EDITORIAL: Slandering the dead

IT IS more tragic than death itself for a fallen man to be accused of crime based on mere suspicion, the accuser feeling no remorse for the blatant slander. And such rash judgement came from President Rodrigo Duterte himself who slammed Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili’s murdered body by telling all those who were shocked by the assassination that the victim pretended to be an anti-illegal drug crusader to cover up his supposed involvement in the narcotics trade. The foul-mouthed president even likened Halili to slain mayors Reynaldo Parojinog of Ozamiz City and Rolando Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte, saying they used their powers as local chief executives to back the narcotics trade. But Senator Ralph Recto, a fellow Batangueño, quickly condemned the killing even as he assailed the erosion of the rule of law in the country. The rule of law also says that one is innocent until proven guilty that Duterte again apparently violated by indiscriminately shooting with unfounded charges a defenseless body. In fairness, his alter ego, spokesman Harry Roque, said he was personally shocked by Halili’s murder since Tanauan was one of the peaceful and progressive cities in Batangas province. He vowed justice of Halili and his bereaved family. Halili was gunned down while singing the national anthem during a flag raising ceremony in the city hall grounds. Authorities said it was likely that a sniper killed the mayor. According to Recto, Mayor Halili was a colorful man who had done many great things for his people and Tanauan City, adding that “he had a governance style that was unconventional in some aspects, but it effectively kept the city he loved safe and prosperous.” In a statement following the killing, the senator hit the culture of impunity that is pervading in the country and the failure of authorities to solve the string of killings that targeted local politicians, journalists, and priests. “The province [of Batangas] is littered with bodies of victims of political assassinations and unsolved murders, and each unsolved killing emboldens the next, creating a spiral of violence, which authorities cannot seem to stop,” he said. “When the rule of law is more observed in the breach, including by agents of the state who do it with impunity, it incentivizes people to take the law into their own hands, and indicts the police [whose commander-in-chief is the President--ed.] for failing to stop it,” he added. Many other senators lamented about the degradation of the rule of law. Sen. Bam Aquino said he is bothered by the “worsening violence” in the country. Sen. Nancy Binay also shared Aquino’s sentiments, saying that the recent string of killings, “spawns a disturbing pattern of lawlessness and indifference to the value of human life.” More voices, especially those coming from the ordinary people, condemned the Halili killing, the latest in this country’s spiral of violence. Even the world of sports seemed to have been contaminated by the menace with our national team proving their mettle in an embarrassing free-for-all with guest Australian players in a basketball game watched by millions around the world. And yet, other people call us as one of the most peaceful races, except for a president who ironically can’t raise a whimper of protest while our territories and public domain are being usurped by a foreign power. And he thinks God is stupid. And blames Catholics for standing up to all his impertinence and abuses. It peeves him to realize that of the 65 million Filipinos who did not vote for him (against the 16 million Pro-Duterte idiots), majority of them are Catholics.