Descent to barbarism

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The wanton killings by the police and their surrogate assassins that are the main, in fact the only, component of the brutal and misdirected “war” on drugs that’s targeting the poor while the drug lords are treated with kid gloves and evade prosecution began almost as soon as Rodrigo Duterte assumed the Presidency last year.

These barbaric atrocities by the regime’s killing machine have been condemned by Catholic Church prelates; by human rights groups here and abroad; by most media practitioners except by the obviously bought and paid-for hacks in print and broadcasting; and by citizens whose senses have not been dulled by the vast illiteracy, atrocious logic and worse grammar of the cretinous online trolls who’re similarly in the pay of the Duterte regime.

The murder of 17-year-old grade 11 student Kian Loyd De Los Santos by the police has moved even most of the allies of Rodrigo Duterte in the Senate to ask the questions intelligent and concerned Filipinos have been asking for months.

Among the questions some senators are now belatedly asking, long after these were raised by people who sensed early on what was wrong with the Duterte approach to the drug problem, is whether or not it’s a complex social issue that requires a multidimensional response instead of the quick-fix, failed approach of simply killing suspected drug pushers and users. (Thailand took the same path in 2003 by killing some 3,000 alleged addicts and drug dealers within three months, but failed to solve its drug problem. A later investigation found that most of those killed were innocent.)

If the illegal drug trade and addiction is far from the simple problem the simple-minded think it to be, are the killings then effectively addressing the country’s supposedly widespread drug problem? But are the police, empowered by Mr. Duterte’s assurances of immunity from prosecution and in obedience to orders to kill anyone suspected of involvement in the illegal drug trade, murdering people including minors who’re either innocent or who could have been rehabilitated if they were indeed drug users and/or pushers?

With the exception of the Makabayan bloc, the members of the aptly named Lower House have suddenly lost their otherwise strident voices and have been unwontedly silent in the face of this latest police atrocity, perhaps in the hope that public outrage over it will eventually pass because, so says Malacanang, Kian Loyd’s killing is an isolated case. That claim is misleading and patently false. The truth is that at least 31 minors, including a four-year old and two five-year olds, have been slain in the course of the regime’s anti-drug campaign since 2016.

In an apparent attempt to wash its hands of any responsibility once its drug tests become the basis for the police’s killing more children and young people, even the Department of Education (DepEd), which has ordered mandatory drug testing in both public and private high schools, has condemned the murder of Kian De Los Santos and any form of violence against students, and called for an investigation into the killing and for respect for the rule of law.

But leave it to the unrepentant police, the diehard, brain-dead supporters of the regime, and its current and former bureaucrats to continue to justify and condone the killings, the number of which is estimated to be some 7,000, even as their idol and Hitler-admiring Fuhrer pretends to be outraged over the murder by his police henchmen of Kian Loyd.

Resorting to the widely discredited Marcos martial law-era tactic of blaming the victim, the police and their shameless defenders are claiming that Kian was armed, and that he was a runner for his father Zaldy De Los Santos, whom they are now slandering as an illegal drug dealer. They’re saying these despite the statements of witnesses and closed-circuit tv evidence that policemen dragged Kian from the family store, beat him up, gave him a gun, told him to fire it and run, and shot him dead.

In addition, former and current bureaucrats for whom supporting any regime no matter how vicious is mandatory for the sake of their self-interests are buying into self-serving police claims to confuse the public. Although one is a public prosecutor, these creatures are conveniently forgetting that even if he were indeed involved in the illegal drug trade, the victim was legally a child, and what’s more, had the right to a fair trial and to be presumed innocent instead of being murdered by what we laughingly call law enforcers.

The presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial are among those rights that often and in so many words Mr. Duterte has roundly dismissed as shields for protecting criminality and whose defenders he has even threatened to kill. From Mr. Duterte have also come assurances to the police that he will protect them from punishment — promising them the impunity that PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa dismisses as meaningless — as well as instructions to the police to kill, kill, kill even more, to the extent of urging them to plant guns on suspected drug users and pushers so their killing can be justified.

Reacting to the news that 32 people had been killed in Bulacan by the police, Mr. Duterte said it was “fine” and should happen everyday. The Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela) and Manila police obliged by killing 14 and 28, respectively, which when added to the Bulacan toll amounted to 74 in three days,

Let us not forget that while Rodrigo Duterte was Mayor of Davao City, children and young people suspected of involvement in petty crimes were also being killed by elements of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), with which Duterte the candidate admitted links during his campaign for the Presidency last year. These minors were in the list of targets that the regime has been replicating nationwide. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) found as early as September, 2016 that over 20,000 minors are in that list as alleged drug pushers, users and runners, which makes them potential victims of State-sponsored murder.

These isles of fear are in the bloody hands of an inhuman regime with Stone Age values whose brutality knows no limits. It’s a regime that by targeting everyone including the young is practically making sure that the future will be bereft of those men and women whose talents, vision and patriotism could make a difference to this country’s and its citizens’ destinies — a regime that’s destroying the very foundations of civil life and the rule of law through its enshrinement of the use of murder and terror as explicit State policy in addressing the most complex social issues.

The regime of unreason and mindless violence has killed thousands and is still threatening to kill more, including the future lodged in the young. What is urgently needed to stop this madness is a united, concerted effort by mass and people’s organizations, sectoral groups, human rights defenders, the Churches, civil society, the media, and every political formation whether Right, Center or Left that understands the need to arrest the country’s rapid descent into even worse barbarism.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from Philippine Observer.

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