A narco-state – and a killer too?

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FRANCISCO S. TATAD

FRANCISCO S. TATAD

I TRIED to tread very gently when I asked in my August 16, 2017 column, “Have we truly become a full-blown narco-state?” I did not want to be in President Rodrigo Duterte’s crosshairs by suggesting that anyone in his circle might be working with the Chinese drug lords in flooding the country with shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) from Xiamen. But 605 kilograms of the stuff worth P6.4 billion had breezed through the Bureau of Customs’ “green lane,” like a government-to-government transfer; and DU30 himself declared: “The Philippines is now a narco-state.”

This bizarre admission did not shock me anymore. But it must have been a mortal blow to DU30’s propagandists and trolls who were already beginning to talk all sorts of nonsense about human rights and organized crime. Some of them were saying our problem was not DU30’s violation of human rights, but rather human rights activists wanting to make sure DU30’s war on drugs should fail. They also seemed ready to believe DU30 would destroy organized crime by organizing a much bigger monster.

China’s contribution
The illegal shipment from China was intercepted on May 24, one day after DU30 proclaimed martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for 90 days all over Mindanao. It was kept under wraps, and became public knowledge only after more than a couple of months later. The shipment got past the Customs zone, without anyone suspecting anything.

The bureau finally caught on after the contraband reached the warehouse of Chinese businessman Richard Chen in Valenzuela City. But although government operatives opened the 40-foot container that held 23 crates, they opened and seized only five crates, releasing the 18 others without inspection. If all 23 crates had contained the same contraband, the 18 crates should have contained 2,160 kgs of shabu, worth P22.5 billion.


Through all this, the usually non-stop talking President was uncharacteristically silent. No heads rolled, no one was threatened with death or damnation or perished in an alleged “shootout” inside their residence while resisting a search warrant at 3 o’clock in the morning. Amid the cascading rumors of corruption at Customs, he cited Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon as the only honest guy in the bureau, days before he accepted his resignation in favor of the chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Isidro Lapeña.

Eliminating the competition
At the beginning of the drug killings, my US-based friend Charles A., who has followed the drug wars in Latin America and the Caribbean (Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, and the Bahamas), the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), Golden Triangle (Burma, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand), and Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) expressed the fear that the DU30 killings could simply eliminate “the competition” but not the real drug lords and the real illegal drug trade, and “we’ll wake up one day controlled by the biggest drug lord of them all.”

This struck me as the most absurd proposition imaginable, until the Chinese shipment came to light, and the Customs rumor mill started spinning tales about a powerful “godfather” from Davao taking control of the piers.

The “drug war” has been DU30’s lone defining activity since his first day in office. This was interrupted only on May 23 onward, when the Maute terror group, claiming links to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, attacked the Islamic city of Marawi, thereby creating a temporary diversion from the main agenda. But not even the extreme poverty on the ground, and the uncontrolled corruption everywhere, could compel DU30 to adjust his priorities and emphasis.

DU30 proclaimed martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the whole of Mindanao for 90 days. At the same time, he dispatched a large portion of our military and police forces in Luzon and the Visayas to fight the Mautes. On July 22, at the end of 60 days, Congress extended the proclamation until the yearend. Then the brutal drug war resumed. On July 30, the police and some hooded thugs massacred Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., his wife, and 13 other family members and friends inside their homes before dawn while allegedly in search of illegal firearms and drugs.

At a command conference in Camp Crame later, Philippine National Police Director General Roland “Bato” de la Rosa formally relaunched the murderous campaign. He announced new kill quotas for the police and the so-called “vigilantes”; and an increased bounty of P20,000 per kill. As in the war against the Mautes, where the command was “take no prisoners,” the new policy directive to the police was reportedly to neutralize all suspects.

Finally, a martyr
Last week, 81 drug suspects were reported slaughtered in separate incidents in Bulacan and Metro Manila in just three days. These included the 17-year-old high school student, Kian Loyd de los Santos, who was killed in Kalookan City after he had been given a gun, told to fire it and run, as apparently recorded on closed circuit television and reported by witnesses.

The rash of murder of drug suspects confirms not only the rise of DU30’s narco-state but also the rise of the killer state. The narco state and the killer state have now combined to create a failed state. This has provoked a wave of indignation in the streets and on the web. On Monday, a sizeable crowd gathered at the foot of the People Power Monument on EDSA to protest the killing of Kian Loyd de los Santos. No incidents were reported, but the anger is building up and threatens to spread.

The young Kian has become the face of the faceless drug victims who have been killed in the drug war. This is a significant development. In Tunisia in 2011, the Arab Spring was sparked by the young Mohamed Bouzazi, who set himself afire on December 17, 2010 in front of a town hall to protest against massive corruption and unrelieved unemployment. He did not die until two weeks later, but his suicide caused massive protests which finally drove President Zine El Abidine bin Ali to Saudi Arabia after 28 days, after having been president for 30 years.

Church leaders speak
At the same time more and more churchmen have weighed in. The usually serene and ever-careful Cardinal-Archbishop of Manila, the Most Reverend Luis Antonio Tagle, has written a letter to be read in all Manila churches, calling on all sectors to come together and chart a common path out of the drug problem. He has offered to host a dialogue of the various sectors.

For his part, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, has ordered the ringing of bells throughout his archdiocese from 8 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. today until Nov. 27 to accompany the people’s prayers for the souls of those who have died in the drug war, and to awaken the consciences of those who have taken part in the killings and those who have supported the killings.

Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan, to whose Diocese Kian Loyd de los Santos belonged, has demanded justice for all the victims and an end to all the killings.

In various parts of the country, many other bishops have spoken: Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon of Bacolod, Bishop Santos of Balanga, Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao.

Call for DU30’s ouster
Meanwhile, a statement posted on PINOYABROD.net by a group calling themselves Patriotic and Democratic Movement (PADEM) and claiming to be composed of officers and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, called for DU30’S “ouster” for grave violations of the public trust and crimes against the national sovereignty and democratic rights of Filipinos.

The statement cited 10 grounds. These include:

1) Treating the AFP and the PNP as though these were his private armies and practicing favoritism and violating professional and service standards in the promotion and assignment of officers;

2) Corrupting the PNP and the AFP with a system of monetary awards for the extrajudicial killing of alleged drug users and of NPA suspects;

3) Condoning and protecting top-level illegal drug lords (including Davao city vice mayor Paolo Duterte) and protectors (at the level of governors and generals);

4) Emboldening/inciting police officers to engage in extrajudicial killings of poor suspected illegal drug users and pushers by publicly telling officers to plant evidence and by guaranteeing their pardon and promotion in case of conviction;

5) Aggravating corruption in government and criminality through the collusion of Duterte trustees and crime syndicates;

6) Allowing China to occupy maritime features in the West Philippine Sea and to violate Philippine sovereign rights upheld by decision of the arbitral tribunal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea;

7) Bungling the operations in Marawi City and indiscriminately destroying lives and property through aerial bombings, artillery and mortar;

8) Favoring certain Chinese businessmen and Duterte relatives and cronies in the award of projected infrastructure projects using loans from China;

9) Betraying the sovereign rights of the Filipino people by making the Philippines a debt vassal of China and offering to China the oil and gas resources under the West Philippine Sea as collateral for Chinese loans; and

10) Seeking to replace the partnership with the United States in matters of national security with an even more lopsided relationship with China and Russia.

The statement called on the public to exercise their right of assembly and undertake mass action demanding DU30’s ouster, and called on the rest of the military and the police to work for the withdrawal of support for DU30.

Message for DU30
With the alarming upsurge in the drug killings, which has exposed the brutality of the killer state, DU30’s admission of the existence of the narco-state, which the illegal shabu trade with China has confirmed, and PADEM’s online call for DU30’s ouster, there is only one clear message for this President:

First, DU30 must stop all the drug killings, and hold himself and the police accountable for all those who had been killed;

Second, DU30 must ask China to end the exportation of illegal drugs to the Philippines as a necessary condition for continued cooperation and friendship between the two neighbors;

Third, DU30 must discipline all government personnel and persons related to him who may be involved in protecting drug lords or smuggling lords in the customs zone.

If DU30 cannot stop these, then We, the People, must do what is necessary to stop him.

fstatad@gmail.com

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