At the outset, President Rodrigo Duterte promised he would be harsh. He has kept his word. Since July 1, close to a thousand suspected drug pushers have been killed by the police and vigilantes. Several hundred thousand drug users have been thrown in jail. Nearly all the fatalities were killed “while resisting arrest,” but The New York Times has reported the case of father and son Renato and Jaypee Bartes, who were killed while already detained by the police. The police said the two had tried to escape by seizing an officer’s gun but forensic examination found that both men had been incapacitated by beatings before they were shot. Jaypee Bartes had a broken right arm, according to the report.
Now the police are entering private homes in private subdivisions looking for drugs and drug pushers and users without any search or arrest warrant. DU30 has excoriated the United Nations for asking him to end the extrajudicial killings, calling it interference in the internal affairs of our republic. A reported Malacanang “dare” to the UN, issued by Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, to come and see for themselves what’s happening here has created a muddle inside the Palace, after the UN Special Rapporteur on Summary Executions Dr. Agnes Callamard had “accepted the invitation.”
Disinviting the UN and blasting de Lima
Apparently Panelo, who has no role whatsoever in communicating DU30’s position to the public on anything whatsoever, was not authorized to issue the invitation. So presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella dismissed the UN’s interest in the extrajudicial killings as “unwelcome meddling.” International media and diplomatic interest in the drug war has grown; it is bound to grow even stronger after the Senate opens its inquiry into the killings today.
In an apparent effort to preempt this inquiry, DU30 blasted the committee chair Sen. Leila de Lima as an “immoral woman” who, as B. S. Aquino 3rd’s Secretary of Justice, had allegedly used her driver, reportedly also her “lover,” to collect protection money from the drug dealers inside the New Bilibid Prisons. “No one has ever been attacked in such a manner by no less than the highest official of the land, until now,” de Lima wailed.
“How does one defend oneself, when the attacker is immune from suit, and has all the backing of executive power to support him in his attack? … I don’t think the Constitution has ever contemplated such abuse of power on such scale, as it assumes every President to conduct himself in a manner befitting the office he holds.”
In the biblical story about the woman caught in adultery, the Lord tells the crowd that was preparing to stone her to death according to the law, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” And one by one the mob melts away. After they are gone, the Lord asks the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” “No one,” she says. “Neither do I condemn you,” says the Lord, “ go and sin no more.” In the case of DU30, he used to brag during the campaign of committing the same adulterous offense, but now, he has decided to cast the first stone.
Too shocked to deny
De Lima looked too stunned to deny the charge of immorality but she rejected the charge of drug dealing. “If this is his way of stopping the Senate investigation on the extra-judicial killings, he can try until he silences me or the Senate,” she said. “But it is already clear that what is happening to me is what will happen to anyone who does not bow to the wishes of the President.” She said she had thought of aborting the scheduled inquiry if that would buy her peace; but it would amount to burying herself, and she would rather that DU30 and his regime buried her instead.
Her emotional appeal initially won her some sympathetic response but she probably lost it when, subsequently, she admitted to some “snippets of truth” in DU30’s accusations. In her latest statement, she said she was ready to resign and be shot in front of DU30 if it could be proved that she had dealt in drugs.
Replicating the terror in France
Regardless of what happens in the Senate, the killings may have become the defining program of the DU30 presidency. This has prompted a devoted student of history to ask me to reread Jules Michelet’s History of the French Revolution or any similar ouevre to gain a broader and deeper perspective on the killings unleashed by DU30’s “war on drugs.”
“We have to make sure that a Philippine equivalent of La Terreur, the Reign of Terror, which marked the violent onset of the French Revolution, has not been surreptitiously inserted into our history by DU30’s ‘war on drugs,’ ” he said. He then revisited some high points of the Reign of Terror.
The French revolution revisited
From September 5, 1793 to July 27, 1794, the French revolutionary government made “terror” its official policy–to use violence in order to achieve a “higher political goal.” The decree of September 5 ordered harsh measures against suspected enemies of the Revolution–nobles, priests, hoarders, etc. The much-feared Committee on Public Safety was then formed to suppress counter-revolutionary activities and increase the size of the military.
Maximilien de Robespierre, aided by allies like Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, the “Angel of Death” who led the movement to execute King Louis XVI and drafted the French Constitution of 1793, dominated the Committee which exercised dictatorial powers. On June 10, 1794, the Committee suspended a suspect’s right to public trial and to legal assistance; where trials were still allowed, the jury could render only one of two verdicts, acquittal or death. Across all of France, 300,000 were arrested, 10,000 died in prison or without trial, 25,000 were summarily executed, 16,594 by guillotine (the “national razor”), 2,639 in Paris alone.
Famous and unnamed victims
Among those condemned by the revolutionary tribunal, eight percent were aristocrats, six percent clergy, 14 percent middle class and 72 percent workers and peasants. The most famous victims of the guillotine were King Louis XVI (King of France from 1774 to 1793), Queen Marie Antoinette, Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, Madam Roland and the Girondins (the rival faction of Robespierre’s Jacobins) and the father of modern chemistry Antoine Lavoisier.
Robespierre said, “The revolutionary government owes to the good citizen all the protection of the nation; it owes nothing to the enemies of the people but death.” He defined the Terror as “nothing else than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible…It is less a principle in itself than a consequence of the general principle of democracy, applied to the most pressing needs of the patrie.”
The revolutionary government was opposed principally by the French nobility, who had been deprived of their inherited privileges and wealth, and the Catholic Church in defense of her right to preach the Gospel and propagate the Faith. The Terror’s program of de-Christianization closed down churches, forced priests and religious to renounce their faith and marry and to become employees of the State; they were forced to take an oath to the nation under the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. Robespierre also sought to supplant the faith of Marian France with a state religion called Deism.
The Christian martyrs ultimately won
The persecution of the clergy and the religious reached a turning point with the arrest of the Carmelite nuns of Compeigne, who were asked to renounce their vows. In contrast to any of the 115,000 French clergymen who surrendered during the Terror to avoid martyrdom, the nuns chose to die instead, and were guillotined on July 17, 1794. They went to their death singing cheerfully, Veni, Creator Spiritus, mentes tuorum visita: imple superna gratia, quae tu creasti pectora. (Come Holy Spirit, come, from thy Heavenly throne! Come, take possession of our souls, and make them all thine own!)
Such was its impact upon the population of Paris that the Terror did not last much longer after that. Power struggles within the Committee resulted in the overthrow of Robespierre. He tried to commit suicide by shooting himself but the bullet merely broke his jaw; he was guillotined the next day. The Reign of Terror ended on July 27, 1794.
DU30’s war has detained more people
My French history guide expressed fear that something of the Terror’s brutality may have already become part of DU30’s war on drugs, as mere suspects have been killed for being suspects, and the police seemed to behave like Robespierre’s minions. Although the figure of fewer than one thousand fatalities in the present “war” is nowhere near the 25,000 summary executions during the Terror, DU30’s war has detained more than twice the 300,000 Frenchmen arrested and detained during the whole period.
No churches have been closed down, no priest or nun forced to renounce his or her monastic vow, but except for one or two, the priests and the bishops appear to have been silenced by the brutality of the killings. The only martyred priest who recently lost his life to Godless violence was the 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, who was slain by two armed thugs while celebrating Mass on the eve of the 222nd anniversary of the end of the Reign of Terror at the altar of the church of Saint Etienne-de-Rouvray in Normandy, France. This had nothing to do with our drug killings, and Normandy seems a little too far to move our episcopal consciences.
In a penetrating essay, the Catholic novelist Michael O’Brien writes, “Aristotle in his Politics and Plato in The Republic warned about what happens to a people when democracy degenerates into oligarchy. Oligarchies will degenerate into tyrannies. And with tyrannies comes murder in epic proportions. And after tyrannies exhaust themselves and thoroughly devastate their own peoples, there come revolt and chaos, fire and blood—the expanding reign of death. The domain of unjust death will widen exponentially and human rights will further decline…”
Is the devil at play here?
The greatest fear raised by my historian-friend has to do with the source of this terrible outbreak of violence and death. Where is it coming from? Is it still human? Is the devil not at the center of it all? Has not the anti-Christ come? I am not competent to answer any of these questions. But 44 years ago, Blessed Pope Paul VI said in his homily at Mass on June 29, 1972, “The smoke of Satan is seeping into the Church of God through the cracks in the walls.”
And on October 13, 1977, on the 60th anniversary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin at Fatima, the same Pope said, “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic Church. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.”
The power of life and death belongs to God alone, and killing without due process, even in the name of a desired good, is always wrong. This evil is something that both the State and the Church must address. And when those whom the Lord has called by name to serve Him remain silent and paralyzed when God is mocked and His rights stepped upon, then a greater evil has arrived. This, no true patriot and true Christian can allow. Those of us who in our daily lives try to fight God’s battles must now stand more closely together, young and old, not necessarily “to strangle kings with the entrails of priests,” as Diderot once said, but simply to repeat, with a few more voices, what Father Hamel told his murderers, “Va-t’en, Satan!”—go away, Satan!