Because in the first draft of this column, I used the word “Draconian” to describe the unprecedented measures that President Duterte has adopted in his war on drugs, I was led by my research to the story of Draco, from whose name the word was taken.
In the Encyclopedia Britannica, I found this entry on Draco:
“Draco also spelled Dracon (7th Century BC), Athenian lawgiver whose harsh code punished both trivial and serious crimes in Athens with death – hence the continued use o f the word “draconian” to describe repressive legal measures.
“The six junior archons or magistrates, are said by Aristotle to have been instituted in Athens after 683 to record the laws. If this is correct, Draco’s code was not the first reduction of Athenian law to writing, but it may have been the first comprehensive code.
“The code was later regarded as intolerably harsh, punishing trivial crimes with death; it was probably unsatisfactory to contemporaries, since Solon, the archon in 594 BC, later repealed Draco’s code and published new laws.
An international issue now
This excursion into Draco’s story is a way of introducing my theme today, that President Duterte’s war on drugs and the over a thousand drug killings are no longer just a national issue; they are an international issue now.
The name “Duterte” is now known all over the world and carried by innumerable newspapers and news media. It has taken a seat for notoriety beside the likes of Hugo Chavez and Osama bin Laden at a time when the world has started to forget them.
By going to war against the United Nations because of the world body’s desire to inquire into the drug killings, and because of his obstinate refusal to honor human rights and humanitarian law in the drug war, President Duterte has placed himself in the cross-hairs not only of the UN but in those of every international human rights organization.
By threatening to pull the Philippines out of the United Nation (even organizing his own association of nations), the President may have only boxed himself into a corner.
All the profanities that he has heaped on the UN and his human rights critics cannot wipe away the cloud that has formed over him and his government. The human rights issue will not go away. It may well wind up in an international court.
The dead will not be forgotten. More than 1,500 people have been killed since Duterte took office and immediately began his law-and-order crackdown, according to police statistics.
The UN’s special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard, said last week said that Duterte’s promise of immunity and bounties to security forces who kill drug suspects violated international law.
This follows UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s criticism of Duterte in June, for promising during the election campaign to kill 100,000 people and dump so many bodies in Manila Bay.
“I unequivocally condemn his apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings, which is illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms,” Ban said.
This led to more cuss words from DU30: “Fuck you, UN, you can’t even solve the Middle East carnage … couldn’t even lift a finger in Africa,” he said then.
Last month Duterte said he might not ratify the country’s commitments to a historic UN climate change pact agreed to by his predecessor last year.
Teaching the UN how to count
In his latest blast against the UN, President Duterte boasted that he would teach the UN how to count. He addressed himself to the UN, saying: “You’re complaining that there is no process. Okay, you guys, you law experts of the United Nations, come here, come here and face me and make the accusations and I will show you the statistics and I will hold your finger and teach you how to count,” he said.
The President said that he was willing to dialogue with UN observers to explain to them the effects of his war on the narcotics industry, yet his spokesman Ernesto Abella said a UN fact-finding mission that Callamard offered to lead to look into the summary killings in the country was not welcome and would be considered “unnecessary meddling” in internal affairs.
Duterte justifies everything by saying that what he has launched and sown are in line with fulfilling his duty:
“My job as President is to protect law-abiding citizens. I was never tasked by any law to protect criminals. I say this because 16 million people voted for me and I have a large margin between me and the next candidate,” he said.
“The President therefore finds the pronouncements from certain bodies as unwelcome meddling in national matters. The Philippines has not extended any invitation to anybody, nor the UN to look into its national affairs. We are capable of our own internal dialogue.”
A necessary catharsis
But all this blah-blah cannot wipe away, however, the fact that Duterte’s draconian measures have gone against humanity’s fundamental belief that people have a right to be left alone by government when there is no evidence that they have committed a crime, and if there is evidence, that they have to be charged and tried in public, under judicial oversight.
When officials deviate from this norm, they should be grilled and must be called to account.
Yesterday, the Senate inquiry into the drug killings opened with Sen. Leila de lima leading the probe. The hearing was broadcast live, and the public finally began to hear for themselves accounts about the killings, and the stories of some of the people killed.
It was excruciating to behold. But this inquiry is the necessary catharsis that the Filipino nation must go through because of the war on drugs.