Dogs that didn’t bark

Dogs that didn’t bark was also published by The Manila Times on 17 November 2021.

The cast of contenders in next year’s presidential elections is now more or less complete, and among the frontrunners, with possibly the exception of Leni Robredo, we have a collection of dogs that did not bark when murderers roamed around the neighborhood.

“The dog that didn’t bark” is a familiar expression for crime investigators. It means something was expected to happen, but it didn’t.

The idea came from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1892 Sherlock Holmes short story about the disappearance of a famous racehorse “Silver Blaze” and the murder of its trainer. Here is how the investigation went:

Scotland Yard detective: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”

Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”

Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”

“Holmes’ point was that no witness at the stables had said anything about hearing the guard dog barking, suggesting whoever stole the horse was well known to the dog and wouldn’t cause him to get worked up–in other words, it had to be an inside job.”

Nobody barked when thousands of mostly poor drug and terror suspects were killed under the Duterte government. This atrocious crime is largely an inside job.

As I wrote somewhere in this column, the Philippine National Police (PNP) had recorded at least 29,000 drug-related killings from July 1, 2016 to February 2019, according to its spokesman in a television interview. Most of the casualties were categorized under “deaths under investigation,” or DUI. The victims included 54 children, according to a September 2018 editorial of The Guardian. One publicized case was that of Kian Delos Santos, the 17-year-old student who was killed in 2017 by police officers in Caloocan City. And just last May 23 in Valenzuela City, policemen shot and killed an autistic 18-year-old who was out buying ice cream. One shit too many has happened, to borrow the figurative speech used by Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, who himself headed the PNP in 2016, when he commented on the killing of a three-year-old girl in a police anti-drug raid in 2019.

In 2017, the Philippine Senate, whose members include presidential aspirants Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao, heard the testimonies of Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas, self-confessed hitmen as members of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), on charges that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in summary killings when he was mayor of Davao City. But this key feature of the system of checks and balances in government malfunctioned, dismissing their testimonies as trash despite, to the impartial eye, the compelling offer of their probative value.

Lascañas said that Mr. Duterte mobilized the DDS members to kill criminals and political opponents. Casualties included radio host Jun Pala and the entire family of a kidnapping suspect. He also linked the President to former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang in the illegal drugs trade. Yang is now embroiled in the ongoing Senate investigation on the Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management transactions with Pharmally Corporation.

Now somebody else has taken the cudgels for institutions too intimidated to bark and expose wrongdoings in government. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has reportedly accepted the Lascañas testimony and on that basis it has granted authority to its prosecutors to bring suspects to trial. But as to how it hopes to conduct the proceedings is not clear. The Philippines has withdrawn from the Rome Statute (which serves as legal basis for ICC) in 2019 and government has vowed not to cooperate with any ICC-initiated investigations.

The International Criminal Court at The Hague. Photo credit: Philippine Online Student Tambayan.
The International Criminal Court at The Hague. Photo credit: Philippine Online Student Tambayan.

The presidential elections next year will thus proceed with the looming threat of an ICC probe as backdrop. Duterte himself, whether in jest or otherwise, had earlier said that the probe was a motivation for him to seek another elective position after he steps down as president. He has substituted, like he did in 2016, but this time for one who filed a certificate of candidacy for senator. The obvious intent is to control at least two branches of government. In the likely event that he and his picks are again voted to office, that would make the ICC probe an impossibility for at least the next six or seven years.

Like Senators Lacson and Pacquiao in 2017, the other frontrunning candidates, namely former Senator Bongbong Marcos and Manila mayor Isko Domagoso, have not protested in ways that would make it harder for Duterte to evade investigation. If they can be heard and seen behaving differently now, that would be to the credit of political propaganda. The irony is that these unwelcome steps that are demanded by due process were not given to those who perished in the drug war.

Senator Bong Go, another presidential candidate, is of course to be taken as integral part of the Duterte bundle.

Even Robredo, although deserving of notice for that body of work that evokes competence and purity of intentions, could have done better if one thinks of Zara Alvarez, paralegal of Karapatan, and lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who labored at no-cost for poor families of drug war victims, among many others, whose defense of the defenseless got themselves killed. This is not saying she is not worthy of appreciation for her opposition to the approach taken by government in its drug war, especially at a time when a 2019 SWS survey says that majority of Filipinos thought it was dangerous to criticize the Duterte administration. But how distant we seem to be from the day when a Jaime Cardinal Sin, or a Ninoy Aquino, even Nene Pimentel, et. al, have exposed their own necks by raising howls of protest at the ways of a murderous and thieving regime.

Results of the 2022 elections will determine if truth and justice can come out of these killings. Voters who believe these are not issues, or those who may consider them as issues but not compelling enough to outweigh their positive regard of the Duterte administration, are likely to support the status quo. Or voters may say no and insist that their leaders be held accountable.

Dogs that didn’t bark was posted by Admin,


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