Debunking the urban legends PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 09 June 2014 12:05



A    short-cut does not always create a delightful journey. The fast way is not always the best way. Ever hear of gourmet food served in a fast food place? But some people think that taking a short-cut and doing it the fast way is a good way to address a problem.

When I hear people talk with admiration about the “Duterte way” in addressing problems of criminality I am often led to wonder if these people have thought things out carefully. The Duterte way that is so admired by some  is,  of course, the death squad way, the being-dropped-into-the–sea way.  Perhaps these stories are simply urban legends but if factual these are stories about how criminals are supposedly treated in this premier city in  Southern Philippines,  disregarding such formalities as human rights. There are times when we are tempted to consider these “ways” as the efficient ways to address problems like drug pushing, mugging and rape, sexual abuse of children and similar crimes.  But thinking is not the same as doing.

It was therefore disconcerting to read recently a column in a national paper where the widely-read hard-hitting columnist was all admiration for a  former governor of a province in the same area for his Duterte-like approach to criminality. The author says that no one was actually complaining  about the use of these tactics; the only complainant was Human Rights Watch. But, he wrote, what is Human Rights Watch anyway?

He was also in admiration for the Davao City approach to fighting criminality – summary killings, scare the life out of even petty thieves, etc.

Perhaps I am a babe-in-woods about these things but I learned even as a high school student that “Two wrongs do not make a right.”  Naïve as this may sound I genuinely believe it is still the right way to think.  To push drugs, to rape women, to sexually assault children are evil things. These are crimes that need to be brought to justice. But to set aside the legal process just to eliminate these crimes from our environment is a crime in itself.  If the legal process is not answering the situation then we need to look at the legal process and see what can be done to make it more efficient, more effective.  If law enforcers, prosecutors  and judges can be identified as abetting the problem then let us apply the law on them. If new laws are needed to make the justice system more effective and responsive to the problematic situation then let us work on our legislators to address the problem. But to suspend justice in pursuit of a more effective justice system is not the answer.

It is possible that the admiration from some people for the Duterte way is really an expression of frustration with how our police forces have not been able to raise their success rate in dealing with criminals. But must the law enforcer behave like the criminal to get things done? That is what must be carefully thought out.