The Duterte war on drugs has triggered in me a kind of private investigation into its actual impact. I find it unseemly and quite unimaginable that thousands have fallen victims to extra judicial killings and the nation, save for very limited private outcries like those expressed by media people in their individual capacities, stay completely apathetic to the carnage. As pointed out by this column in previous articles, society doesn’t seem to care. Not the teacher, not the tricycle driver, neither the workers nor the businessmen, and worst not even the victims themselves.
But, of course, the victims are all dead and so how can they complain?
By victims, I mean that sector called the dregs of society which is victimized by the genocide. From this sector, a widespread outcry should have taken place already, even to the extent of a violent protest. Ironically what is heard from this sector is but a whimper of expressed heartache, blunted even by a lamentable resignation to the killings as Duterte’s dealing them their destiny.
What more terrible fate is there than death without justice?
Doesn’t it denigrate the Filipinos any to be watching arms akimbo while state police and vigilante groups perpetrate the killing spree in wild abandon? Practically the entire world has taken the cudgels for the Filipino nation in combating the Duterte killing binge, and still we maintain our indifference.
Already the Duterte genocide has caused the souring up of the country’s international relations. The president has pronounced animosities with the US, the EU and the United Nations as a way of getting back at the three for their criticisms of his drugs war. In similar regard, he also scored the International Court of Justice (ICC), practically calling it an ignoramus in matters of law.
From the looks of it, the Duterte mass slaughter of drugs suspects, addicts and pushers alike, has now impacted also the ongoing row between China and the United States over the South China Sea. By his own admission, Duterte has been prompted to take up China’s side in the dispute because he was enraged by US President Barak Obama lecturing him on his drugs war.
“You don’t lecture a head of state,” Duterte has been quoted as saying.
Moreover, that same criticism from Obama has also led to Duterte’s cozying up as well to Russia, which is, as expressed by analysts in world geopolitics, already in a proxy war with the United States in Syria – a perceived prelude to World War III. The Philippines need not take sides in that war, but under an enraged president, the country can be well on the road to suffering its horribly dire consequences.
That the Duterte killings have gone from bad to worse urges us to look into the matter very seriously before it plunges the country into a mess that can exact a more horrifying toll from the people.
Why and how is it possible that a social minority is able to subjugate one whole society?
To begin with, Duterte is a minority president. The 16 million votes he got in the 2016 presidential elections, hailed by his supporters as a landslide, actually represent just about 20 percent of the estimated total 54 million voters turnout in the last presidential elections; reckoned vis-à-vis the country’s total population of 100 million, Duterte’s votes comprise only 16% of the Filipino people. Duterte’s killing rampage, therefore, cannot be held as sanctioned by the people but by just 16% of the Filipinos – that is, granting that all those who voted for him in May are all behind him in his killing spree.
Going by the above figures, I recall genocides in history which I believe can help us understand why the Duterte killings go about unopposed.
One is the Rwanda genocide perpetrated by the Hutu government during its first 100 days in power in 1994. The genocide killed 70% of the Tutsi people of Rwanda or an estimated number between 500,000 to 1,000,000.
According to historical accounts, the genocide was planned by the core political elite of Rwanda composed of elements from the Rwandan army, the Gendarmerie (police), government-backed militias as well as Catholic clergy. Fresh from victory over Rwanda’s colonial ruler Belgium, the Hutu government imposed a reign of terror in which it instigated all Hutu to arm themselves with machetes, clubs and similar blunt instruments in massacring Tutsi. The trauma of terror that seized the Tutsi made it easy for the Hutu to carry out its genocidal spree. In due time, however, the Tutsi learned to arm themselves, in fact to form their own armed force called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) by which they countered the Hutu rampage of mass slaughter – ending the genocide.
What is achieved by this citation is that genocides occur in that period when trauma from terrorism has seized not just the victims of genocide but likewise the disinterested observers on the side who are effectively deterred from taking remedial action. Psycho analysts have conducted studies in this regard and came up with astounding conclusions that national trauma, meaning trauma involving what they call ethnicity or social groups (read that drug addicts and drug pushers in this context) has an effective way of deterring counter action toward the perpetrators of genocide and toward that genocide itself over a considerable period.
In layman’s term, it is a natural tendency of people to cower in fear as an initial, immediate reaction to terrorism. This should explain why people seem to be apathetic to the plight of the victims of Duterte’s extra judicial killings.
But as shown by the Rwandan experience, once the Tutsi overcame their trauma over the Hutu genocide, they turned to organizing themselves for the purpose of countering the Hutu mass slaughter with the only way it could be defeated – and succeeded.
As things appear on the workers front, for example, it is all quiet in respect of the Duterte genocide. This definitely looks appalling, considering that workers are supposed to lead in the struggle against social oppression.
“But just you wait a little. It will surely come.”
The assurance comes from a leading element of seafarers who have a brilliant tradition of fighting oppression and exploitation. But that’s for another column to dwell upon.