People faultless in comparison

The Constitution command is clear and unequivocal: The prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people. If it fails, it is undeserving of its existence.

People are beginning to miss the ferocious but efficient enforcement of the laws against criminals, drug lords, pushers and other lawbreakers, relentlessly pursued by the Duterte presidency.

During such period, the ordinary citizens, which constitute the majority of the Filipino people, walked the streets and traveled around the country without fear of being killed or injured in a deadly ambush or waylaid by armed robbers while on their way to work and in going home, or in traveling in various provinces in connection with their business or going with their families on a holiday.

Talks abound between citizens and among themselves, about how the peace and order was maintained in the previous years, how the roads were cleared of addicts, snatchers and sexual offenders, who preyed on students and workers, especially during nighttime, and how the criminals laid low on their illegal activities in mortal fear of receiving merciless, immediate and just retribution from the dispensers of justice.

Notes have been exchanged on the performance of the immediately preceding administration with that of the present one in the matter of handling and curtailing criminality. The latter suffers from comparison, albeit unfairly, as the current dispensation is only in the 8th month of its governance and may probably be feeling its way on how to effectively navigate the murky waters of criminality.

The fact, however, that the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Bureau of Investigation, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and other law-implementing entities are composed and manned by the same people during the Duterte presidency, the excuse that they cannot pursue the criminal syndicates and the would-be criminals, with the same grit and ferocity, cannot hold water.

If they cannot march to the beat of the drums, it can only mean that the succeeding drummers do not know how to synchronize their drumming, or worse, they do not know how to play the drums.

While there is a premium on the argument that the perceptive and substantial difference in the method and the result of the previous and present administrations is undeserved as it is untimely, the citizenry may not be faulted to foist such perception, because while the inception of the six-year term of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte marked the abrupt as well as the consistent decline in the rate of criminality, that of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., gave a contrasting criminal landscape, as just a month to his assumption office, a continuing criminal climate competed with the nation’s attention on the spiraling of prices of basic commodities.

A series of killings of local officials struck beginning with the former Dolores, Quezon Mayor Danilo Amat and Lamitan City, Basilan Mayor Rose Furigay, being shot dead.

Thereafter, in August 2022, Lobo, Batangas Vice-Mayor Romeo Sulit also fell victim. In October of the same year, former Dipaculao, Aurora Vice-Mayor Narciso Amansec followed the latter to the grave.

Also in the same month, former Caibiga, Samar Vice-Mayor Miguel Abaigar Jr. was next. Then Aparri, Cagayan Vice-Mayor Rommel Alameda fell to the assassins’ bullets. The first week of March, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo was brutally murdered. Earlier, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong and Mayor Otho C. Montawal of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao del Sur were seriously injured in an ambush.

It cannot, therefore, be asserted that the killings and the serious injuries violently inflicted on local officials and civilians who happened to be in the wrong place at the time. Such assertion is at war with the reality that the murders and the deathly assaults are made in succession and within such a short space of time between each murderous occurrence.

The Constitution command is clear and unequivocal: The prime duty of the government is to serve and protect the people.

This column reiterates its message to the power holders and their successors in office:

For as long as laws are repeatedly violated brazenly and with impunity, with the criminals escaping from punishment; as long as local officials are killed by remorseless killers with ordinary citizens becoming collateral damage; as long as the streets cease to be a safe haven to traverse for all citizens; and as long as the law enforcers are lacking in motivation, dedication, and bravery in crushing the enemies of the state, the Filipino people can never feel the service and the protection they are entitled to, and deprived to enjoy the blessings of democracy, in which case the government has failed in its primary task.

If there is such a failure, then it is undeserving of its existence.

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