‘Brutal’ Digong and ‘killer’ Vladimir

By Alex P. Vidal

“Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob.”—Ida B. Wells

THE difference between former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin is the Filipino leader never murdered his political critics despite his repugnant notoriety.

They are of course both brutal and heartless in many ways and instances.

But Duterte, 78, only “made life miserable” for his political enemies, especially the women, but did not kill them (those who got slaughtered were poor drug users and suspected small-time drug traffickers, which became the basis for the cases filed against the former president before the International Criminal Court).

Duterte only either had his political critics dismissed from government service, jailed, or mocked and maligned with the help of his much-vaunted social media propaganda machine, which had also helped wreck former Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential train.

Putin, 71, on the other hand, is well known for having eliminated feisty dissidents in bizarre manner if not under mysterious circumstances.

If popular opposition figures in Russia aren’t poisoned to death, they are killed in plane crashes, fell from the tall buildings, collapsed while under incarceration, and hit by wayward vehicles.

If Alexei Navalny, 47, a charismatic Russian reformist and Putin’s No. 1 political rival, were Filipino, he would still be alive today and may have retired or reinvented his political image.


I have always considered Navalny to be the Russian version of former Senator Antonio Trillanes VI.

Nobody thought intrepid Trillanes VI would live until his semi-retirement from politics today after engaging the dreaded Dutertes (the entire family for that matter) in nerve-tingling word wars and intense swapping of dangerous accusations—that could have ended in catastrophic fist and even fire fight—for so many years when the Dutertes were-and is still-in power.

Yet, Trillanes is still standing 10 feet tall and kicking—and will in fact reportedly run for mayor in Caloocan City in the next election.

On the other hand, Navalny’s fate was sealed when he decided to return to Russia in January 2021 and was immediately detained on accusations of violating parole conditions while he was hospitalized in Germany which were imposed as a result of his 2014 conviction.

Journalist Neil MacFarquhar, who covered Navalny’s colorful political career for many years, claimed that there was one question that Russians repeatedly asked Navalny, who died in a remote Arctic penal colony on February 16, and the late brave opposition icon confessed that he found it a little annoying.


Why, after surviving a fatal poisoning attempt widely blamed on the Kremlin, had he returned to Russia from his extended convalescence abroad to face certain imprisonment and possible death?

Even his prison guards, turning off their recording devices, asked him why he had come back, he said.

“I don’t want to give up either my country or my beliefs,” Mr. Navalny wrote in a Jan. 17 Facebook post to mark the third anniversary of his return and arrest in 2021. “I cannot betray either the first or the second. If your beliefs are worth something, you must be willing to stand up for them. And if necessary, make some sacrifices.”

MacFarquhar said that was the direct answer, but for many Russians, both those who knew him and those who did not, the issue was more complex.

Some of them considered it almost a classical Greek tragedy: The hero, knowing that he is doomed, returns home anyway because, well, if he didn’t, he would not be the hero.

“Mr. Navalny’s motto was that there was no reason to fear the authoritarian government of President Vladimir V. Putin. He wanted to put that into practice, Russian commentators said, and as an activist who thrived on agitation, he feared sinking into irrelevancy in exile. The decision won him new respect and followers as he continued to lambast the Kremlin from his prison cell, but it also cost him his life,” stressed MacFarquhar, former New York Times’ Moscow Bureau writer.


SIX TIPS for a Healthy Heart. February is Heart Month. The NYC Health + Hospitals has announced “it’s the right time to remind you to take care of your heart.”

With the proper care, we can control our blood pressure to live a longer healthier life. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy heart:

—Know and Control Your Blood Pressure. 1 in 4 New Yorkers have high blood pressure and many do not know it. Check your blood pressure at your doctor’s office or your local pharmacy. You can also check it yourself using a home monitor or visit one of the many kiosks across NYC. Learn how to check blood pressure at home and ask the Expert: Controlling the Silent Killer

—Eat more fruits and veggies. Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds can lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Learn about our Lifestyle Medicine Program.

—Keep Moving. Walking 30 minutes every day is a safe and effective way to get your heart healthy. If you cannot exercise 30 minutes a day, don’t worry. Some movement is better than no movement so do what you can.

—Manage Stress. Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Eating healthy and getting regular sleep helps. Talking to someone may also help. Reach out to a friend or family member. Or use our virtual ExpressCare telehealth service to Talk to a Doctor Now.

—If You Smoke, Make a Plan to Quit. Smoking, as well as excessive drinking, can lead to an irregular heartbeat and high-blood pressure. Get help to quit smoking.

—Get Regular Check-ups. Getting regular check-ups and knowing important numbers, such as your Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important. Make sure you review these numbers with your doctor and talk about your risk factors for heart disease.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)