First of all, Mr. President, please dispel any misimpressions from media that I plan to lecture Your Excellency on rights abuses against African-Americans killed by police in your country.
You need no finger-wagging from anyone regarding human rights violations in such incidents. At the same time, those tragic episodes only demonstrate the difficulties faced by law enforcers confronting suspects.
If American police, despite rigid training and protocols, still gun down people in suspicious circumstances, so too might Philippine lawmen with far less resources and personnel, and now prosecuting an intense nationwide campaign against ruthless, well-armed syndicates.
Suspect deaths in our campaign are much greater than those in America and most developed nations. But so is the crime and drugs explosion we are dealing with, leading to far more arrests and violent encounters.
Here is the true magnitude of lawlessness we face. Crime tripled under my predecessor from 324,083 incidents in 2010, the year he took office, to more than 1 million a year since 2013. And in the first half of last year, crime reportedly rose by nearly half.
Murders kill almost 10,000 a year, while rapes numbering nearly 12,000, as recorded by our Philippine Statistics Authority. There are also about 60,000 robberies, 170,000 thefts and a quarter of a million cases of physical injury annually.
All those hundreds of thousands of crimes constitute rights abuses against their victims and their families.
Assuming an average of 1.5 victims per crime, the more than 3 million incidents reported in the last three years hurt close to 5 million Filipinos, plus their families. Add to that at least 3 million drug addicts and their close relatives.
The lives and rights of those tens of millions of law-abiding citizens should be protected just as much as those of crime suspects. And yet, foreign governments and the United Nations have said little about violations perpetrated by criminals on millions of law-abiding Filipinos.
But when hundreds of suspects are killed in our campaign to protect our people from the lethal scourge of lawlessness and drugs, we never hear the end of it. And amid the criticism of our campaign, there is little, if anything, said about how we are preventing thousands of murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, drug trafficking and abuse.
The sobbing families of suspects who, for the most part, died resisting arrest get front-page and primetime coverage, plus weeks of nationally televised Senate testimony. But victims of violent crime and narcotics get little attention and sympathy.
Is this America’s idea of human rights, Mr. President? The lawless get their day in court, Congress and CNN, while the law-abiding get nowhere, and the law enforcers risking life and limb to protect our communities, get demonized?
We must slash crime now
Our critics insist we can slash crime and drugs by harnessing our criminal justice system with full due process. As seasoned lawyers, however, you and I know how long and tedious it can be to investigate, prosecute and lock up a wealthy and well-connected crime or drug boss.
Even low-level pushers quickly get bail and get back to their nefarious business, helped by syndicates and police, fiscals and judges on the take. The adage that it’s better for 99 guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be jailed, is — pardon my language — utter bull.
Try telling that to the victims of those 99 wrongly freed murderers, rapists, robbers and muggers. And with my country’s incompetent, corrupted criminal justice system, the rule of law often allows the lawless to rule.
We are fixing this broken system. We have cracked down on police protectors of drug syndicates, including top generals of the Philippine National Police. We are exposing and investigating members of Congress, provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, and court judges with narco-links.
And we are beefing up our witness protection program, and cleaning up our national penitentiary, shutting down the second luxury homes and crime headquarters set up there by convicted drug lords.
These and other reforms will eventually make due process a credible threat against lawbreakers. But our people cannot be subjected to continued lawlessness while waiting for our law enforcement and judicial reform to take full effect.
We must ratchet down crime and drugs now, not eventually. Thank God, we’re doing exactly that, Mr. President.
As our National Police Chief reported to the Senate, since our crackdown began, crime is down by 30 percent to 50 percent, depending on the category.
That means there would be 3,000 fewer murders over the coming year. Rapes would drop by 4,000 and robberies by 20,000. Assaults and other physical injuries would decline by 80,000.
But neither the United Nations nor our international allies are cheering that. Instead, they decry the 2,000 suspects allegedly killed extrajudicially — a tiny fraction of nearly 12,000 suspects arrested and more than 600,000 users and pushers who surrendered.
Would it have been better if we relied on due process, at which the syndicates would have just laughed and continued their merry way, peddling drugs and driving addicts to murder, rape, robbery, theft and assault? And those 600,000-plus drug offenders would not give up, but keep victimizing law-abiding citizens.
I’m sorry, Mr. President, I cannot allow that. The Filipino people cannot allow that. And if the United Nations knew the data I just shared with you, I don’t think the global community would allow that.
And while I respect and understand religious and moral leaders who condemn the killings, I must ask them which is the greater evil — the suspect deaths in our campaign, or the thousands of murders, rapes, robberies and assaults our war on drugs prevents.
May I add that stopping the scourge of drug trafficking in our country, also blocks the global spread of narcotics transiting our land to other countries, including yours.
Thank you for listening to the perspective not only of my government, but more so of our law-abiding Filipinos who are now far more safe and secure under our watch.