Jun 24, 2024

Philippine President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte

While on a recent family vacation, I read and learned from Noam Chomsky, one of the most prolific intellectual and political activists of today, about what he termed as “Muasher doctrine”.

In his latest book ‘Who Rules The World’  (1st Edition May 2016), Noam Chomsky explained that “Muasher doctrine” is based on a belief that anything is fundamentally right for you provided you do not see, or refuse to see, anything wrong with it.

To illustrate by simplistic example, if I took a bike that is left outside a 7-Eleven convenience store without trying to determine if that bike belongs to someone, and I do not see or refuse to see that my action may constitute a theft, then from my perspective I did nothing wrong. Chomsky’s own example of this doctrine is not simplistic, yet very clear. He alluded to the fact that America asserts itself as the global champion of democracy while at the same time supporting brutal dictatorships such as those in the Middle East and Latin America. He wrote: “Adopting that principle (the Muasher doctrine), if the dictators support (the U.S.), what else could matter?” In that chapter, Noam Chomsky was portraying the U.S. as some kind of an evil empire and was describing some of the foreign policy actions that the US has taken to preserve its hegemony. (Note that while I find this book interesting and provoking, I do not agree with many things the author says.)

While Chomsky’s discourse was mainly about aggressive foreign policies and actions taken by the U.S. and western European governments against Latin America and the Middle East, I could not stop to reflect on what is going on in our own country, the Philippines. Somehow as I read the book I imagined that our country is a microcosm of the “world” that Chomsky described.

The international press and social media pundits have reported quite extensively about the supposed extra judicial killings so far committed in the name of war on drugs and criminality. Despite this new administration being in office barely one month, many accounts have already been written about how suspected (not proven) drug pushers are summarily executed by unknown assailants.  A few concerned citizens have begun to record and tally the number of such killings.

On many occasions including in his first State of the Nation address, President Rodrigo Duterte was categorical and strong in his pronouncements that human rights should not stand in the way of his effort to eradicate the drug menace, meaning, no one, not even the Human Rights Commission, should care about the spilled blood, for anyway, they are from the scum of society that must be eradicated. “Why, I’m not the court!” Da Digong responded to a media question about the importance of due process in dealing with even lowly drug pushers.

Let me tell you something. Although I did not vote for Da Digong, I have nothing but praises for the president’s hard-nosed approach to the drug menace. I may even dare to say that, repulsive as it is, the brazen and bloody manner with which the scum are eliminated – killing outside the law – is outweighed by the obvious benefits of a drug free society. But here is my problem:

When the highest official of the land, the President of the Philippines no less, encourages or at least tolerates extra judicial killings in the name of a determined war against crime, and then makes such encouragement and tolerance a pillar of his administration’s agenda, how will that be interpreted by people of lesser authority, or even those who have no authority at all but who have the power of a gun?

How will ordinary citizens, many of them carry guns, react to such killings that are tolerated by the leader of the land? What will you tell your son, your friend, your uncle, your neighbor when he tries to emulate the president’s example? How will you deal with someone who suddenly becomes the accuser, the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner all rolled up into one, just because that someone suspects another person of being a drug pusher? What will you do if some crazy low life happens to not like your face then wrongly accuses YOU of being a drug pusher?

Will the Muasher doctrine find its way to the collective psyche of our society? Because our leader, who we should respect and look up to for guidance, teaches us of that doctrine by his encouragement and tolerance for extra judicial killings? That in fact extra judicial killing is good because we justify it in our minds so nothing is wrong with it? Quo vadis Philippines?

That is my problem, and it should be yours too.

Joe Zagala is an Ontario resident who has been actively participating in Greater Toronto’s Filipino community. He is a past president of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (Toronto), former vice president of the Kalayaan Cultural Community Centre, a former (and only Asian) director of The Riverwood Conservancy, and one of the original organizers and a past president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Toronto.  He is a holder of chemical engineering and MBA degrees from the University of the Philippines.  He held high positions in large corporations in Canada, including vice president for Global Business at CipherSoft Inc.  He is the managing director of the Lily Framarc Management Consultants based in Mississauga, Ontario.)


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