Rodrigo Duterte promises to wipe out criminals across the Philippines in just six months and many of his supporters cheer him for this macho election pledge. But let’s take a simple and common sense close look at his particular wiping-out-criminals promise.
Since the country’s population across over 7,000 islands is now about 102 million, it is reasonable to assume there are at least 200,000 criminals across the country. If 200,000 is divided into six months, that will result in 33,000 criminals that “need” to be killed according to Duterte’s pledge to eliminate criminals in just six months.
Won’t policemen shoot first at suspected and imagined criminals just to meet Duterte’s quota of 33,000 criminals every month just to meet his self-imposed election promise of of eliminating criminals in just six months? What if your brother, cousin or father is innocent of any crime, but he was unfortunately in the vicinity of a suspected crime activity, just like an unfortunate story related to this writer by Amy, an OFW in Hong Kong? If raiding policemen shoot first before asking any questions, will your brother, father, relative or friend stand a chance in a hail of bullets — because of a blood-thirsty president whose primary weapon against crimes is killing them?
Most OFWs are Christians, whether they are Catholics or not. Thus, spirituality will always be part and parcel of every Filipino’s life — even criminals with young children. While there are circumstances — such as armed criminals shooting it out with responding policemen — which justifies shooting down criminals, this should be done only as a last resort, and not to be done indiscriminately.
Let’s face it, some children and family members of OFWs in Hong Kong and elsewhere may be involved in petty or even major crimes. They may not be involved in crimes themselves but may be hanging out with gangs or friends who are engaged in crimes. If OFW children or family members get caught in police raids and raiding officers are trigger happy — because of a directive from the president himself — to take down and eliminate criminals promptly, how will affected OFWs feel and what redress under the law can they look forward to?
And let’s face it, wishing the elimination of a problem is easy. But when harsh realities hit hard — like mass killings of 33,000 suspected criminals every month — who among OFWs and other Pinoys will not be horrified by this?
And if there is no immediate stopping of killings of 33,000 suspected criminals, what will OFWs who voted into office Duterte do? Duterte has repeatedly said that if he becomes president, he does not want anyone — not Congress and its members, not anyone — meshing up with changes that he wants to introduce and undertake.
If mass killings — of both criminals and innocent civilians — unfold under a Duterte presidency, OFWs and other Pinoys who voted him into office will likely also have blood in their hands — for helping him undertake his promised bloodbath in his desperate but poorly-conceived strategy of addressing criminality in the country.
There are more sensible and practical alternatives to Duterte’s pledge of mass killings of criminals. They are not as exciting and attention-grabbing as Duterte’s proposed “solution.” But they can also work well, if not better.
Grace Poe and Mar Roxas also have proposed solutions to addressing criminality across the country. Roxas cites the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) “Lambat Sibat” campaign which is producing concrete results in reducing criminality in Metro Manila. Poe is offering a bolder and more innovative approach by getting members of barangays in crime detection, prevention and fight against criminals. Barangay members — not senior police officers and other officials — live in areas where criminals live, thrive and plan their criminal activities. So it’s best to get many members of the community involved in fighting crime, not simply and foolishly dumping this task to the police.
It’s always good and even ideal to live in a largely crime-free society. But it also takes common sense and proper police and judicial work to reduce crimes to the barest minimum.
In spite of this article’s sober and rational discussion of fighting criminality in the Philippines, scores of OFWs still say — We need an iron hand (kamay na bakal) to deal with criminals. Why don’t we try something new, like Duterte, for a change?
Positive change? Or negative change?
If Filipinos vote Duterte into office, let us then see what it feels and how different segments of society, including the Catholic church, will react if 33,000 suspected and imagined criminals are killed every month for six months.