Indigenous youth vs the war on drugs


BAGUIO CITY — “Duterte’s wars has brought nothing but disturbance, displacement and violence to the youth and indigenous communities because of selfish economic interests,” says Casselle Jannica Ton from the Progressive Igorots for Social Action (PIGSA), a youth organization here.

Ever since the Oplan Tokhang, the government’s war on drugs started, bodies of victims also started piling up and the public is left to guess or speculate as to what happened during the police operations. The police would deliver similar statements that the victim tried to escape or the victim shot at the police so there was an encounter.

“I thought I’ll fetch my brother at the police station but I saw his body, instead, along with my father’s at the funeral home.”

This is from the experience of Mariane, 25 years old and a single mother of three (complete names are withheld for security purposes) who lost her brother and father to the bloody anti-drug war of President Rodrigo Duterte.

At the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya this year in UP Diliman, Mariane along with other youth narrated the events of a ‘tokhang’ operation in their home which led to his father and brother’s death as well as her abduction with no legal basis or warrant.

From her recollection, her father- was accused as a drug-user and pusher, he was killed by a group of masked men in civilian clothes in their home in Navotas. Then they took her brother, alive, for verification purposes. This was all witnessed by the policemen who followed the masked men inside their house, according to Mariane. After the incident, she first attended to her father’s remains that was taken to a funeral home. At the funeral home, it wasn’t just her father’s body she saw; there was her brother’s as well.

July this year, Marriane was abducted by policemen and held for four days. The room where she was detained for four days was dark and cramped, there were many of them in the room, she recalled. She was released on a 40,000 ransom on the fourth day of her detention.

“At first, they told my mother that my case is non-bailable,” Marriane said. Then, police started demanding varying amounts for ransom during the course of her detention, starting from a 100,000 pesos. Mariane’s mother had to sell their house to come up with the money. The money was taken to her by a friend and she was released after she handed it over to the police, herself.

After her release, she was taken under protective custody by RISE UP, a multi-sectoral group led by the Baclaran Redemptorist Church, dedicated to the rehabilitation of drug-users and the protection of victims of the anti-drug war.

Ryan, 19 years old from Bagong Silang Caloocan, is a survivor of the Caloocan massacre last Dec. 28, 2016. He was at his girlfriend’s home when the shooting happened. As per his recollection, there were men in helmets, masks and hoods that went into the house and started shooting. His girlfriend’s family were all killed. Ryan took a bullet in his side. “I still feel the pain, especially when the weather gets cold,” he said.

The men weren’t aware of his survival and left after the shootout. Neighbors later found him and took him to the hospital, RISE UP took him under custody right the next day when they heard of a survivor from the massacre. Mariane and Ryan are still hiding in fear for their lives for speaking out about their experiences from the war on drugs.

Duterte’s Oplan Tokhang has resulted into an estimated 13,000 cases of killings of alleged drug-users or pushers, not to mention the undocumented; sixty of whom are from the youth sector. Recently, two students from the city of Baguio were found dead but there is nothing sure about the motives of the killing. The bodies bore signs of torture.

The youth is now rising and taking action against the injustice of rampant killings and human rights abuses whether it is because of the war on drugs or the militarization of communities. At the Lakbayan 2017, Indigenous youths from the Cordillera joined a protest on Sept. 14 at the Mendiola Peace Arc, against the continuing state fascism of the Duterte regime. They are calling for an end to the war on drugs and the militarization of communities that has taken many innocent lives and is serving as platform for a killing spree by state forces. #


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