Koksan gun barrelwere part of the atmosphere of Martial Law in the Philippines, confused with “discipline”. But it was always there in the Philippines – from many scenes shown in Rizal’s El Filibusterismo like the random picking up of students like the orphan Basilio, provincial warlords and communist rebels in the postwar Philippines, impunity in many places after Martial Law, and yes killings even before the over 1000 killings reported since July 1st, more on the local level and never as many. So demonstrating against the Marcos burial (link) is noble, but maybe more symbolic than useful.

The goal of fear and intimidation is domination on one side and submission on the other. In the recent case of a motorist killed by police officers (link): “MMDA constables Bayani Batac III and Jeslie Manlangit said Dela Riarte was rude in confronting the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) policemen who accosted him following a traffic accident.” – many Filipino commenters on social media saw it the same way. Well from the video one could see he had attitude, but is that a reason to kill him? To make sure nobody else dares look at them the wrong way? A German book about the Philippines in the 1980s had this in its warnings for visitors: “authority that does not feel taken seriously can be vindictive, do not act in a way that may be misinterpreted”.  President Duterte said recently of an unnamed lady government official who he thinks is critical of him (link): “I will have to destroy her in public”. Could it be he feels his authority is not being taken seriously?

It seems intimidation also plays a part in making some drug users (and even just alleged users) surrender (link): “We were invited based on a list prepared the barangay. They said that, if we don’t come and yield soon, we might find ourselves in the kills count.” The lists seem to also have contained friends of suspects as well as occasional and former drug users. There are of course Filipinos of a certain bent who say too much freedom does not work with Filipinos, and that they don’t tell the truth anyway. The question is finally one of chicken and egg, the answers are not easy.

Eastern Europe also had a hard time after Communism. People used to intimidation may not know how to handle freedom properly – including the consideration for others needed for order.

To convince a large mass of people to uphold order, one has to also make it work for them, socially and economically. Fear of being shot dead even as an innocent is hardly motivating. Intimidation as a recipe to gain “respect” can breed bullies, rebels – and the apathetic type of Filipino many have noted. The goal should be a society of people that are confident AND considerate – not a society of intimidators and intimidated. Human rights alliances like the recently founded I DEFEND (link) are a step towards this, even more than the protests against the Marcos burial.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 13 August 2016