Enough is enough, and I find it sickening already to watch in every single TV news program (since June or even as early as May 11) corpses of alleged pushers and even drug addicts shot by police purportedly since they engaged them in a firefight — with the criminals’ choice of weapon, rusty .38s. We are fast becoming the killing capital of the world.
I certainly support President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs. It has become a plague and a menace the past president, Benigno Aquino 3rd, and his arrogant, holier-than-thou justice secretary now senator Leila de Lima, allowed to flourish, and I don’t think it was just out of sheer incompetence. From where else could she obtain the campaign fund she used up in the election?
I can understand why Duterte, based on his experience in Davao, thought that an iron-hand policy toward drug pushers and addicts, and even extrajudicial killings, would overcome the menace.
It becomes a problem, though, when such a policy is implemented for the whole country. Here’s why:
Contrary to the overanalysis of ivory-tower academics ranting against Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, the killings are not due to what a UP assistant professor calls (why have UP academics been churning out preposterous ideas in the past years?) an “invisible army of death squads” that the President let loose upon the land.
The reality is that the killings have been mostly done by the police as a result of Duterte’s not too subtle statements that he won’t stand against their extrajudicial killings, or the killing of persons done by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.
Sad to say, it has been in the DNA, as it were, of our police force to undertake extrajudicial killings, and not because of some evil in their psyche. The notion of due process is something the police has not imbibed, and neither have most Filipinos. It was only in the post-Marcos era that human rights groups and the Commission on Human Rights have really been able to send the message to our men in uniform that they could pay a terrible price for committing extrajudicial killings. Even a mere charge, before evidence is presented, that a man in uniform has committed human rights abuses, or Leftist propaganda against him, as in the case of ex-general Jovito Palparan, could make one a social pariah.
The Communist Party, with its front and propaganda organizations, has been extremely successful in making the military and the police shirk from extrajudicial killings. They have done this less because of their deep belief in the value of human life — they have had their own brand of extrajudicial killings called revolutionary justice — and more as a tactic to keep our uniformed men from killing their captured cadres, most of whom have managed to walk free after posting bail, to rejoin the revolution.
For the police, especially in crime-infested areas, extrajudicial killings are merely swift dispensation of justice. So much so that in many precincts, a rookie policeman’s initiation involves his killing of an arrested, “known” tattooed criminal.
Many of them have grown tired of risking their lives arresting a notorious criminal, even a hardened drug-pusher, only to find out later that the suspect had gone free on bail, or had a political padrino apply pressure on his precinct officials to release the suspect. If our Sandiganbayan courts are still hearing cases filed in the 1990s — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has not won a single case yet — how many criminal cases, do you think, do lower courts decide upon?
There are even reasons, petty we might think but compelling to policemen, why he might want to just dispense justice by himself: the paper work that is involved in preparing the case to be filed against the criminal and the hearings he has to attend in crowded, hot courts – which are standard practice anywhere in the country. One very valid reason for the police is the fear that a criminal who has been arrested, if kept alive, would be able to get back at him or his family.
For idealistic policemen, extrajudicial killings, in fact, are an efficient way of protecting society. A hardened criminal could post bail and return to his neighborhood to continue terrorizing it. Extrajudicial killings are perhaps an even merciful option for the criminal whose only future on earth is a life of misery. Throwing a suspected criminal in jail would either just make him a hardened killer, or a slave of the gang bosses in prison.
I saw for myself the hell that is found inside the jails in this country when I was incarcerated in 1970, together with other high-school activists in the Marikina municipal jail. We had joined a striking union that picketed the Goya Chocolate factory in that municipality, and police arrested us for “trespassing.” We were horrified to find in that 100-square meter cell about a hundred detainees. It was difficult even to find a space where one could lie down, and the old piece of plywood we lay down on teemed with bugs. New inmates were routinely beaten, and ordered to dance like a woman to entertain the inmates’ gang leaders, and probably sodomized if the leaders felt like it. (They didn’t touch us though: we were students from Ateneo, and they still bowed to our class system.)
And that was a jail cell in the 1970s in Marikina, then still a sleepy, uncrowned municipality. The present situation of jails in most cities was, indeed, perfectly captured by the photos that had been published in many newspapers in the world, such as the UK’s Daily Mail.
What has happened since mid-May was that Duterte, in effect, told the police that he wouldn’t stand in their old way of dispensing justice.
The analogy would be the evil genie (“jinn”) in the lamp of the old Arabic tales, and this jinn of legend isn’t the nice guy depicted in Hollywood movies. He fools the person who releases him through the three “trick” wishes, and once freed, he roams the world to create chaos and death. Duterte has released the jinn of extrajudicial killings into this country, and it will wreak havoc on this land.
It’s an instance of how different running a city is from running a country. Duterte easily ordered the small, single jinn he had released in Davao City long ago back to his lamp. Then in the past month he released a thousand jinns in the police precincts all over the country. And now they are out of control.
He should eat humble pie and realize now he has to issue specific, categorical orders for the police to stop its extrajudicial killings. The killings have already sown fear in the hearts of drug pushers and even addicts, that going by one estimate, 500,000 have surrendered to the police. It’s time now for more surgical operations against the big drug lords.