Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Butcher is Coming to Town

Once again, prudence and sensitivity to public opinion has taken a back seat in the appointment of another controversial figure to a government post. Retired General Jovito Palparan, who has earned the nickname “The Butcher” owing to his aggressive strategies in dealing with communist insurgents which coincided with suspected rebels turning up as dead bodies, will join the Dangerous Drugs Board in what appears to be an effort by government to show that it is serious in its campaign against illegal drugs. In the wake of tarnished reputations of the DOJ and the PDEA due to allegations of bribery, case manipulation and incompetent law enforcement, the government now attempts to remedy the situation with the appointment of someone who has quite a colorful reputation himself, having been implicated in the abduction, torture and killing of the Manalo brothers ( Read it here and here ). Will his reputation of employing extra-judicial methods be the cure for the ailing reputations of the DOJ and PDEA? Instead of gaining the confidence of the people, the Palparan appointment will only draw criticism and dilute whatever public support the government has in the fight against illegal drugs. Naturally, human rights and other progressive groups will raise a howl about the appointment. The grant of a position for Palparan will seem to them as a reward and condonation for the brutal acts being attributed to the retired general. ON the other hand, it seems that the government is indeed harping on the reputation of Palparan as The Butcher in bolstering its campaign against illegal drugs. In other words, they are employing the scare tactic, sending a message to the drug traffickers that they better watch out, The Butcher is coming to town. “You wouldn’t want to end up dead floating in a creek with your fingernails removed and a bullet hole in your head ”, seems to be the message. This purpose for Palparan’s appointment is evident In an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer which said: “If that is his image (butcher), then that will work well for us. It’s the drug traffickers who should fear him, not the public,’’ DDB chair Vicente “Tito’’ Sotto III said in a phone interview. The problem with this is that while it may sound threatening, it will be taken seriously by the drug traffickers only if The Butcher will live up to his reputation. Meaning to say, some drug pushers will have to end up dead first, with the obvious signs of a summary execution. In order for The Butcher’s reputation to be substantiated, he will have to deliver on that reputation. And I’m willing to bet that a tough-looking and tough-talking general who has been praised in no less than the State of the Nation Address in spite of protestations from human rights groups will be more than eager to prove his mettle as a solution to the drug problem. Is that really what the government wants? While it bucks the proposal to impose the death penalty on drug traffickers after they go through the due process of legal arrest, trial and conviction, it employs the threat of extra-judicial action? I have nothing personal against General Palparan. Although he has that reputation of being a human rights abuser, he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. IN the same manner, anyone and everyone is innocent until proven guilty after due process. Even suspected drug traffickers. But in public service, it is important that government acts in prudence, and be sensitive to perceptions about its actions. In employing the services of someone who does not have the confidence of the people, the government loses credibility and its actions will then be put under question. While we all want to put an end to the drug problem, we also do not want short cut solutions that undermine the institutions of this country and destroy the moral fiber of our nation. Government must be true to the ideals of justice, liberty and equality, and at the same time be an example of prudence and sensitivity. Not only do we need good governance. We need DECENT GOVERNANCE.

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