Friday, April 15, 2016

Thoughts on Davao, Duterte, the Death Squad and why I'm very, very afraid

I was curious about those smoke stacks spewing black smoke right by a busy city thoroughfare, so I asked the driver what it was. A power generator operated by Aboitiz, he said, adding that the region needed it to address its power shortage problem. I wondered though if that coal-powered plant couldn't be located somewhere else, but wondered too how much farther it would've had to be to affect the citizens of Davao significantly less.

Don't judge a city by its Ayala Mall, that wouldn't be a fair judgment, or a realistic visualization. Just as Binay wanted the rest of the country to have this image in their minds that the whole of Makati looks like Greenbelt - a bustling, highly urbanized district nestled amid trees and green open spaces, there are depressed areas there too... the rest of Baguio isn't like the Technohub, in the same way that the rest of Davao is not all Abreeza Mall. I happen to be visiting the city and staying somewhere near the rather swanky commercial center.

So if the Davao example is what convinced you that Duterte's promise isn't merely ampaw, hold on a sec...

In fairness, Davao's streets look cleaner than those of a lot of other cities', maybe it's the norm in the whole city, but I've learned from the Olongapo example where the main thoroughfares, where us, non-residents normally pass, are spotless but the inner streets show a different picture, that it could all be cosmetics. But let's say it isn't so, and I have no problem believing that.

(Update: looks like it isn't mere cosmetics, as on our way to the airport on our last day there, we passed the inner streets to avoid traffic, and they were clean. Bravo, Davao)

First, I felt afraid, not exactly petrified, but afraid. It's sad that all the good things about Davao are now connected to Duterte's tough guy, I have huge balls pronouncements. The streets are clean because if you litter... damn, I can't get the image of the Davao Death Squad and dead minors, guilty of petty crimes, or perhaps not even, out of my head. I know he will make you eat that cigarette if you happen to take a puff outside of that square, those designated smoking areas.

I made sure I was well inside that square when I smoked a cigarette in Davao because, well, it's the law and also because, well, I don't wanna eat a lit cigarette nor do I want to die.

One of my hosts joked, "it's really a beautiful city. If you're good, life is beautiful in Davao. If you're bad, life ends here in Davao."

Nervous laughter.

The fear was palpable. And I'd rather be inspired to not smoke in public, litter, jaywalk, etc., than to be afraid. I want to look up to our leaders, follow their lead because I respect them, not because I'm afraid of them.

On our way to the airport, I saw some gangster graffiti on the walls of an underpass, not sure if gangs are a serious problem in Davao, but I do believe the graffiti are the handiwork of minors. I wondered if any one of the vandals have fallen victim to the Davao Death Squad.

I read the other day how Duterte planned to eradicate, oh wait, he has since changed that to "suppress," crime in 6 months. The plan revolves around improving the lot of our police force in terms of salaries, equipment and legal protection and giving them marching orders to kill suspects who will resist arrest violently.

I arrive in Manila, turn on the TV and the news: a tricycle driver in Davao was killed by a policeman who thought the former was stealing his motorcycle. The tricycle driver was in fact just helping, lifting his bike that fell.

Correction: now I'm petrified.

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