The Global Peace Index 2017 (PDF), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, rates the Philippines as the second least peaceful country in the Asia Pacific region, behind North Korea. This low rating was primarily due to Duterte’s drug war and presumably was determined before the start of all-out war in Marawi (some great photos in that report). A government spokesperson said this does not make sense and I can only wonder what he’s smoking and where I can get some of that.
(image taken from the NY Times)
This war in Marawi is of course the biggest story of the past month. It led Duterte to declare martial law across the entire island of Mindanao, a proclamation that is now being challenged in the Supreme Court, where some are arguing that acts of terrorism in one city do not constitute rebellion and are not justification for doing this across the entire island. Meanwhile there are troubling reports (to say the least) that ISIS is supplying fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Chechnya to support the local terrorists.
“The question of how a small group of fighters once dismissed by President Duterte as a mere bunch of drug traffickers can seize territory overnight and keep the military at bay for weeks stares government officials in the face.”
In response the government has announced, “Oh, we knew about it in advance, we just didn’t know when.” Which strikes me as one of those “only in the Philippines” kind of responses.
Marawi aside, every day the local newspapers are filled to bursting with reports of violence and corruption. I am not going to pretend that as a foreigner I have any deep understanding of the culture (even if I have been traveling here for 20 years, living here for 2 years, and married to a Filipina). I may not understand the culture but one thing I do understand is that I need to ensure that I stay out of trouble here – which means staying away from certain areas of Metro Manila at all times, day and night, and being careful about what I do and who I associate with. Take nothing for granted.
To give you some idea of what’s going on here, these are selected headlines from just the past four days (I was planning on going back a week or more but as you can see there’s little shortage of reports):
- A 33-year-old engine mechanic on Tuesday night was killed after he allegedly engaged law enforcers in a shootout during a drug bust.
- A man and a woman riding tandem on a motorbike were shot dead on a highway in Kidapawan City on Thursday morning. The attack … is the fourth shooting incident in the city since last month. Earlier, a van dispatcher and two handlers of bomb-sniffing dogs were killed in separate shooting incidents perpetrated by still unidentified attackers.
- Three years after plunder charges were filed against them, former-senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles will finally face trial proper.
- A motorcycle rider was caught on closed-circuit television slapping a traffic enforcer in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
- The Sandiganbayan has cleared all legal obstacles for the trial of seven Army and police officials who allegedly denied legal counsel to the so-called “Morong 43” health workers after their arrest in February 2010.
- Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza on Wednesday lambasted House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez for refusing to obey an order by the Court of Appeals (CA) to release six detained officials and employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government.
- The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has released guidelines for the distribution of cash assistance, worth P5,000, for families displaced from the predominantly Muslim city of Marawi. (That’s US$100 per family.)
- Two men were gunned down in separate attacks by still-unidentified assailants the other day in Quezon City
- A judge here has found probable cause to charge Solana Vice Mayor Meynard Carag in Cagayan province with estafa, for allegedly misappropriating P12.2 million in a deal he made with a private grains milling company.
- There was a breakdown of communication between the police and the Resorts World Manila management that further worsened the state of confusion at the height of the casino attack carried out by a lone gunman.
- A security team of Resorts World Manila and a team of policemen fired at each other as they tried to respond to lone gunman Jessie Carlos’ attack at the establishment on June 2.
- A village chief was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Irosin town in Sorsogon province Wednesday afternoon.
- The Ombudsman has affirmed the filing of raps against former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino over the alleged anomalous use of the latter’s P15-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007.
- A businessman from Lanao del Sur was shot dead by an unidentified gunman in Daraga town in Albay province Tuesday evening, police said Wednesday.
- A man arrested in a warehouse in Isabela, in the northern Philippines, is charged with the crime of murder after police say he decapitated his girlfriend. The suspect Erick Sampaga and his live-in partner Mary Ann Colobong were having a heated argument inside their makeshift home in a cemetery in Isabela on Sunday.
- Unidentified gunmen shot dead an officer of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in Quezon City on Wednesday morning.
- Kalinga Gov. Jocel Baac stepped down on Tuesday to serve his six-month suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman for Northern Luzon for beating up a provincial official in his office in 2015.
- Between Monday and Tuesday, four drug suspects, three of them accused of selling drugs, were killed in separate shooting incidents in the cities of Pasig, Marikina and Mandaluyong.
- A leader of a notorious band of brothers tagged in several crimes was arrested by members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) in his home province of Pangasinan on Monday.
- Parricide charges were filed on Tuesday against Bohol Board Member Niño Rey Boniel for allegedly killing his wife, Mayor Gisela Boniel of Bien Unido town, whose body had yet to be found.
- The Office of the Ombudsman has filed charges against a regional manager of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) over the alleged appointment of his relatives to one of the offices under the government-owned and controlled corporation
- Former Maguindanao officer-in-charge Datu Sajid Islam Ampatuan pleaded not guilty to 36 corruption charges filed against him at the Sandiganbayan. He was charged with anomalous disbursement of P16,317,559 to a food supplier Henry Merchandising, which turned out to be “fictitious and/or nonexistent,” according to the prosecution.
- Dismissed Commission on Human Rights commissioner Cecilia Rachel “Coco” Quisumbing has asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division to dismiss her three criminal charges over her alleged pocketing of an employee’s salary raise.
- The Sandiganbayan is set to proceed with the trial of former Davao del Norte 1st Dist. Rep. Arrel Olaño, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and five former Department of Budget and Management officials led by erstwhile budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
- A 27-year-old man was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen at the national highway in San Manuel village.
- Authorities arrested a man who allegedly posed as an employee of the National Housing Authority and promised victims they would be able to transfer to new houses in May. According to an exclusive report by Katrina Son on Unang Balita on Monday, Isagani Sarmiento allegedly ran away with at least P100,000 cash the victims have given him.
- The head of the police intelligence unit in Alaminos town in Laguna province was killed in an attack by former soldiers on Sunday afternoon
- The Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service has found the acts of Supt. Maria Cristina Nobleza improper when she went to Bohol together with suspected Abu Sayyaf member Reenor Lou Dongon.
- Around a half-dozen masked gunmen seized and killed a 15-year-old boy in front of his Barangay Payatas, Quezon City home early Monday morning
- The Sandiganbayan has convicted a former Biliran mayor for perjury in his asset disclosures—not because he misdeclared his wealth but because he named the wrong spouse.
That just four days’ worth of selected headlines. What does all this add up to? I honestly don’t know.
Oh, one more item, unrelated to violence or corruption but one that I definitely want to include here:
Representative Gary Alejano has the solution to the problems – which he sees as a lack of national identity and a need to throw off the last remnants of 450 years of colonialism. Rename The Philippines. In a country with such pervasive problems and so much poverty (almost 25% of the country living below the poverty line, almost 50% of the population said they considered themselves “poor”), he has introduced a bill to spend 30 million pesos on a study. Which presumably would then be followed by having to spend billions to update signs, uniforms, stationery, etc.