THE AUDACITY TO FIGHT DRUGS
By Ezra Ezra
[This article is an official entry to “Write Up for Right-UP challenge” a special category for the 6th Human Rights Pindoteros Choice Awards.
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It is as if the country did not experience the atrocities of World War II nor the evils of Martial Law that it seems very easy for the Duterte administration and its avid supportersto disregard human rights in its will to win the war against drugs. In fact, many Filipinos are enragedevery time the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) or civil society organizations insist investigation for the questionable operations of authorities in arresting suspected drug dealers and every time Human Rights Defenders decry the unceasingnumber ofvictims of extrajudicial killings (EJK).In the social media, many people are denouncing the use of the term EJK believing that the victims deserve nothing but imprisonment or death; nothing, not even due process of law nor recognition of human rights.
What many people seem to ignore, especially those who are asking why CHR and other Human Rights groups are reacting to President Duterte’s war on drugs, is that the clamor for human rights, to begin with, intensified and became more determinedafter World War II, where violence was all over the place causing the death of more than 50 million soldiers and civilians. History has demonstrated in many instances that at the time of war, human rights becomes easily irrelevant to the presumption of any government because the major intent is to assert power and cast more blows to the enemy – that means violence! Today, the country is at the state of war, a different war, nevertheless it attracted violence and so far, its greatest demonstration is the growing list of EJK victims.
While there is a strong debate whether the thousands of the death cases are EJKs as framed by the existing Philippine policies, a few things are clear: people are drying, the due process is in question, state agents are may be involved, and it is highly driven by the marching order of the President – an all-out campaign to resolve illegal drug menace in the country. Like whatSenator Leila de Lima said in a Time Magazine article, the killings are state inspired.But many people and political leaders don’t see it the same way, definitely. If the latest data will not be considered as EJK, as many politicians and people are asserting, how are we going to describe it then? An ordinary crime? Collateral damage?Will the government consider the dataas a manifestation that crime rates in the Philippines or perhaps just in Metro Manila has actually gone up contrary to the intent of the war on drugs? In fact, one can say it just got worst.
In our community in North Caloocan, seeing dead body on the gutter or beside the river with a placard saying that the person is a drug pusher or addict is not a new thing. It happened many times before, what is not new to us is that the killings are happening one after the other in a week time or two. It is scary having witnessed the agony of a mother of four children whose husband was killed in front of her while they were just talking one ordinary afternoonin front of their house or the griefs of poor children whose both parents went missing and were later on found lying on the streets drenched with their own blood manifesting they just hada terribledeath.
But what is even more depressing are the ways people react on the situation. In the social media, one can easily read a post from a friend saying that the deaths are just okay, and that they (the victims) deserve it anyway. It is as if, we have reach a point in our society that killingis more necessary than life on itself. It felt like, people have a deep sense of frustration thatto combat illegal drugs, emergency and war become necessary.
There is no question that the drug problem is a monster that lurks in our streets and very homes, affecting its hopeless preys, our own brothers and sisters, our parents and our children. Yes, it is remarkable that there is a determined Filipino leader standing now in front of the world committing that he will address drugs in six months up to the last day of his term, however, the intent to kill is still alarming and the way it is actually done now – is equally dreadful. The situation suggests that that when we see a man or a woman putting a gun on the head of another person and if that person is a drug-addict or a pusher – the imminent killing is just acceptable.
Human Rights is human rights for all! There is no literature that provides exemptions to it. We do not gain human rights because we are doing good things nor we waived our claims for it when we do something bad. Fairly, there were consequences to the wrongdoings that we make but there are boundaries to ensure that there is due process and one is not becoming more susceptible to abuseslike in the form of tortures and EJK.
Again, there is no question on the aspiration for a drug-free community;there is no debate that the drug lords, the pushers and all the people involved in this illegal act should be penalized under the rule of law. But there is something happening in the story that also deservesan investigation. We hear many news about it: different people are involved, it happened in different places but the narratives are very much the same. When the killings appeared to be non-circumstantial but a tactical approach that appeared to be a trend in many situations, it is not hard to raise doubts and ask for the truth. When men and women, young and old, are dying just anywhere in the country because of drugs and when the families of the victims are saying that they were not involved in drugs, it is not hard to raise doubts and ask for the truth.
But the truth or at least the search for it remained elusive. And for ordinary people like me, I can only hope for the best, remain vigilant on the situation and perhaps, express the same audacity to tell the government that I denounce violence, EJK and the incessant disregard of human rights. One afternoon, while hovering over the another report on the controversial pronouncement of President Duterte that he would be happy to exterminate three million drug users just as the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler killed Jews during the holocaust. I wrote on my Facebook page, “I will do my best to raise my daughter to be peace-loving and always have hopes in people. And if ever, in the future she made wrong decisions, hurt people and herself, and became one of the many people they are killing now, I hope the government will threat her as their own children who also deserves their protection, perhaps they will consider like what they should be doing now!”
The Philippine is at war, a different kind of war. There will be victims not just of EJK but of many other abuses. Please do not question why CHR, Human Rights groups in the Philippine and all over the world are worried, in fact, you should ask yourself, why you were not. (30)