IT is bad enough that the number of Filipinos, mostly the young ones, getting hooked on illegal drugs has been growing over the years. But it is worse that law enforcers who should curb the problem of drug addiction are those behind the menace as protectors or dealers.
The situation turns worst if, in a pretentious effort to show performance, authorities just shoot anybody who fits their profile of a drug user or pusher. Not only that; they ransack the homes of these poor suspects and steal anything even of little value—wristwatches, mobile phones, computers, piggy banks—as if to completely deprive their families any material means to fight back.
From what we read about incidents in various parts of the country, what appears as the official line for shooting the suspects was that they tried either to resist or elude arrest.
How can you say that a suspect tried to fight back or elude arrest when the suspect was sleeping when the policemen came, and one of them had an arm over his shoulder when he was being escorted back inside the house? Nakaakbay pa. After a few minutes, the neighborhood just heard six shots—two in the forehead and four in the chest—leaving him no chance to survive.
The suspected drug user is 33 years old with two young sons aged eight and nine, one of whom was with him when the policemen came to his humble home in Bulacan. One of the sons who was with him was taken onto the police car and given candy before his father was escorted back to his house.
The suspect’s father and other relatives were not allowed to enter the house but were instead told to proceed to the funeral parlor where the body would be taken. Hours later when the family was allowed to go back to their house, it had been “cleaned up,” with the handy valuables all gone.
I didn’t read this incident in the news. This happened to a nephew of a longtime friend. I don’t know the official line of the police yet because I haven’t seen the police report. But the excuse given to the family for shooting the suspected drug user was that he tried to resist arrest.
My friend admits that his nephew was a problem child but they didn’t know that he used or peddled illegal drugs. But didn’t he deserve due process? Is due process only exclusive to those who have the money to go to court and find their way out? My friend is distraught. One life is gone, and two young mouths have lost a hand that feeds them.
Due process is absent in this and many other cases of killings in the drugs war. President Rodrigo Duterte said in an expletive-filled speech before fellow alumni of the San Beda Law School on July 14 that he could not give due process because he is not the court.
“Anong due process, due process? Ulol! Kung nasa korte ka na. Kung sabihin, “We were not given by the President due process. Eh, tarantado ka pala, eh, hindi ako korte,” said the President, who met on July 15 in Davao City with Cebu-based businessman Peter Lim, whom he earlier named as one of the top drug traffickers in the country.
Duterte said Lim was the Visayan member of a drug triad in the country. The two others were Peter Co and Herbert Colangco, who are both behind bars in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Duterte simply advised Lim to submit himself to an investigation and prove his innocence. He also told Lim: “We want to help you. Help us clear you. We’re not here to pin down innocent citizens.”
The President’s meeting with Lim and the summary execution of suspected drug users and dealers show the wide disparity and disconnect in the administration’s crime-fighting approach.
For the poor suspects, bullets are pumped first into their heads and chests before their families can seek due process—that is, if they have the money for the costly and rigorous litigation process. For the moneyed suspects, you get to meet the President and be assured of due process.
News reports have placed the death toll in the drug war at 287 since the May 9 elections when Duterte was voted into office. The total since June 30, when the President took his oath, was at 240 as of July 14. The number is rising as we read more stories of killings by both policemen and vigilantes in various parts of the country. Many of them remain unidentified; others were known only by their aliases.
Thousands have been reported to have surrendered and signed an oath that they would never use illegal drugs again.
Some cases involved lawmen admitting of their involvement in the illegal drugs trade and surrendering for fear of being targeted by vigilantes.
PO3 Rogelio Sta. Ana, of Malolos City, surrendered to Senior Supt. Romeo Caramat, Jr., acting Bulacan police director, and confessed of his involvement in drug pushing. Sta. Ana turned himself in following the murder of PO3 Michael Lee Manalad, in Meycauayan City, on July 7.
Malolos City Mayor Christian Natividad accompanied Sta. Ana in surrendering to Caramat.
A police official in Central Luzon had said that the killings of suspected drug dealers and users, supposedly by vigilantes, have given the impression that it is better to surrender than die.
Central Luzon comes next to Southern Tagalog in the ranking of regions with the highest number of suspected drug users and dealers killed in the last two months. In Central Luzon alone, some 7,000 have confessed of involvement in the illegal drugs trade and surrendered to the police since July 1.
Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, Central Luzon police director, was quick to clear his men from involvement in the killings.
On the first week of July alone, 45 drug users and pushers were killed in Central Luzon and these were in instances purportedly when the suspects fought policemen conducting buy-bust operations or serving arrest and search warrants. Aquino said 20 suspects were killed during police operations conducted from June 1 to 30.
Aquino conceded that fear had led offenders to submit to authorities, with many of them promising to stay away from the drug habit and trade.
Almost two years ago, policemen and agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) raided a drug laboratory in Valenzuela City. To know the capacity of the laboratory, they asked the workers to “cook” shabu. The workers managed to produce 20 kilos in one day. Then, the raiding team declared the raid the next day, but the pieces of evidence did not include the 20 kilos of shabu that was “cooked” the previous day.
While authorities must go after consumers of illegal drugs, the law must not exempt the law enforcers who do more harm than good and destroy more lives instead of protecting them.