Friday, July 15, 2016

The Kill List

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is keeping a tally board of the number of people killed as part of the present administration’s war on drugs. As of July 14, the record stands at 195 dead since June 30 and 242 since May 10. No pictures, thankfully, but some of the descriptions are grisly enough: “Found dead, hogtied, face wrapped with packaging tape and with eight sachets of suspected shabu strapped to the body” and “Found dead inside carton boxes that bore signs saying, ‘Wag ako tularan, mandurukot ako sa Edsa.’ They also bore strangulation marks.” Some have insult heaped upon them further: “Killed by unknown hitmen on a motorcycle, who left a note saying, ‘Tulak pa more,’ with an emoticon of a face sticking out its tongue.”

Emotionally I become too benumbed to react with horror at such reports. Violence is nothing new and acceptable for so long as they happen elsewhere and to a different class of people, right? But fortunately I can still function at an intellectual level and recognize the fundamental wrongness of it all.

By way of explanation, the Inquirer adds a note to some of the names: “most wanted drug suspect”, “noted drug dealer”, and “top drug personality.” But for so many others, it really just reads: “suspected drug pusher” and “suspected drug user.” Is that it? Mere suspicion becomes cause for a permanent solution, no hope for redress or redemption? And what of the 45 unidentified dead, including the 22 unknowns killed between July 1 and 10 in Southern Mindanao? Or the innocents caught in the crossfire?

“But they only kill criminals!” Post hoc ergo propter hoc: “Since they only kill criminals, those who have been killed must be criminals!” Consider how this system can be easily abused. Do you have a grudge against someone? Turn in a tip that he is involved in illegal drugs. Was he killed in an operation? Plant a sachet on his body How soon until this method is applied to political enemies?

But they’ve implicated police generals involved in the drug trade! Immediately comes to mind the two things wrong with the statement. One, right away there is a double standard — low-level operators are murdered straightaway, high-level officials are accused in media. And two, if the case is strong, why not slap them with charges? Soon mayors will also be likewise named. But not congressmen, of course, because congressmen are virtuous and blameless, especially because they have federalism on the agenda.

We’re on a slippery slope of madness. Once we resort to extrajudicial killings as a means of redress and “change”, where is the way out? Because it will prove to be so effective, then there will be no more need for courts or trials. And then we will be at the mercy of the whims of whoever calls the shots.

Speak out now before it’s too late.