Manolo Quezon is The Explainer Newsletter — Issue #7 (“Working Towards The Leader”)

Manuel L. Quezon III
16 min readJun 16, 2021

One of the benefits of putting together this newsletter is that it helps me work out topics for discussion with you, the reader, while also allowing me to further expand on topics. For example, in Monday’s newsletter, I put forward a paper by Peter Kreuzer, and then explored that paper in today’s weekly column; this newsletter, in turn, further fleshes out my column topic, with additional readings and references. A virtuous cycle! Thank you for making it possible.

Crimes Against Humanity

The big story of the week is the decision by the outgoing Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to request that the institution investigate President Duterte and friends. This means the issue isn’t going to go away. At the same time, it defines the period of accountability: in Davao City from 2011, when the Philippines adopted the Rome Statutes, and nationally, from the first full day of the Duterte presidency on July 1, 2016 to the country’s withdrawal from the ICC on March 16, 2019.

The investigation would be an inquiry into:

Posted by Ross Tugade on Twitter

Let the gravity of it sink in.

Reporter Mike Navallo:

Bensouda says that despite PH withdrawal from Rome Statute effective 17 March 2019, ICC retains jurisdiction over crimes that alleged to have occurred in PH during the period when it was a State Party to the Rome Statute. These crimes not subject to statute of limitations.

Bensouda says she has discussed turnover of work with her successor Karim Khan, due to take office on June 16. These discussions include operational challenges arising from continuing pandemic, severe limitations on ICC’s available resources, and current heavy work commitments.

Bensouda reveals she filed the request for judicial authorization with the Pre-Trial Chamber on May 24 and released on Monday a public redacted version of the request.

The public redacted version is 57 pages long and contained strongly-worded findings.

Request for investigation covers not just war on drugs under Duterte from July 1, 2016 to PH’s withdrawal from ICC on March 16, 2019 but extends to cover events in Davao which involved same types of actors committing strikingly similar crimes from 2011, when PH became part of ICC…

ICC Prosecutor took note of context of nationwide war on drugs — Davao Death Squad killings when Duterte was Davao City mayor which involved killings of petty criminals and drug dealers committed by vigilante groups and local police. It noted Senate testimony of 2 former members.

ICC Prosecutor also noted statements of Pres Duterte after taking office saying he would kill suspected drug dealers and addicts, and looked into 2 basic components of Project Double Barrel and its 6 phases.

ICC Prosecutor: While drug war killings have mostly involved male victims, most of those killed were poor, low-skilled residents of impoverished urban areas. But civil servants, politicians, mayors, barangay officials, security forces, assets/informants were also killed.

ICC Prosecutor: reasonable basis to believe that between at least 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, members of PH security forces and other associated perpetrators deliberately killed thousands of civilians suspected to be involved in drug activities (estimated at 12k to 30k).

At the same time, those who stand to be indicted with the President, if charges end up being made, is beginning to get more specific.

Reporter Krixia Subingsubing:

Other details from outgoing ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s request to probe the PH: Former PNP chiefs Bato dela Rosa and Oscar Albayalde were named as “responsible for ordering, directing and organizing the overall conduct of the WoD” resulting in the commission of crimes.

This Twitter thread by Ross Tugade, a lawyer and professor, outlines the procedures involved, clearly, for the public.

Chart by Ross Tugade

This Week’s The Long View

My column today tries to introduce the research of Peter Kreuzer to readers of the paper. His case study of seven LGUs and how they responded to the President’s policy of liquidations, is very interesting. I tried to summarize his findings:

Today’s “The Long View”

Here is that column, in full:

Some LGU leaders bloodier than others | Inquirer Opinion. June 16,

The Spanish empire had a principle colonial governors could invoke, if they wanted to ignore a decree from the king in Madrid on the grounds that the order was unsuited to actual conditions: “Obedezco pero no cumplo” (I obey but I do not comply).

From Fatou Bensouda’s request for a deeper probe into the possibility of crimes against humanity in the Philippines, we know the President’s potential co-accused include the top brass of the PNP from July 1, 2016 to March 16, 2019. A document exists that can tell us who, among civilian LGU officials, deserve inclusion as well.

A paper published by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (Leibniz-Institut) in May 2020 bears exceptional relevance to understanding the situation as it unfolded on the ground. The report, titled “Governors and Mayors in the Philippines: Resistance To Or Support For Duterte’s Deadly War On Drugs,” by Peter Kreuzer, who looked at six “structurally fairly comparable LGUs” in or near NCR, plus Davao City. What Kreuzer wanted to study was how similar LGUs reacted to the President’s “having given carte blanche powers to those carrying out the [anti-drug] campaign.” The paper had, as “The primary focus… the initial year of Duterte’s presidency from July 2016 to June 2017, when both police and vigilante fatal violence peaked.”

As he put it, of the LGUs he studied, “Three LGUs (Valenzuela City, Pampanga province, Davao City) reacted only in a very muted way, whereas in the four others (Caloocan City, Manila City, Quezon City and Bulacan province) fatal police violence exploded, accompanied by high levels of vigilante killings.”

What could account for the difference? Leadership. Essentially, Kreuzer identified two kinds of LGU leadership. The first kind “of local security governance strengthens local PNP commitment to local networks and solutions and establishes a horizontal group of task-oriented actors bound together by mutual trust and joint experience.” For this to happen, according to Kreuzer, the LGU’s chief executive has to “make local citizen security governance part and parcel of their political agenda and bridge the formal institutional divide between the local PNP branch and local governmental, quasi-governmental, and non-governmental institutions that play various roles in local security governance.” In this manner, the local PNP can resist pressure from the national government if the pressures contradict the consensus in local governance.

The second kind, “enhances PNP bonding with and loyalty to the PNP hierarchy and minimizes its commitment to local actors. Here, a passive local political leadership largely avoids the politically unrewarding topic of crime control, leaving this to the local branch of the PNP.” In such a situation the PNP is inclined to strictly and unquestioningly follow directives from the national leadership.

Kreuzer identified three LGUs of the first type, and four of the second. For the first type, “In all three cases, police and vigilante killings rose only modestly during the initial year of Duterte’s presidency, when central pressure was strongest.” But for the second type, “This not only resulted in a huge spike of deadly police violence during the first year of the war on drugs. It also facilitated excessive levels of vigilantism that seem to have gone unchecked in these LGUs.”

The author described his findings as “ambivalent” and a run-through of his case studies are descriptive enough to make the alert Filipino reader see why. For the three active chief executives whose governance limited the bloodshed, he chose: 1) The Gatchalian brothers “Rationalist Managers of Valenzuela”; 2) Lilia Piñeda “The tough but caring patron of Kampangans”; 3) Sara Duterte-Carpio “Peace and order as ‘the backbone of all economies’ in Davao City.” For the four passive ones where bloodshed was unchecked (names added in brackets): 1) [Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado] Bulacan province: “A disinterested local government meets hardline police directors”; 2) [Herbert Bautista] Quezon City; 3) [Joseph Estrada] Manila; 4) [Oscar Malapitan] Caloocan.

The most surprising thing about the list is that the President’s daughter, with whom he has (in)famously had a stormy relationship, is categorized as a local chief executive whose governance limited somewhat the wholesale implementation of the President’s desires. The mayors of Manila and Caloocan come across very badly indeed, but particularly noteworthy is Quezon City in which the President took a keen interest in the police leadership and where the current Chief PNP, Guillermo Eleazer, takes a star turn as a lead player in the President’s PNP regime change in the city.

The so-called “War on Drugs”

I’d put forward my thoughts on the so-called “War on Drugs” back in August, 2016, when my former editor at Arab News sent me some interview questions:

My answers to questions on the War on Drugs — Manuel L. Quezon

(August 30 Questions from Rasheed Abou-Alsamh, and my answers to the questions. A portion was quoted in his article.)

My own research, such as it is, focused on the policy origins, so to speak, of the liquidation campaign (September 27, 2016), and the supposed factual underpinnings of the liquidations (October 5, 2016):

The Explainer: The blueprint for the ‘War on Drugs’ — Manuel L. Quezon

I would like explore how the ongoing efforts of the government, in national terms, are based on the efforts undertaken between 2001–2010. In fact, many of the same set of characters is involved; and many of the controversies over methods and means confronting us, today, originally arose and were heatedly discussed, during that nine-year period.

The Explainer: Lies, damned lies, and drug statistics — Manuel L. Quezon

But we should take into account a phenomenon among policymakers, particularly among CEO’s. It’s a simple phenomenon: with the huge number of facts and figures CEO’s have to absorb, it’s reasonable to assume that only a few will stick. That is why, as one businessman once told me –and I have observed this in government executives as well — you will often find CEO’s attached to particular numbers and stubbornly dismissive of other numbers that do not mesh with the ones that stick in their minds.

That being said, it seems to me that it would be helpful for all concerned to explore the official numbers as they exist, to see what they tell us –or not.

These two columns provide a sampling of the argument I’ve been making for years: the President offers both absolution to all who follow his orders, and arrogation to himself of all responsibility (and thus, culpability) for those orders: which is the secret to official and public comfort with his liquidation schemes.

His struggle | Inquirer Opinion, August 23,

From the very start, he has been candid about the bargain he has offered the country and which, despite the manner that made many recoil at the sight of the CCTV footage, many still support.

That bargain is simple and threefold.

To the police, unqualified and total support, down to the guarantee that even if any cop ends up convicted for following his instructions, they are assured of a presidential pardon.

To the public, he offers nothing less than full absolution for whatever transpires in their name. That absolution comes in the form of the President repeatedly assuming full responsibility for everything and anything connected to his war on drugs. The public — absolved of responsibility — can therefore rest easy on the pretext that whatever happens, however grisly or harsh, it is not of their doing, since they have neither the power nor the capability to cause the doing of what is being done.

Furthermore, if the policy of liquidations claims innocent victims, that may be slightly regrettable, but not really. A nation instructed that it is a victim will have little sympathy to give while it is luxuriating in the feeling that collective revenge is being exacted on its behalf. That is why the President has been so insistent on rejecting what he considers alien: Western concepts of due process or the rehabilitation of offenders. He is compelled to insist on an eye for an eye, the third part of his grand bargain with the police and the people.

Liquidations | Inquirer Opinion, March 10,

There are four campaigns of liquidation taking place. The first, biggest, and whose boldness made all the rest possible, is the so-called “war on drugs,” establishing that the Roman maxim “in times of war, the law falls silent,” is true.

The second, and most closely related to the first, is the liquidation of local officials that from time to time takes place. The third and fourth are connected to each other, because they represent a different, older war: the liquidation of the above-ground Left, for whom neither ideology nor activism can ever be a justification for being murdered. This was another war embarked upon when the President and the Communists’ efforts to coalesce collapsed in mutual recriminations. The President bestowed on the armed forces the same grant of absolution he formerly bestowed on the police: So long as the President’s broad instructions are followed (always claim there was armed resistance in response to an operation and ensure no witnesses), impunity would be rewarded not only with pardons if required, but equally if not more importantly, the President assuming any and all responsibility for the consequences of his declarations of war against drugs and Communists.

In a sense, the President is a believer in, and practitioner of, The Fuehrer Principle. Ian Kershaw called it “Working towards the Führer” in this chilling passage:

Individuals seeking material gain through career advancement in party or state bureaucracy, the small businessman aiming to destroy a competitor through a slur on his “aryan” credentials, or ordinary citizens settling scores with neighbors by denouncing them to the Gestapo were all, in a way, “working towards the Führer”. . . . Time after time, Hitler set the barbaric tone, whether in hate-filled public speeches giving a green light to discriminatory action against Jews and other “enemies of the state”, or in closed addresses to Nazi functionaries or military leaders. . . . There was never any shortage of willing helpers, far from being confined to party activists, ready to “work towards the Führer” to put the mandate into operation.

Related documents

Here is the redacted version of the Prosecutor’s recommendation:

Public redacted version of “Request for authorisation of an investigation pursuant to article 15(3)”, 24 May 2021, ICC-01/21–7-SECRET-Exp

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

And here is a document outlining, further, what Crimes Against Humanity are:

Elements of Crimes

The Elements of Crimes are reproduced from the Official Records of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, First session, New York, 3–10 September 2002 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.03.V.2 and corrigendum), part II.B. The Elements of Crimes adopted at the 2010 Review Conference are replicated from the Official Records of the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Kampala, 31 May -11 June 2010 (International Criminal Court publication, RC/11) .

Readings by Peter Kreuzer

Peter Kreutzer has been writing with thoroughness. The following papers/articles, starting with the one I quoted extensively in my column, provide context into his research and findings.

Governors and Mayors in the Philippines: Resistance to or Support for Duterte’s Deadly War on
Please use the following Persistent Identifier (PID) to cite this document:

(October 2016) “If they resist, kill them all”: Police-Vigilantism in the Philippines

This report then looks at a vastly under-researched phenomenon: extrajudicial police vigilantism involving killings by on-duty police officers that are masked as “legitimate encounters” with criminals. It argues that, while the Philippines have a strong tradition of death-squad killings, this has been complemented for a long time by a practice of “social cleansing” that did not make it necessary for agents of the state to deny complicity: official police vigilantism. On the contrary, such vigilante killings could be utilized as evidence of a strong state. However, in the past such police vigilantism was a local phenomenon. This changed under the new president, who nationalized the local practice and thereby changed its dynamics

(May 2018) Excessive Use of Deadly Force by Police in the Philippines Before Duterte

Under President Duterte the Philippine National Police have killed several thousand suspects in so-called legitimate encounters. While this has engendered much media attention and scientific research, earlier police violence is still a black-box in many respects. This article provides at least a partial filling of this void. It establishes several indicators for measuring lethal police violence. Moreover, it presents a detailed mapping of regional and sub-regional patterns of armed police encounters for the decade from 2006 to 2015. The spatial and temporal comparisons show that even though actual levels of deadly police violence have been quite low in several Philippine provinces and cities, the Philippine National Police almost always shot to kill suspects and not to incapacitate them. While there was significant variation over time and between sub-national units, neither the magnitude nor the levels of lethality of the violence are related to the threat levels to which the police officers were exposed.

(March 14, 2019) Duterte’s war against drugs in the Philippines Continuity and change

Since the election of Rodrigo Duterte to President of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police has waged an unrelenting war against drug crime that cost the lives of thousands of suspects. A spatial and temporal analysis of the past 30 months suggests that violence is slowly receding. While the situation is still highly problematic, a number of positive developments suggest that in an increasing number of provinces police violence is slowly returning to its pre-Duterte levels. While the master-key for ending the killings lies with the central government, provincial governments can do their share to mitigate the deadly repercussions of the Duterte government’s drug war.

(June 2020) A Patron-Strongman Who Delivers. Explaining Enduring Public Support for President Duterte in the Philippines

Since Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Philippines in 2016, he has been responsible for the killing of thousands of Philippine citizens in his war on drugs, threatened political opponents and increasingly undermined crucial political freedoms. International media condemn his government as oppressive and illiberal, at the same time surveys show that the vast majority of the country’s population support Dutertes law and order politics. In this report Peter Kreuzer explores how a rogue politician could become the most popular president in years. He gives insights into Philippine clientelistic politics, political elites and Filipinos’ desire for a politician who puts his promises into action.

More additional Readings

All of this, initial though it may be by ICC standards, shows how previous efforts were frustrated by lack of information. The Altson Report both identified what’s needed and what’s been in the way of a proper investigation. I Tweeted the highlighted portion some years back. The link takes you to the actual report.

Report of the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston
Alston, Philip

Finally, an examination on the impact of liquidations:

Examining the Effects of Drug-Related Killings on Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer Beneficiaries in Metro Manila, 2016–2017

Is the Philippine War on Drugs a ‘War on the Poor’? Focusing on beneficiaries of the Philippine Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program as the most legible cohort of poor, we examine the effects of the anti-narcotics campaign on impoverished families in Metro Manila from April 2016 to December 2017.

From field validation and interviews with families affected by drug-related killings (DRKs), we find that at least 333 victims out of 1,827 identifiable DRK cases in Metro Manila during the study period were CCT beneficiaries. These are extremely conservative figures since field validation did not saturate all cities in Metro Manila and does not include deaths after December 2017 or poor families who are not CCT beneficiaries.

The findings illustrate that DRKs negatively affect CCT beneficiaries and their families. Most victims were breadwinners, leading to a decrease in household income. The reduced available income and the social stigma of having a drug-related death in the family often cause children beneficiaries of the CCT program to drop out of school. Widowed parents often find new partners, leaving the children with paternal grandmothers. DRKs are often bookended by other hazards such as flooding, fires, and home demolitions. The direct effects of these DRKs, compounded with disasters and other socio-economic shocks, traumatizes CCT families, erodes social cohesion, and pushes them further into poverty. We conclude with recommendations for the design of support packages to mitigate untoward effects on families, particularly single parent households.

Thank you for your Patronage!

Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer is creating Historical and political thinking, writing, and broadcasting. |
Become a patron of Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer today: Get access to exclusive content and experiences on the world’s largest membership platform for artists and creators.

Thank you to those who are contributing to Patreon and thus helping provide the resources required to keep producing this newsletter and podcast.

Consul: Abigail Salta

Praetors: Carlos v. Jugo, Ramon Rufino, Arbet Bernardo

Aediles: Jeric Peña, Steven Rood, Joseph Planta, Willi

Their support enables me to devote the time and effort for this newsletter and my podcast. Thank you!



Manuel L. Quezon III

Columnist, Philippine Daily Inquirer. Editor-at-large Views strictly mine. I have a newsletter, blog, podcast, and Patreon.