Editorial: Myth-making

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said a mouthful during the public hearing of the Senate committee on agriculture Monday. Talking about businessman Davidson Bangayan, who is alleged to be the country’s top rice smuggler “David Tan,” he warned:

"If this guy would go to Davao and start to unload, pag nakita ko siya in the commission of a crime, I will gladly kill him.”

When asked by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to clarify his statement, however, Duterte added: “Siyempre hihintayin ko siyang lumabas. Pag lumaban ito and he puts up a good fight, I will not hesitate. I will do it for my country."


What Duterte uttered drew at least two reactions.

"I just find it disturbing that there are statements from the mayor that that he would not hesitate to kill. That is very disturbing. You cannot just do that. The rule of law must prevail," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

But Sen. Cynthia Vilar interpreted the statement differently.

"For me, parang stern warning lang yun kasi minsan dapat ang warning mo medyo stern although hindi mo naman gagawin pero talagang sinasabi niya he will do everything to penalize him if he does it in Davao. Sanay na kami kay Mayor Duterte," she said.

Indeed, despite the tough talk, Duterte is a lawyer and knows the limits imposed by law in the fight against criminality. He would “gladly” kill “Tan,” but only if he fights (“lumaban ito”). There was a measure of bluster, therefore, in his threat.

Still, it is perceptions of being a tough guy and of being behind the summary executions of suspected criminals in his city that endear Duterte to sectors who are fed up with the slow pace of the country’s judicial processes and favor taking shortcuts in battling criminality.

By extension, there is also the perception that Davao City is the most peaceful and orderly city in the world because of Duterte’s stance against criminality.

Whether that perception is supported by facts is still to be subjected to deeper scrutiny. But that is what myth-making is all about, and the Davao City mayor is benefiting from it.

Now we are hearing murmurs of a Duterte presidential run in 2016, and he may yet do that.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 06, 2014.


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