“Do not be deceived by Digong.”
This was the message conveyed by a former Martial Law detainee in Cebu and a former governor of Negros Occidental during a forum aimed at “unmasking” presidential front-runner, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Rafael Coscolluela, former governor of Negros Occidental challenged Duterte to present clear details on how exactly he was going to end criminality in six months.
“A person who says this or that without telling us who and how he will do it is a mambobola (flatterer or one who makes false promises). Don’t ever think one person can solve the problems of this country. It takes all of us to change the Philippines,” said Coscolluela, former Liberal Party Negros Occidental chair.
For his part, retired Regional Trial Court Judge Meinrado Paredes, who was a detainee during Martial Law, raised concerns about the possibility of sweeping human rights violations should Duterte become president.
He cited as example the Davao Death Squad, said to be responsible for the killing of several suspected criminals in Davao City during Duterte’s term.
“People think that the Davao Death Squad made the city peaceful. That’s why they go for Duterte who appears to them as macho.
But if you look closely, the victims of vigilantism in the city are petty criminals and drug dealers. No drug lords or corrupt politicians were executed,” Paredes said.
Coscolluela and Paredes were among those who gathered at the Cebu Business Hotel on Saturday to call on Filipinos to discern and vote according to conscience.
They expressed fears over the possibility that Duterte would be elected president because of his actuations, unclear platforms of governance, disrespect to women and other sectors, as well as plans to address criminality through violence.
The activity dubbed “Duterte Xposed—a forum jolting us from Duterte’s hypnosis” was attended by representatives of urban poor groups, students, political activists and some lawyers.
The groups, convened by the Alliances Against Tyranny, Incompetence and Greed, intend to hold a prayer vigil next week so people will be enlightened and select leaders who will truly serve the country.
Coscolluela cautioned the electorate not to be misled by Duterte’s pronouncements and instead choose a candidate who can deliver and can set an example being the “father of the nation.”
In the case of Duterte, he said the mayor was able to connect to the masses because he used profane words (medyo bastos).
“But what kind of president will we have when he faces other nations? And people from other countries might say ‘what kind of people does this country have?’” he said.
“Being presidentiable or acting like a president is a necessary ingredient because you will be representing the entire Filipino nation,” he added.
If he were to decide, Coscolluela said he wants Mar Roxas to be the next president, not because the former governor has “yellow blood” but because he believes the former interior secretary is fit for the presidency.
“Mar is far from perfect. He’s a nerd, boring, has a high level of intellectual arrogance, insensitive, and needs a healthy dose of humility. All he thinks of is work. But I think he has the clear and concrete plans for the country,” he added.
Duterte’s promise to end criminality in six months, the judge said, was highly improbable if he would follow legal procedures.
“The legal process takes time. What Duterte said won’t happen if the criminals won’t get killed. But that is Digong’s way,” he said.
“It takes a long time to be a judge but it would just take days to become an executioner. There will be no Bar Exams, you just have to kill. To hell is due process under Duterte,” the judge added.
Paredes said extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances violate the Philippine Constitution and universal human rights laws.
He said he was anxious that Duterte would coalesce with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison, the mayor’s former Political Thought professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines.
“This is my challenge to leftists, if you support Duterte and Sison in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, you are traitors to the cause of human rights,” he said.