That conclusion is based on statistics on human rights abuses during the Ferdinand Marcos and Corazon Aquino regimes, presented in Richard Kessler’s book Rebellion and Repression in the Philippines (1989: Yale University).

Ironically, Kessler’s statistics have been the basis of historian Alfred McCoy’s repeated claims that the human rights abuses during the Marcos regime were worse than those in the infamous Latin American dictatorships, since, as he wrote, “Marcos’ tally of 3,257 killed exceeds those under the Brazilian and Chilean dictatorships.” That 3,257 number has become the most-used figure to allege the ruthlessness of the Marcos rule.

Even that attention-hungry blogger recently turned cut-and-paste writer was also referring to McCoy’s figures when she arrogantly asked Bongbong Marcos to apologize for “the 3,257 murders during his father’s regime.”

What these Marcos critics didn’t bother to examine was Kessler’s data, on which McCoy almost completely relied for his report.

Quite ironically, Kessler presented such statistics in his book published in 1989, in order to point out that human rights abuses had not at all subsided even when Cory Aquino assumed power until 1988, the last year for which data was available.

“International groups, such as Amnesty International and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, issued reports in 1988 that suggested that the human rights situation (under the Aquino regime) was at least as bad as it had been under Marcos” (emphasis mine). As table 5.1 indicates, human rights violations – always a problem in the Philippines – did not cease with democracy’s return.” (p. 136).

Mendiola massacre of January 1987: Shouldn’t Aquino apologize for this?

Mendiola massacre of January 1987: Shouldn’t Aquino apologize for this?

Demonstrating either their bias or an utter lack of real academic rigor, McCoy and his most avid fan in this newspaper, someone with a PhD to boot, did not even mention that Kessler presented his data mainly to show that human rights violations continued under Cory. The table (5.1) in this column, scanned directly from the book, shows the following, unedited except for the arrows to emphasize that the data involves the Marcos and Aquino regimes:
hr20160418The figures, indeed, show that human rights abuses continued under Cory Aquino. The 7,444 arrests in 1987 were even the highest in the 14-year period. Extrajudicial killings continued.

These academics’ partisanship and betrayal of their discipline is demonstrated, though, by the fact that they merely added all the cases during Martial Law. The number of disappearances and extrajudicial killings, therefore, from 1975 to 1985 totaled 3,164.

Again showing his anti-Marcos’ bias, McCoy obviously thought this figure was low, so he looked for another source claiming a bigger number. This was provided in another book by known leftists Rev. Verne Mercado and Mariani Dimaranan – showing 93 more. Not explaining why he chose this higher figure, McCoy came up with that now infamous figure of 3,257 people killed under the Marcos regime.

But this figure means nothing if not compared with anything else. Kessler, in fact, presented his data for comparison with the first three years under Aquino, which I summarize in the following table:

We would just be making an inane apples-and-oranges comparison if we just looked at the totals, since these do not take into account the fact that the Marcos cases span 11 years against Cory’s three.

To evaluate how bad the human rights situation really was during the comparative regimes, the average per year should be taken for the years under Marcos and those under Aquino.

The figures are shocking.

There were three times more arrests per year under Cory than under Marcos: 3,627 against 1,960. The average of those killed and disappeared during Cory’s watch was 244 annually, which isn’t too far from Marcos’ 296.

Now, as they want Marcos Jr. to apologize for the human rights abuses under his father’s government, shouldn’t they ask President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his sisters to apologize for those during their mother’s time?

This is, in fact, the reason why Kessler presented his statistics, to show that human rights violations continued under Cory, and may have even worsened. In fact, before he presented his “dry” statistics, Kessler gave vivid examples of human rights abuses under Cory:

“In April 1987 a member of the United Farmers’ Organization was kidnapped by a local vigilante in Cebu City, her body, with her head and leg hacked off, was recovered over a week later. In May, a thirty-year-old woman, eight months pregnant, and another young woman, disappeared. Their bodies were later discovered, headless and stabbed multiple times. That pregnant woman’s abdomen had been slashed open and the fetus ripped out. One day in June, a farmer hoeing his field in Negros was attacked by several vigilantes, who accused him of being a Communist rebel. He was decapitated and disemboweled. They took the head of the local military commander who told them that the man was innocent. The head was abandoned in a ditch, to be recovered later by the man’s wife.” (Kessler, page 136)

As that blogger melodramatically claimed she cried as she cut and pasted reports of human rights abuses under Marcos, I hope she also shed a tear or two for such horrible killings under Aquino.

Vigilantism, which Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is espousing, is really a main cause of human rights abuses under any government. As Kessler explained in 1989, observing the first three years after Marcos fell:

“Vigilante groups had sprung up all over the country with the tact or direct support of the military and the government during 1987 after a year of relative calm in the insurgency. In Mindanao were the Alsa Masa in Davao City, the Eagle’s Squad, the United People for Peace; in Negros, the Philippine Constabulary Forward Command; and in Cebu, the Tadtad and the Citizens’ Army against Communism; even in Manila, the police began giving weapons’ training to civilians forming neighborhood patrols.”

Kessler concluded of the Cory Aquino regime: “The government appeared powerless to restore the rule of law.” And yet Duterte, 30 years later, espouses the opposite, to discard the rule of law?

It is sad that a Filipino academic gets to be so gullible over McCoy’s allegation that she would even go as far as accuse those who question such figures (like me) that they “insult the memory of those thousands who were savagely killed.” Such attribution of motives to seekers of truth is so blatantly unacademic, that somebody should find out if she really has a PhD.


Kessler is also a bit intellectually dishonest in that he claimed that the source of his table was the “Task Force Detainees-Philippines, Philippine Human Rights Update (Manila, monthly issues for the periods covered.)” This isn’t accurate, as exactly the same table had come out in TFD’s publications. This means that it wasn’t Kessler who compiled the data for that table by poring over the TFD’s monthly “Human Rights Updates.” He simply copied the summaries provided by the TFD, and assumed the group was objective in its reports.

This is the bigger problem in estimating the real extent of human rights abuses during the Marcos era. There is no way now really to determine if the TFD’s data, its sums for each year, are accurate and objective. This is because TFD wasn’t an objective observer. During Martial Law it was totally controlled by underground cadres of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Communist activists released from prison routinely manned its offices before they went underground again in the 1980s. Trust me, I was a cadre at that time. Because Filipinos are rabidly anti-communist (thanks to the US), a major way — the only way in the case of the middle classes — for the Communist Party to get them as allies was to portray Marcos’ regime as so ruthless and evil, which everyone should fight against.

That purported academic should have at least browed TFD publications that echo faithfully Communist Party statements. These almost always refers to government as the “US-Aquino regime,” which is the formulaic term the communists and only the communists use to refer to an administration. (Then “Aquino” is substituted for “Estrada,” and then “Arroyo”).

For that purported academic to claim that the TFD is a “highly regarded Catholic body” espousing good governance, again shows how bad her critical and research skills are.

“3,257 is a number that chills the blood,” that purported academic wrote. I think it also froze her brain cells dead.


A Rodrigo Duterte was bound to happen in the kind of society that we have.

What has brought him about, and accelerated the electrification to life of this political Frankenstein monster in this year’s elections was the extreme hypocrisy, incompetence and apathy toward the poor of a Benigno S. Aquino regime. Yes, none other than this President and his rich yellow legion – they who never curse but quietly send their enemies to jail.

Duterte is tapping into the masses’ outrage against the ruling elite, their huge disappointment that the Manila-based EDSA I had not meant anything to their lives through the past three decades. Duterte’s putanginas are what poor hacienda tenants and underpaid shopping mall sales clerks have kept buried in their chests and would have loved to spit out in their masters’ faces.

Duterte with his tool of discourse, and international coverage of his governance style

Duterte with his tool of discourse, and international coverage of his governance style

The lower classes – those who have to commute by jeepneys and are, thus, prone to holdups, or whose hard-earned cash is snatched in some dark alley as they walk home from work – are the most helpless victims of street criminals. If your meager, hard-earned income were snatched away by a pickpocket, wouldn’t you wish that criminal shot dead immediately, without going through the time-consuming, expensive, due process of law?
That is exactly what Duterte promises he will do.

However, in any other civilized nation on earth, Duterte’s kind who seeks the presidency would immediately get a good kick in the ass out the door, laughed at, or thrown into an asylum, except, of course, in an ISIS state if he happens to volunteer to kill criminals himself according to the Koran. Only in the Philippines – again that cliché – but it’s so true, can an admitted killer of humans be allowed to run for the presidency.

Duterte, essentially, is a leap backward into barbarism, from the dark clutches of which it took centuries for humanity to extricate itself.

He even relishes telling the tale of his savagery in his willingness to execute criminals himself, as though mocking justice that he can’t be taken to court for he only gives criminals the punishment they deserve. He boasted in a presidential debate: “Hindi ka puwedeng maging Presidente kung takot kang pumatay.” [You can’t qualify for the presidency if you’re afraid to kill.] I hope he only meant killing criminals, not his political enemies. Who, in our crime-ridden society where the legal system is slow and expensive, wouldn’t take notice of and be impressed by someone who promises to kill for them (suspected) criminals wherever they are found?

But Duterte’s now famous I-will-kill-them-myself campaign line is a double-edged sword. Paradoxical in a country where life is cheap (a hit reportedly could be contracted for as low as P20,000), and at the same time deeply valued in a dominantly Catholic nation.

People who have killed people are described in whispers in towns and urban neighborhoods as the red-eyed ones (mapula ang mata) or the nearly untranslatable “halang ang bituka.“ Even if a killing could be justified, a killer is said to have transformed himself into a different, indescribable category of human being, unable to sleep at night and beyond the mercy of the Holy Church.

Universal horror

Indeed, there is universal horror in the taking of a human life. Even medieval executioners wore masks to hide their faces and a blank bullet was given to an unidentified member of a firing squad so all of them could claim he did not fire the bullet that killed the man. Even in the high-tech lethal-injection system, there are two levers, one of which is fake, that release the poison into the convict’s body. Duterte, however, brags he will take a selfie when he takes down his next criminal.

Modern media has inured us to the horrors of the snuffing out of human life, with Dirty Harry, Natural Born Killers, and Quentin Tarantino movies portraying homicide and murder as a thrill reserved for the bold. Exploding brains hit by a bullet, blood gushing out as a samurai sword slashes a torso, arms ripped off by a grenade explosion – these have become the images representing what we may call kill-porn in this age.

In our minds we know, of course, it’s all about celluloid imagery – with the use of materials such as realistic-looking fake blood, or high-tech computer imaging techniques for effect, and we are bound to see more of the bad guys getting killed by Dirty Harry and Tarantino in their next movies.

The horror of killing and death is beyond the neat worlds of Duterte’s bourgeois admirers who have never ventured out of their gated villages, never saw the real world. Try as hard as you can, you cannot conjure up a real person dying from a bullet wound in front of you being a criminal. It is just mysterious that life is being snuffed out; there is even an element of childlike innocence in the pose of an alleged hardened-criminal shot by the police and lying bloodied on the street, strangely often in a fetal position.

Now, please think hard: do we really look forward to the metropolis’s streets becoming a killing field for Duterte’s kill-criminals campaign? Attractive as it might seem, there is no city anywhere in the world that has gotten rid of crime because of a Dirty Harry – nowhere really, only in the movies.

Civilization has gone a long, long way in inventing the principle of the rule-of-law with its twin, due process. Both almost miraculously appeared in medieval England, designed initially to check the power of kings over nobles. What is miraculous about it is that it is not derived from any religious teaching. There is no 11th commandment, “Be sure to apply due-process in determining who violated the above commandments.”

The rule-of-law principle isn’t just an idea some goody-goody idealist invented. It is part of our cultural evolution that has helped us develop and grow. Humanity has learned that the eye-for-an-eye principle ends up producing a kingdom of the blind, with a one-eyed jack as king. We are already seeing the Muslim equivalent of a Duterte campaign against criminals – the ISIS beheadings and hangings.

From just 16 countries in 1977, 152 have now abolished officially or in practice the death penalty, with only 37 retaining it in practice. And by death penalty, we mean undertaken only after a rigorous legal process. This is humanity progressing, embracing the belief of the transcendental value of a human life.

Yet, this arrogant mayor is telling the nation that he himself will kill criminals where they stand, and for that we should elect him President? And many people, even those educated in Christian schools, want him to be President? What has happened to our country?

Opportunistic Davao businessmen

If Duterte ever becomes President, blame the opportunistic Davao big businessmen – the banana kings, property developers, former cement millers who are throwing their money into his campaign – and especially the spoiled brat Alan Cayetano, desperate to be in the game even if no party wanted him, and who allegedly gave Duterte P100 million to convince him to run for President and take him as his running mate. To be fair to Duterte, he wasn’t lusting to be President at the start, but I guess a huge retirement kitty, especially if one has some disease, is difficult to reject.

The Davao elite had used Duterte to the hilt. By killing criminals, and not waiting for the legal system to convict them, Duterte may have contributed to making the city attractive to investors (with whom the Davao businessmen have surely sealed partnerships) and to consumers (who bought their products).

But what is left after they’ve become rich – cemeteries filled with corpses of (suspected) criminals? And after Duterte, now 72, fades away from the scene? Has the institution of the rule of law in Davao been strengthened? But of course, these Davao businessmen don’t care, as they would just return to their feudal-like estates in Mindanao.

Cavite used to be known as a bandits’ lair in the 1950s, and powerful warlord-politicians had tried the Duterte style. Did that solve crimes in the province? No, what did it was the province’s economic growth, spurred by the establishment of export processing zones.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in his first term, 1992 to 1998, tried the Duterte tack, with crude cardboard labels even pinned on “salvaged” alleged drug-distributors’ corpses saying, “I was a drug-dealer, do not emulate me.”

Lim himself saw it didn’t work, and abandoned it. Crime remains rampant in Manila not because alleged criminals had not been summarily killed, but because it’s economy has not grown to keep pace with the influx of immigrants from all over the country. Manila has the same number of courts and fiscals as it had two decades ago.

Do these Davao businessmen think that the present group of criminals, even a generation of criminals, if all eliminated at one time would prevent new criminals from emerging?

The solution to rampant crime is not rampant killing. The solution is an efficient police force implementing the rule of law, an efficient and fast legal system, and most importantly, an economy rich and egalitarian enough to minimize those choosing the way of crime.

The problem with Duterte is that he doesn’t know of any other world except Davao and thinks his kill-criminal tack is new and can be applied effectively anywhere. Duterte’s platform of government is essentially vigilantism, which had plagued nearly all countries in the periods when the rule-of-law institutions were still being formed.

It has not succeeded anywhere it was tried, relegated as the horror chapters of nations’ histories, the relatively recent cases being the Black Shadow of El Salvador, the City without Drugs in Yekaterinburg in Russia, the Bakassi Boys of Nigeria, Los Pepes in Columbia, and the horrific killing of street children by military police in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Do we really want the metropolis to be in this rogues’ gallery?

Duterte and Grace Poe are the two snake-oil merchants of this election, the charlatans, selling fake miracle cures, like eradicating crime in six months — which is like promising to make Manila another Singapore in a year.

They are the two sides of the same counterfeit coin. Poe is selling herself as the daughter of the mythical hero Panday, who would save the country. Duterte is hawking himself as the movie-character Dirty Harry, the Punisher who would kill criminals where they stand. Both are living in fictional never-never land, and they want Filipinos to join them in their delusions.

Both are appealing to the basest, most juvenile instincts of the Filipino masses. Poe is tapping into their infantile notions of a hero of myth saving them. Duterte is tapping into people’s reptilian brains to produce the hormones for rage — so evident in Duterte fanatics’ bullying in social media of those criticizing him.

Filipinos have gotten tired of Poe, and saw through her acting of made-up roles. Filipinos will get tired of Duterte’s putanginas and leches, the highest level of discourse he is capable of, and boasting that corpses of criminals on the street will solve crimes.

The problem with rabble-rousers is they can only maintain their audience if they raise their shock values, in contrast to somebody in rational discourse who would just give more and more rational arguments.

Duterte can keep shocking people if he boasts of something like: “I have eaten and will eat criminals’ hearts, ripped from their chests.”

An Indonesian tycoon’s media empire in the Philippines exposed

April 12, 2016

Part II My column on Monday talked about the so-called SWS Mobile “Survey” as being anomalous since it is not really a survey, but involves the same permanent panel of about 750 people whose views are extracted for each survey run. That’s not all, however. I also reported that the technical operators of this project […]

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The SWS mobile ‘survey’ and an Indonesian tycoon’s potential, crucial role in our elections

April 10, 2016

Part I The SWS-Bilang Pilipino Mobile “Surveys” are so seriously flawed that their results are highly questionable. Their operators can easily manipulate them to portray any candidate as the frontrunner. They should be stopped immediately. An insult to us Filipinos, the subsidiaries of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) – controlled by Indonesian tycoon Anthoni […]

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Poe’s lies on her Senate performance

April 7, 2016

Last of Two Parts I pointed out in my Wednesday column that we would be the world’s laughing stock if we elected as President someone like Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares, who renounced her Filipino citizenship to become a US citizen. There is just no nation on the face of this earth that has ever  elected as […]

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Candidate Poe is an inveterate liar

April 5, 2016

First of Two Parts And I won’t even discuss her lies regarding the point in her life when she stopped being a US citizen, and when she established this country as her domicile, as my colleague Kit Tatad has already compressively written about that. What is scandalous in Grace Poe-Llamanzares’ high ratings in voter-preferential polls […]

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Only Binay and Roxas have electoral machinery

April 3, 2016

Opinion surveys almost by definition capture only people’s whims at the moment, and often do not reflect well-considered views, except perhaps when such a survey is conducted a few weeks before the actual election. Polls, therefore, mostly tell you which candidate is the most popular at the moment. But especially in a poor country like […]

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Revealed (again): Roxas’ big boo-boo in Tacloban

April 1, 2016

The tsunami of outrage against presidential candidate Manuel Roxas 2nd’s comics depicting him as a fearless hero in Tacloban, when Supertyphoon Yolanda hit the city in November 2014, is quite understandable. It’s classic propaganda without scruples: Spread a lie packaged in an entertaining manner (comics) among the masses before it can be debunked in the […]

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Unfair, and stupid to ask Bongbong to apologize for Martial Law

March 29, 2016

I argued in my column Monday that Ferdinand (“Bongbong”) Marcos, Jr. was indisputably the most qualified among the vice presidential candidates, because, really, his rivals were political and moral midgets that I wondered what in the world convinced them to think they could occupy the second-highest post in the land. I gave three reasons for my claim. […]

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Bongbong towers over political and moral midgets

March 27, 2016

It’s a no-brainer, really, if you can drop all the brainwashing since 1986 over the Marcos era. The strongman’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., towers over his rivals in the vice- presidential contest. Compared with him, Rep. Leni Robredo and Senators Francis Escudero, Alan Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, and especially Antonio Trillanes, are political and moral […]

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