• Christmas 2016: A time for candor about the drug war


    First read
    This Christmas, as we gather with family and friends for the traditional feast on Christmas eve and Christmas day, I put it to my fellow citizens and colleagues that this is preeminently the time for candor about the drug war.

    The distressing subject will turn up anyway – it’s now front and center in our lives. President Duterte is now like a family member to us all. And there are 6,000 dead compatriots, whom the nation must collectively mourn.

    forgetfulness, many Filipinos have been deluded into thinking that all these deaths are necessary. And that there should be relief not regret because they are the wretched of our society.

    Instead of lulling ourselves into a false optimism about the war, because it is Christmastime, I urge that we look this national ordeal in the face, calmly take stock of the situation, count our blessings if there are any, and count our worries, of which there are many.

    It will not do to generalize and say: The drug war had to b e declared because the Philippines has been transformed into a narco-state by the illegal drug trade – and all the drug dealers, pushers and addicts who abet it.

    This big claim requires substantiation by facts, lest it be a total lie. So also do we need confirmation that there are four million drug addicts in the country, as the President claims. The senate committees on justice and public order conducted hearings for over a month, but they forgot to even ask, how many?

    Unrelenting and inescapable scrutiny
    Candor also requires that we recognize a marked change in foreign perceptions and attitudes towards the drug war. Scrutiny is now unrelenting and inescapable.

    Instead of issuing an apology as demanded by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., the United Nations, through its human rights chief commissioner, has asked our judicial auhtorities to investigate President Duterte for murder after he claimed to have killed people in the past.

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement issued in Geneva on Mondsy, that Philippine judicial authorities “must demonstrate their commitment to upholding the rule of law and their independence from the executive by launching a murder investigation,” adding it is “unthinkable for any functioning judicial system not to launch investigative and judicial proceedings when someone has openly admitted being a killer.”

    The President under our laws is immune from prosecution during his term, but he can be investigated.

    In defense against UN criticism, Duterte has dared UN Special Rapporteur on summary killings Agnes Callamard to prove that he ordered security forces to execute drug suspects and criminals. He totally believes that like the existence of God, this cannot be proven.

    DU30 has said repeatedly that the government is not involved in extrajudicial killings because Filipino policemen and soldiers will not comply with illegal orders.

    “If you force them to commit that kind of (act) –they will mount a coup d’état, believe me, especially, and all of them – the officers, the non-commissioned and commissioned officers,” he said.

    Then in an eccentric twist, the President challenged the lady to a debate on relevant issues.

    Now the world will watch what our government will do to answer the UN demand for an investigation of our President for murder.

    Cardboard justice and the rule of law
    While there is administration confidence that Duterte can win a debate with the UN, candor requires us to note that he may not even win a debate with the best legal minds in the country. The drug war has too many holes; it will likely drown.

    In an analysis written for TV 5 and read at a seminar for journalists last October, Atty Mel Sta. Maria of the FEU institute of Law discussed at length the drug war ‘s “cardboard justice” and the “rule of law.”

    I quote his paper at length because of its cogent points and lucid arguments, some of which are:

    1.“In the Philippines, death as punishment cannot be meted out by human beings on human beings. Republic Act No. 9346 prohibits the death penalty. This is the societal imperative all must observe. The legal command all must follow. No one is above the law. Not even the Supreme Court can order death as punishment; neither can the President. For the death penalty to be imposed, the law must be amended to allow it. But even if an amendment is done, the President still has no power to order the killing of people because only the judiciary can impose punishment. That is the rule of law in our country .

    2.Any death sentence ordered by any other entity or person outside of the courts is extra-judicial. And if the order is carried out, it is EJK, short for extrajudicial-killing – the commission of murder no less.

    3. Because EJK is a crime, every time President Duterte says “ I will kill you” or when he said, referring to 3,000,000 drug addicts, “ I’d be happy to slaughter them”, he, the head of state, conveys a deadly message discordant with the rule of law.     Misinterpreted to their extreme, the declarations may be taken as words of encouragement, especially for people in authority like Philippine National Police (PNP) officers, to have the same motivation and objective. Put into action and ultimate fruition, it is EJK.

    4. Regardless of the reason, President Duterte’s subsequent assurance that he will pardon law enforcers who kill suspected criminals involved in drugs conveys a message of impunity. He even said in a meeting with his law school batchmates in Malacañang that he will have many “pre-signed” forms for pardon which can be shown upon arraignment. And even if he stated that he will pardon only those who are wrongly accused, misinterpretations can happen with deadly consequences. Under our law, presidential pardon is only granted to guilty persons.

    5. His declaration to the police that “if there is a resistance that would place your life in jeopardy, then by all means shoot and shoot him dead” may have emboldened rogue cops or vigilantes to commit EJK under the pretext or claim of “resistance.” If not abated, the result may be a systematic and widespread mass-killing.

    6. Significantly, in almost all the news, the victims belong to the most vulnerable sector of our society: the poor. And this has led to the affirmation that rogue PNP officers victimize poor people – a bully’s typical attitude – or, simply, abuse of the powerful over the powerless. The situation is nearing not merely scary proportions, but a seriously appalling and alarming one.”

    DU30’s debate with the people has begun
    Sta. Maria ends his paper with the warning that many of our government’s actions in the dreug war are indictable before the International Criminal Court ( ICC).

    The Philippines is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the international treaty creating the International Criminal Court (ICC), and therefore is bound by its mandate. Under the convention, persons who incite or commit crimes against humanity such as genocide and mass-killing may be haled to the ICC, prosecuted and punished.

    I see little chance of the drug war winning the argument at my family’s Christmas table. Although many of my relatives supported candidate Duterte in the May election, many of us are more reflective about the situation now.

    The SWS survey which says that 8 out of 10 Filipinos today worry about falling victim to the drug war is an eye opener. Disgust and opposition are rising across the land. The killings must stop.

    President Duterte’s debate with the Filipino people about the drug war has begun.



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    1. It sure would be interesting when a drug-addled person abuses and kills relatives of these bloggers that oppose the elimination of drug pushers and addicts. I wonder if they would submit opinions to say that the drug-addled suspects did not know what they were doing and therefore not responsible for the crimes. That day will surely come and I will be watching …

      • Just because there is that chance that you could be hit by a speeding car on the road driven by a drunken driver does not mean we will have to kill all the drunks and the drivers in the world!

    2. To be candor is also meant for collective action. Much had been said about killings by DU30’s administration: he does support the killing of suspected drug users, peddlers and accidentally killed innocents individuals who were with by certain circumstances of aquaintances but got killed by either police authorities or extra-judicial killers. To be candor is also to strictly examine the mastermined of the killing incedents. Who is he? First, DU30 admitted that when he was the Mayor in Davao, he himself killed suspected criminals to give example to his police officers that as could do it, the police officers themselves could do it. And he publicly pronounced that he would be killing anyone involved in drug during his election campaign for presidency, and until now that he is the president. There are already 6,000 suspected drug users who got killed. Do we have to await for six years before DU30 should be brought to court? That is too long. We cannot trust the members in the house of representatives and the senate at this time. Only very few individuals in the congress and in the senate who do think, reflect and project beyond their comfort zone; beside only very few of them in both houses are really thinkers. We, the ordinary citizens of the land, but the most affected ones should be the one to move: this is the time for collective action to bring DU30 to Philippine court, if not in the international court. Mr. Makabenta, is there any available constitutional means or intervention we can ask for help to bring DU30 to court either here in the Philippine or in the international court?

    3. yen: i am a law abiding citizen, i pay my taxes on time. would you rather have me killed instead of these addicts? these addicts never pay taxes, they violate almost anything and ur saying they must not die / you should see them rob and kill people. they are the walking dead. why dont you adopt and addict and tell us ,i will recommend you for canonization.

      they are innocent because they are not proven guilty, yes, – they killed and destroyed my brother – do i call the police ? charge them in court? what will stop them from doing it again and again? you must not be from this planet.

    4. “unthinkable for any functioning judicial system not to launch investigative and judicial proceedings when someone has openly admitted being a killer.”

      “To spare you embarrassment about the crawlers on television that have been running on CNN and even the BBC since yesterday that says Duterte admits killing or shooting the criminals: they were not mistaken,”

      “Sons of whores I will really kill these idiots,”

      Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has said Duterte did not violate any law, and either was making up the claims or had killed people only in self-defense.

      The Philippines does not have a functioning judicial system.
      What they have are presidential appointees who defend, twist and spin everything the president says to try and make it appear that he is not psychotic and nuttier than a squirrel turd.

    5. Six thousand deaths of our compatriots who are drug addicts, pushers, and lords have become an issue. Who is taking stock of the vicious and gory deaths of our compatriots who were victims of crimes by drug addicts? EJK vs senseless killing. I tend to agree the situation we are in is because of our slow if not ineffective criminal justice system. So where do citizens go from here? For some the choice is clear.

    6. While I agree with Yen Makabenta’s suggestion that the EJK of drug suspects should be clearly debated by Filipinos this Christmas season, there are many important things that Filipinos should be debating regarding their country. The cowardice of Liberal Party candidates when Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. ordered two grenades thrown at them at rally in Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971 should also receive the same attention. The EJK today and the grenade that Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. ordered thrown at the rally of the Liberal Party are closely related. The reason why they never tagged Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr as the main suspect in that incident because of the refusal of those severely injured Liberal candidates to talk about it. When Senator de Lima opened an investigation on the EJK, the Senate removed her by 16 votes as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice. Hence, it is evident that our Senate did not want to talk about it just as the severely injured candidates of the Liberal Party flatly refused to talk about their ordeal in the bombing of Plaza Mirinda.

      The refusal of the Senate to talk about the EJK is also endemic to our society. Even the hypercritical Daily Inquirer (critical of Martial Law) hardly mentions the EJK. Even ex-President Benigno C. Aquino III — the main architect to the opposition against Martial Law — refuses to talk about the EJK. Only Manila Times has the courage to openly talk about it.

      Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr said that the Filipino is worth dying for. But if the Senator were alive today, I bet he too will refuse to talk about the EJK.

      Since a newspaper exists only to reflect on the views of its readers, I am opening the topic of the EJK and the Plaza Miranda bombing for those Filipinos who want to talk about it. Let all those who have ears to hear therefore hear. All those who do not have ears to hear are not required to hear.

    7. I totally agree with your views Mr. Makabenta, that all Filipino citizens should seriously consider Duterte’s war on drugs and raise the call to cease these killings. As you have pointed out, it is the poor that is being savagely victimized, while the rich and powerful drug lords and their protectors remain untouched. A more comprehensive and enlightened approach to handle the drug issue should be found. This includes providing employment to the masses, education and rehabilitation. Duterte’s “strategy” of indiscriminate killings should be stopped.

      To those who unthinkingly support Duterte’s war on drugs, perhaps only when their nearest and dearest are killed, will they be concerned. It would be too late then.

      • its not ok to kill the poor ha. we should give them protection. what about their victims? the pusher, the supplier, the manufacturer, – who will protect us against them? they are on the streets like zombies. where were you when we under stress from these elements?

    8. If Duterte will be convicted of Mass Murder and Be punished by Public Execution. I volunteer to full the plug.

      • Too bad. Congress is afraid of Duterte because of the EJK. Anybody who opposes Duterte is a drug-pusher and needs to be EJKilled. Congress was also afraid of Aquino III because his father, the late Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., threw the grenade at the rally of the Liberal Party at Plaza Miranda. Anybody who opposes Aquino III is a graft-plunderer and needs to be thrown in jail forever.