drag them out of the forest is waist deep in depth. Flora species variation is horrendous.

    As an environmentalist, at this point I’m fantasizing about hiring a hit squad to kill off all these illegal loggers. A friend has suggested an online site where I can hire that “hit squad.” I’m SURE even if i reported it to officials in Palawan they wouldn’t be able to do anything (in fact some of them may have family members involved in the illegal logging).

    So yeah. I’m part of the people fantasizing about vigilantism. Go for it. I’m pretty sure a kickstarter account would be uber popular. I am part of a population of people who refuse to give legitimacy to an ever increasingly inept government.

  8. For some reason, I’m reminded of another quote by the late Tom Clancy:

    “What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It’s not good at much else.”

  9. “But that is Mexico. The difference is that, in the Philippines, it is key officers of the government itself that are regarded by the public as the very crooks that need to be subject to this ancient form of justice”

    Funny that you compare Mexico, another country plagued with corruption in its highest office down to the bottom.

    They’re plagued with the former colonial mentality that is spain as well, and are only a little better off than us due to it’s strategic location landlocked with the US and South America.

    As i often notice, GRP is quick to generalize or deem corruption is exclusive only in the PH. While i won’t deny that we’re one of the most corrupt nations and we’re infamously ranked as such, it’s quite silly to see words “In The Philippines this, that”

    on another issue, you’re seriously downplaying terrorism? really? Drug lords maybe so, but terrorists?

    Give me one good solution to curb corruption in Government offices, from the highest to the lowest in the food chain.

  10. We must make our criminal justice system work! They are being paid to render service for the protection of our National wealth and to advance national interest andsecsecurity! If the Judiciary,DOJ,NBI,UMBUDSMAN,Sandigan Bayan are inept by not enforcing the Law then Criminals will be enjoying fleecing the Nation’s wealth and tax money is stolen by those in authority! We must ignite our sense of patriotism for our survival as a nation.

  11. We must make our criminal justice system work! They are being paid to render service for the protection of our National wealth and to advance national interest andsecsecurity! If the Judiciary,DOJ,NBI,UMBUDSMAN,Sandigan Bayan are inept by not enforcing the Law then Criminals will be enjoying fleecing the Nation’s wealth and tax money is stolen by those in authority! We must ignite our sense of patriotism for our survival as a nation. May I quote the warning in the Bible which is the written guideline from God for us to leave with moral values and good ethics! Matthew 16:25-26. 25 For whoever wishes to save his [v]life will lose it; but whoever loses his [w]life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Proverbs 11New American Standard Bible (NASB)
    Proverbs11:1-11
    Contrast the Upright and the Wicked
    1 A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    But a just weight is His delight.
    2 When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
    But with the humble is wisdom.
    3 The integrity of the upright will guide them,
    But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
    4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    But righteousness delivers from death.
    5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
    But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
    6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
    But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed.
    7 When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish,
    And the hope of strong men perishes.
    8 The righteous is delivered from trouble,
    But the wicked [a]takes his place.
    9 With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
    But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
    10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
    And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.
    11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

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