Yen Makabenta, a veteran journalist now at The Manila Times, wrote a prominent column last month about the American ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who enthusiastically praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. “The Philippines is suffocating,” Mr. Makabenta quoted the ambassador as saying. “We must give President Duterte the space to run his nation.” Ms. Haley, he reported, warned of “destructive forces” that “have calibrated their plot to ouster movements” against Mr. Duterte.
Mr. Duterte no doubt appreciated Ms. Haley’s support. The only problem: It wasn’t true. Mr. Makabenta had based his column on a fake story from a website whose web address, grammatical errors and far-fetched assertions should have made clear that it was a counterfeit of Al Jazeera.… Seguir leyendo »
Rodrigo Duterte is not to blame for the thousands of Filipinos killed during the 15 months of his presidency. That’s what his supporters claim. His popularity is pitched as proof of his mandate, and his iconoclasm is cast as an effective antidote to a dilapidated democracy that has always thrived on inequality.
Many of the president’s actions, however, remain indefensible. But he is not the only one to blame.
Mr. Duterte’s allies in the government, his die-hard supporters and well-rewarded propagandists — the cogs in his political machinery — have been revved up to great momentum. Their drive to quash opposition has been taken up with a righteous zeal that may outpace even the president.… Seguir leyendo »
Native to the Philippines is a tart fruit called the balimbing. Ridges down the length of its oblong sides give it multiple faces, which is why many of our politicians are colloquially compared to it. Such criticism of our rulers’ kaleidoscopic loyalties is usually apt, and it’s always uttered with contempt.
Last year, Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency under the slogan “Change is coming.” But the corruption and deception of those under him belie that promise. Mr. Duterte’s policies and methods have caused controversy worldwide, yet it is the chronic dysfunction and selfish ambition across the political spectrum that most prevent the changes we Filipinos deserve.… Seguir leyendo »
In one jail here, 91 men share a cell so small they take turns sitting down. It’s dizzyingly hot, and there are only two buckets for personal hygiene. And not one of the detainees has been convicted of a crime.
The 93 men packed into the cell next door are also not guilty — at least not yet. Nobody in this city jail has been tried. Each awaits his time in court. One inmate tells me his case has already stretched nearly five years. Many others have been here several months, since President Rodrigo Duterte began his war on drugs a little less than a year ago.… Seguir leyendo »
Solo hubo cinco muertos. Fue una noche tranquila.
Los reporteros del turno nocturno cuentan que así son los viernes. Los asesinatos han tomado un ritmo predecible en esta densa metrópolis de casi 13 millones de personas. Entre semana hay más ajetreo, generalmente hay una docena de cadáveres antes del amanecer. Un reportero me comentó que el récord era de 27 en una noche. Los fines de semana hay más calma, ya que los que cubren estos reportajes van a los velorios y funerales de las víctimas o dan seguimiento a testigos y otras fuentes.
Durante los ocho meses que lleva Rodrigo Duterte en la presidencia, los reportajes sobre la guerra contra las drogas han consternado al mundo y a Filipinas, aunque los partidarios del presidente dicen que las noticias son tendenciosas y que los asesinatos son necesarios.… Seguir leyendo »
Only five people had turned up dead. It was a slow evening.
The journalists on the night shift say Fridays are like that. A predictable rhythm has developed to the killings in this dense metropolis of nearly 13 million. Weekdays are busier, often producing a dozen bodies before morning. One reporter told me the record was 27 one night. Weekends are more tranquil, which is when those who cover this beat attend wakes and funerals of victims, or follow up with witnesses and other sources.
In the eight months of Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency, reports on the drug war have caused concern around the world and in the Philippines, though the president’s supporters cast the news as biased and the killings as necessary.… Seguir leyendo »
Dusk set silver-gray over the crowd gathered in a park here on Nov. 25, but the banners and placards could still be clearly seen. Homemade, cardboard, some laminated with packing tape to protect them from the rain, the signs expressed the rage of thousands of young Filipinos rallying against the recent, clandestine burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Cemetery of Heroes.
This protest was one of many that have taken place recently across the Philippines and by Filipinos around the world. A week earlier, thousands spontaneously flooded the streets as news of the burial emerged. Further protests have swollen into the tens of thousands.… Seguir leyendo »
Machismo isn’t quite what it used to be. Backlash and hashtags now hold politicians accountable for their so-called locker-room talk in much of the world. Yet the Philippines remains a glaring example of how men use language and law to try to emasculate opponents and maintain power.
At first glance, Filipinos do well in terms of gender equality. We beat the United States in having a female president by at least 30 years. Our nation has one of Asia’s highest percentages of women in government. Women on average receive more schooling, and their life expectancy leads men’s by almost seven years.… Seguir leyendo »
Mornings in the Philippines reveal bodies dumped outside slums. Averaging 13 a day, nearly 2,000 in the last two months, the bodies are hung with cardboard labels: purse snatcher, drug pusher, addict. The authorities decline to investigate. These are the casualties of a controversial crusade against crime that was the subject of the recent spat between the country’s new president, Rodrigo Duterte, and Barack Obama, which devolved into crude insults (by Mr. Duterte) and canceled meetings (by Mr. Obama).
These corpses aren’t the only ones in the spotlight. Mr. Duterte, making good on a campaign promise, has ordered the mummified body of our former dictator, Ferdinand E.… Seguir leyendo »
A carnival-like atmosphere has descended on this country ahead of the presidential election on Monday: dancing showgirls at campaign events, candidates inviting one another to “slap me,” and reports of cash distributed in exchange for cheers. The Philippine system of government, inherited from our American colonizers, is unique, with its raucous collection of political parties based not on ideology but on personality.
Five candidates are running for president and six more for vice president, who is elected separately. But real choice is scarce. Most politicians come from among a few dozen familiar dynasties that have ruled the country for the last two generations.… Seguir leyendo »
While anatomically illiterate politicians in America babble about “legitimate rape,” a Filipino legislator opposed to birth controlhas been shedding crocodile tears in Parliament and plagiarizing speeches to bolster the case against reproductive rights.
On Aug. 13, the Senate majority leader, Tito Sotto, wept while addressing his assembled peers. The former actor told the Senate that birth-control pills, used by his wife in 1974, had led to the death of their newborn son a year later. The emotional scene shut down the day’s debate. It was the latest obstruction to passing a reproductive health law that has languished for 14 years.
Proponents of the reproductive health bill say it will address poverty, women’s rights, infant and maternal mortality, and overpopulation in a poor nation crowded with 94 million people.… Seguir leyendo »