Duterte: Christmas present and future

My main problem with a number of news both local and foreign is their habit of focusing on snapshots of events. Sometimes even the analysis is focused on a snapshot of the event. Everything is reduced to a moment and a point of view.  In order to understand something fully one must see a wide array of experience and opinion,

What I have written here is just a set experiences and an analysis — in other words an opinion.

In our neighborhood at 10:00 pm the neighborhood or barangay truck outfitted with loudspeakers go around to announce an advisory to parents and guardians that all children and minors should be inside.  Years before Duterte was elected into power at midnight you could hear the children roaming and playing on the streets, now the street was relatively silent.  Despite a motion in the Supreme Court questioning the imposition of a curfew for minors . At least in our neighborhood there is whatever name you call it a curfew.  Things like this reminds one of the change that is evident with the Duterte Government and the acceptance of the situation of the community.

This is a Duterte Christmas.

For me this is but an example of how Philippine Society in general has come to accept the government’s policy to protect society from criminality — with emphasis on drugs and corruption. The latest survey shows that despite the rising toll of the war on drugs  and its media coverage majority of the public is still giving a positive rating to the government but at the same time the public is worried that they might become a casualty in the war against drugs.

Why is this so?

First, Perhaps a look at the news prior and up to the present will give us an impression of what the public has come to think of the law and order situation of the country. A great portion of the news seen and heard are crime news. The public has been bombarded with news of theft, killings and murder — a great number linked with drug abuse.  Anecdotal and personal experience with crimes have always been rampant. In our neighborhood  alone a series of houses became victims of akyat-bahay robbers. This particular gang often leave a butterfly knife or any knife in the scene of the crime.  One grand uncle who had his house robbed found the knife just above his head when he woke up.  Apparently, the knife also served a practical and gruesome purpose It was to be used against the victim if they woke up.

The news, anecdotal and actual experience with crime has contributed to the perception of the breakdown of law and order. Thus it is no surprise that this was one of main issues of the last election.

This can probably explain the popularity of an anti-crime drive. There is however another perception that makes the acceptance of the increasing death toll in Duterte’s War on Drugs and this is leads us to the second challenge.

Second, Perhaps the public perception of the Philippine Justice System as agonizingly slow and prone to corruption is another reason that majority of the public are in favor of the government’s War on Drugs despite irs growing toll. Anyone who has experienced participating in the Philippine judicial system has witnessed and experienced its frustratingly slowed-paced rate. Anyone wanting to change their name or facing a court case can attest to this. More famously, The Maguindanao Massacre has been stagnating in the courts and the public has seen this.  So is it surprising then that there is only a minority is protesting against increasing death toll on the War on Drugs?

So, A public bombarded over the years with stories of crimes, lawlessness and a terminally slow justice system is not only primed but will accept Duterte’s War on Drugs in exchange for a safer society — where their sons and daughters will not be victims of drug-addled criminals and drug-related crimes.  Still there is the fear of becoming a casualty in this war and we can see this in the recent SWS survey.  A point : A sensibility that the Duterte government cannot ignore. — Despite the acceptance and backing on the War On Drugs there is a limit to the public’s acceptance and failure is not an option.

There will be those who will strongly feel that the those two reasons cannot justify what is happening now.  But these two reasons have not been brought up to justify but to explain why despite the opposition there is wide-spread acceptance for Duterte’s war.

In a world perceived filled with lawless elements and radical enemies is it no surprise that society will put up with measures that seem repulsive for a libertarian? Yet, How many closed circuit television cameras are installed in the neighborhood ? Why do homes have high walls ? Why are there security guards nearly everywhere? Why do gated communities exist?  How about those who cannot afford these things?

Majority opted for a Duterte Christmas. Is this the future?  Is it better then to have our leaders change from a fallen log from heaven to an eagle that descended from heaven?  For the moment the majority thinks so.

The Beginning of a Panopticon Society?

The question then is does this particular social contract of law and order (between the Duterte government and its citizens) make our society a version of Samuel and Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon?

If you want to see Jeremy Bentham today go to the University College of London his skeleton with a waxed head literally sits on display in a glass case. Bentham a philosopher willed his body to science but he is also famous for among other things the architectural design of an institution where cells are arranged in a circular manner with the structure in the center — where all the cells can be seen.  Jeremy saw the this arrangement during his trips to Russia in 1786 and 1787, when  he visited his brother Samuel — who employed what would be know as the panopticon design to manage his workers. Jeremy Bentham saw the design as an efficient way to manage a group of people, The design was named the panopticon from Argus Panoptes the 100 eyed giant of Greek mythology, whose eyes never slept and always watched. Unsurprisingly, Bentham’s concept and designed was planned for a prison that never came to be during his lifetime. The key point of a panopticon was the Watchers could see everything and those being watched felt they were always being watched.  Bentham described it as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example”.  In other words as Bentham stated in a letter it is “a mill for grinding rogues honest”.

This seems possible now psychologically and technologically. This brings up another question with a panopticon society.  Who will be the designated Argus Panoptes: The Watchers?  And who will watch the Watchers? Will it be acceptable after Duterte?

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – Juvenal, Satires

This post is supported by a writing grant from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)