May angal, circa 2017?

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Greg B. Macabenta

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Protesters gather outside the House of Representatives where Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's state of the nation address is taking place in Manila on July 24, 2017. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed July 24 to press on with his controversial drug war that has claimed thousands of lives, as he outlined his vision of an "eye-for-an-eye" justice system. / -- AFP

I wrote a piece entitled “May Angal?” (meaning, Any Complaints) back in April, 2010 when the Filipino people felt they had enough of the abuses of the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. At the time, people were looking for relief, for a redeemer, a savior, someone who would take over the Ship of State and set it on an even keel. Someone who would love the country more than personal interests and ambitions. Someone with the competence, vision and nobility of character to chart a progressive course for the Philippines.

Arroyo was eventually replaced by Benigno S. C. Aquino III as president. And he turned out to be a complete disappointment, laying claim to personal honesty and integrity and hardly anything else by way of competence or strength of character or leadership qualities. But then, even the claims of having clean hands became questionable in the wake of the congressional pork barrel and the presidential pork barrel scandals.

And so our people turned to the polls once more in the hope of electing that elusive leader, the one who would lead the Philippines to the promised land. And this time it was President Rodrigo Duterte. After a year of his presidency, how has he performed? How have his administration and the bureaucracy performed? How have Congress and the Courts performed?

People desperate to support a “messiah” and who believed in the macho promises of Duterte have continued to cling to the belief that this president is The One. They have been willing to forgive his bluster, his double-talk, his vulgar language and even his questionable personal life. They have also been willing to close their eyes to the brazen abuse of police power and the killings that have resulted in its wake. And every little bureaucratic achievement — like being able to release a paper license in only a few hours (just wait for the plastic one, in maybe a few months) — is cheered as the fulfillment of the promise of redemption. And when such promises as untangling the traffic mess remain unfulfilled, Duterte’s supporters have been quick to attribute the fault to everyone else but their redeemer.

The Duterte government has also succeeded in harnessing social media to intimidate the opposition and in controlling its “co-equal” branch, the Legislature. The Legislative branch, particularly the House of Representatives, has become no more than a kennel of puppy dogs, doing the bidding of their master. And the Duterte government and his kennel-like Congress have used the threat of impeachment against dissenters who are otherwise protected by the Constitution, such as the members of the Supreme Court.


Only recently, members of Congress, like the Mafia, decided to show the Commission on Human Rights — as well as the entire country — who’s The Capo di Tutti Capi by voting to reduce the CHR’s annual budget to less than the price of a prime steak dinner — unless the chairman, Chito Gascon resigns.

The ass-licking media pundits and the social media storm troopers have weighed in on the issue by (a) arguing that the CHR is not protected by the Constitution and that Congress, which has the power of the purse, has the authority to decided what morsels to allocate to anyone it pleases or is displeased by, (b) Chito Gascon, the chairman may be gay or a pedophile and is incompetent because he insists on protecting the human rights of victims of extrajudicial killings, (c) the CHR needs to be overhauled anyway because it has been unfairly accusing the Duterte government of extrajudicial killings (when, in truth and in fact, they are simply killings by persons in authority based on mere suspicion – so what’s wrong with that?) and (d) the CHR and those who protest these killings are either drug lords or sympathizers or “yellows” which is supposed to mean the scum of the earth.

This is why I have resurrected the brazen challenge of those in power during the Arroyo administration — May Angal??? Any complaints????

Here is what I wrote at the time:

“If you grew up in the streets and had to deal with a bully you may recall having been told this to your face: ‘May angal?’ Literally: Any complaints?

“In this country, which has deteriorated into one governed, not by laws but by people wielding raw power, we are being bullied and told to our faces: May angal???

“We make a lot of noises, organize marches, sign petitions, hold up placards, write letters to the media, threaten to go to court, and curse the bullies to high heavens. But after so much sound and fury, the bullies in government still get away with their abuses. In fact, in a literal sense, they get away with murder.

Well, that is still the case in 2017.

May angal???

Young men — teenagers — are shot in cold blood by the police ostensibly for “resisting arrest” or on suspicion of involvement in the drug trade. The number of deaths has spiraled since the beginning of the Duterte administration. Those who protest and those who demand justice are branded drug lord sympathizers who also deserve to be killed.

May Angal???

The authorities claim to be investigating the allegations of extrajudicial killings and the Senate Committee on Human Rights has been conducting extensive hearings on the allegations, but the witnesses who have stepped forward and have admitted personal involvement in the killings are told that they are lying and, therefore, there is no reason to believe them. Case dismissed.

May angal???

But allegations of involvement by Senator Leila de Lima in the drug trade, based on the “testimony” of jailed drug lords (who have been promised clemency as reward for perjury) are taken at face value and the senator is arrested and jailed.

May angal???

Sept. 11, the birth date of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos has been declared an official holiday by Duterte ostensibly because Ilocanos consider Marcos a hero. In fact, Duterte allowed Marcos to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery of Heroes).

May angal???

Supreme Court Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is being threatened with impeachment for being a pain-in-the-neck as far as the Duterte administration is concerned. Meanwhile, the justices of the Court of Appeals had better zip their big mouths if they don’t want their offices to be abolished by Congress.

May angal???

China is a friend of the Duterte administration, despite encroaching on territory claimed by the Philippines and despite the judgment of an international tribunal, because China is providing funds for the construction of bridges and other infrastructure (not to mention sending huge shipments of drugs to the country).

May angal???

The list could go on and on and we invite the readers to send their contributions to it. But here’s one that I think really shows how powerful the members of the Duterte Congress believe they are:

Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas of Ilocos Norte is planning to file a bill that would make his fellow legislators immune from criminal liability for “minor traffic violations.”

May angal???


Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.