The spider and the fly

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

One street smart response to criticism about bad cooking is to issue a challenge – why don’t you do it? That usually stops the complaint.

When Vice President Leni Robredo criticized the anti-illegal drug campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, describing it as a failure, the President told Robredo, “why don’t you do it?”

Initially, Robredo’s response was she will not dignify an insult but when Malacañang said that the President was serious and she will have her way, she relented and accepted the position to co-chair the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-illegal Drugs or ICAD.

At the first meeting of the ICAD, Robredo revealed her policy of “zero killings” in contrast to the President’s method called, Tokhang which usually ends up with dead bodies. Their policies collided, consequently, they will clash at the operational level.

The Vice-President came to this post with preconceived ideas and methodologies that were developed from her position as an opposition leader. Her assumptions and directions will naturally impact on her way of seeing things which are different from that of the implementors of the President’s “kill them all” approach to the problem.

From her statements, Robredo sees things, at least in this anti-drug campaign, from a Pollyanna perspective. Can the drug lords be handled with gloved hands and nice words?

There are Robredo supporters who believe, and with good reasons, that the offer of the position was a trap to make her look silly and ineffectual. Her statements at her acceptance, like a zero killing demand, opened the door to conflict and failure.

The day after the ICAD meeting, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency went to see President Duterte with a complaint – what is Robredo in the committee? It seems that Robredo is upsetting the applecart. She thinks differently from people who are trained in police work; she thinks things will change with nice words and liberal idealism.

The first clash involves the bloody “Operation Tokhang”. It is not clear whether she wanted to scrap this tactic completely or simply to recast it. The PDEA believes she wanted that method scrapped; she wanted to only rethink it.

Whatever it was, the PDEA chief said he will see the President to define her role in the ICAD. Indeed, what is the extent of her authority? Who should prevail? Will the decisions be by voting? We see here a situation of two heads not better than one.

There must be a primus inter pares in this situation. By virtue of her office she should be the primus, but to whom will PEDEA report and take final orders? Or will she be there in ICAD as a decoration to soften international criticism? I doubt if she would agree to that role. And so, a clash is inevitable; the anti-illegal drug campaign can suffer.

Senator Panfilo Lacson is reported to be her adviser. I wonder what the senator that became famous in the bloody elimination of the Kuratong Baleleng gang will advise her because the senator apparently does not believe in zero killing in the enforcement of law when dealing with people who have no qualms about killing, softly through drugs or the gun.

I was reminded of a poem in our elementary days entitled, “The Spider and the Fly”. This down to earth poem by Mary Howitt, published in 1828, is a good illustration of what can come out in Robredo’s acceptance.

The first line of the poem is “‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly.” That was the spider inviting the fly to enter its web. The fly refused with wise answers, but the spider kept on with more enticing offers.

In brief, the dialogue shows the cunning of the spider and its use of seduction and manipulation. The spider eventually saw the weakness of the fly that wanted to be someone with something. Thus the story ended with the poet’s warning: And now dear little children, who may this story read, / To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed: / Unto an evil counselor, close heart and ear and eye, / And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.

The fly finally got to be the spider’s dinner. Robredo with all her noble intents may yet prove her inadequacies. Wouldn’t the President like that?