I share the concern of pastors and human rights advocates for the lives of people being killed in the government’s “war on crime.” The life of an innocent person killed in a law-enforcement operation is an undeniable catastrophe; nothing can restore the loss.
Here, there is little consolation when it is suggested that law enforcers, from the President to the cop sent on a drug raid, be mindful of how God’s justice is divinely manifested in his mercy. In this world of ambivalence, mercy can be invoked for victims of security operations. But the same can be invoked for the hapless law enforcer commanded to fight illegal drug use – even at the cost of his life. It can be invoked for the politician who decides resolutely to rid Philippine society of a cancer that has too long been allowed to metastasize.
The context, of course, is 1.3 million Filipinos victimised by the illegal drug trade in the country. These too are human lives mercilessly led to addiction and trapped there by the unscrupulous; they exploit the weaknesses of our legal system and law enforcement to diminish and destroy these human lives with impunity. What does the face of a compassionate God look like when internationally syndicated drug lords protect their profits on the irreversible addictions of Filipinos with sophisticated organizations and heavily armed private armies?
It is easy for the established to lock out the victims of this unholy drug menace from their clean lives and sanitized concerns. We don’t tolerate them in our schools; we dismiss or expel them. We tolerate them in some of the in-gatherings of the wealthy and sophisticated, until, of course, they become a source of social embarrassment. Nationwide, out of 42,036 barangays in the country, 11,321 or 26.93% are affected by illegal drugs. One fourth of all the nation’s barangays is bad enough. But in the National Capital Region, where the concerned protests against casualties in the drive against illegal drugs has been loudest, 1,574 of the region’s 1,706 barangays or 92.26% are affected. How did the cancer grow so large? In the barangays, even when they have long become a source of discomfort, disorder and the disruption of countless families, they don’t go away. They are protected by “law”, law enforcers, profiting businessmen, policemen and politicians – and even willy nilly human rights advocates.
Personally, I am myself a human rights advocate. I do not believe extra-judicial death squads ought to be engaged in a war against crime. I am pained by the statistics of 358 killed in police operations, 140 killed by unidentified gunmen and 46 killed by salvaging since May 10, 2016. But I also feel that 1.3 million people in the Philippines and their loved ones need liberation from the exploitation of their human rights through illegal drugs – however difficult excising the social cancer of this magnitude may at this point be. In a recent post-election City-Wide Social Survey of Davao taken by my Ateneo de Davao University, respondents were asked what they thought of the Davao Death Squad. Sixty percent of them responded, “It will help solve criminality.” Of these, 68% were women. In the same survey, the respondents were asked, “Is there a fair justice system in the Philippines.” Sixty-eight percent responded: no. This also bothers me. Are people approving of a vigilante-style delivery of justice because they perceive the justice system is not delivering justice?
One may consider that in 2015, PDEA filed 30,282 drug cases. That same year, 1714 were acquitted, 685 dismissed, 631 convicted. PDEA doesn’t seem to have made a dent against the systems that victimize 1.3 million people in the Philippines.
Meanwhile, “The role of drug syndicates in the proliferation of illegal drugs is immense and indispensable in illicit drug trafficking business. They are the foundation of the illegal trade. In the Philippines, international drug trafficking organizations are identified to have been operating in the country. In addition to the African Drug Syndicates and Filipino-Chinese Drug Syndicates, a drug syndicate based in Sinaloa, Mexico, the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, was established to have been operating in the country. In 2013, various links between the said Mexican drug cartel and the Chinese Drug Syndicate were established on different occasions” (Kabiling, Genalyn (July 7, 2016). “Palace reveals Chinese triad involved in illegal drugs”. Manila Bulletin. Retrieved July 8, 2016.)
I mourn the deaths of those who have lost their lives in the current drive against illegal drives. But I pray for our law enforcers. May the Filipino people and humanity win.