In a span of nine days, from October 5 to October 14, Senator Leila De Lima has delivered five different speeches. Four of those were in schools, after her coming-out-speech as victim, invoking #EveryWoman at a Commission on Human Rights Forum (CHR) on October 5.
One imagines a senator of the land would have better things to do.
But then again, what’s better than galvanizing support for oneself in a time of crisis?
A question on numbers
In her speech on October 6 at St. Scholastica’s College Manila, Senator De Lima kicked off her speech by talking about hashtags, and how she’s been told those hashtags in support of her are trending. In another speech she actually likened herself to Harry Potter who was chosen by Voldemort – of course anyone who reads Harry Potter would know that he was not “chosen” at all.
She also mostly talks about how she is being silenced because she seeks to investigate the killings happening in relation to the drug war.
In that October 6 speech, she brandished a number: 3,675 dead in the first 100 days of President Duterte. Thirty people dead each day, the senator declared.
Yet a look at the PNP Annual Report for 2015 under the government De Lima served as Secretary of the Department of Justice would reveal 9,643 murders under her watch for the year. That’s about 26 murders a day.
The published numbers for the Daang Matuwid years are not classified according to which murders are drug-related, and which aren’t. There is also no sense of whether or not these murders happened during police operations.
What one also realizes upon reading the previous PNP reports in fact, is how we don’t really have baseline data for anything at all here, and as such we cannot really tell whether or not the number of murders are extraordinary, or if these are pretty much the same numbers we’ve dealt with all these years – drug war or no drug war.
The following day, October 7, in her speech at Adamson University, the number the senator was brandishing had risen from 30 killed a day to 40. “So almost 40 persons a day, and everyday <sic>, wala pong araw na walang nire-report na mayroong namamatay o mayroong pinapatay—either in the course of purportedly legitimate police operations or just victims of vigilante-style of killings.”
A question on media
The latter of course is the point.
When Senator De Lima says, and I’m paraphrasing her here, that there is no day that there is no report of killings – we presume she means on TV and radio and online media, where there is a renewed interest in crime on our streets given the drug war.
But if reportage is what we are dependent on, then this begs the question: is it that there are more killings now, or is it that media is just more interested in reporting these killings now?
I’ve asked this from the moment President Duterte won and the news started covering the killings on our streets: has it always been this violent on our streets and it just was not being covered? It is possible that there was a level of violence we were not aware of, cloistered as we are in our middle class/elite spaces, that is now finally being covered in the news like never before?
Is it possible that our shock at the numbers is also borne of the fact that we had no idea that our peg was at 26 murders a day in 2015, and so now when Senator De Lima announces 30 a day – which rose to 40 in a just a day! – we cannot help but be overwhelmed by emotion?
Because it is possible that we feel this way about the killings because it is only now that the news is covering every death – and not just murder but homicide, too. And whereas before these killings would be carried in tabloids and maybe a segment in “TV Patrol” and “Saksi,” now it is the meat of the news, the reason for being, the centerpiece of the news discourse.
A question of truthfulness
These questions do not in any way justify the current killings, and I am certain that many of these deaths since July had to do with the President’s stance on killing anyone at all who resists arrest, or shoots or threatens to shoot at police.
But in order to actually get to the truth, in order for us to understand better what those numbers mean, we need baseline data to measure and compare the numbers of dead across years – including those years when Senator De Lima was Secretary of Justice. In that sense only she is in a position to explain what it was like for five years under Daang Matuwid, given the data on crime that is available to the public.
Senator De Lima herself is in a position to explain if the 9,643 murders in 2015 were drug-related or not. And if not, then what were these murders about? President Duterte is saying that the numbers for drug-related crimes like rape, robbery, theft have gone down. But how would we know this to be true if the previous government itself won’t explain to us their numbers?
In 2015, there were 10,298 cases of rape, 82,751 cases of theft, and 31,741 cases of robbery. Senator De Lima is in a position to break this down for us, between those that are drug-related cases, and those that are not.
Then we would be closer to the truth about crime in this country, regardless of whether or not it was being covered by media from 2010 to 2015, regardless of whether there was a drug war or not.
And until Senator De Lima starts leveling up the discourse, admits to the previous government’s numbers and the limitations of their anti-crime and anti-drug drive, then this shaming won’t end because she herself has proven she cannot get beyond it and start talking facts – including that of her time as SOJ.
It seems to be the only way for us all to get out of this slump: ask questions, demand answers. Including of De Lima herself.