Crossroads: Extra-judicial killings, drug war


There had been a lot of news lately about drug dependents getting killed by still unknown suspects. Presumably by elements out to impress the 16th President of the republic, or drug lords out to silence those who would finger point them.

The naming and shaming of high profile targets like generals and politicians has started but not one big time drug lord is behind bars or brought to court. None yet. If you are big, you get the chance to talk to the president. If you are a small user/pusher, you get the cold bullet. Sometimes your relatives get to the front pages with your cold bloodied body in a Pieta-like pose.

There is not much anger at the drug related extra judicial killings. There is not much outrage at the death of young people who have turned to drugs to deaden poverty pangs and hopelessness. There is not much sadness that young lives are snuffed early because they did drugs. Walang masyadong nagtataas ng kilay na maraming natutumbang mga durugista daw.

Maybe that is what is different this time. The apathy of people on the killings of drug dependents points to a malaise in our society and an uncaring attitude for the victims. In a report about a year ago, the drug menace has reached all barangays in Baguio City. This is alarming in a city touted as a university town, a city of multitude transient tourists. This is alarming when most drug users are young people who are better off rehabilitated for they are the future of the motherland than being misunderstood, condemned and ultimately killed.

But did authorities take hard and fast actions against the drug menace? Were the students and their parents urgently informed of the dark sickness creeping on the young? Or did we turn a blind eye because it is a crime anyway and my kids are not involved? Compare this to the action on the dengue epidemic. While still slow, all government agencies and information channels took notice and made appropriate response. NOT so with the drug problem.

It is sad that we had to wait for a strong man president known for promoting a drug free Davao city for the longest time for us to take notice. It is sad that we had to have a strong man PNP chief to take to the streets and talk to drug dependents who have been in and out of rehabilitation centers. It is truly sad.

It is pathetic that it is only now that we talk of rehabilitation centers for drug dependents on a provincial setting and propose Philhealth for them too.  It is sad that we have to witness more than 100 dead in just a month to rid us of this menace. It is pathetic that we have to witness full packed covered courts with drug “surrenderees” in so many barangays of the country.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers statement gets to the matter of justice and retribution, criminality and cure for it. “Let us be crystal clear:  the drug menace must stop. Goodness, we hate drugs too. There should be no two minds about it. Yet the apparent serial summary executions of alleged street drug users or petty drug lords which appear sudden, too contrived and predictable must also stop. The two are not incompatible.”

“Impunity for any excesses or shortcuts may encourage – wittingly or unwittingly – vigilantism and summary killings even in the name of the innocent.”

“The madness must stop. Quick fix savagery and abuse of power by law enforcers supposedly to quell criminality and drugs, which, wittingly or unwittingly, directly or indirectly, are encouraged, condoned or sanctioned, is a Frankenstein’s monster that will haunt us all over time. The cure may turn out to be worse than the illness,” said Edre Olalia, the NUPL secretary general.

The drug menace must stop. But not at the expense of due process and respect for human rights. Narco-politics is a big big problem. But we do not stop it by killing the drug dependents. Or boasting proud of glaring statistics of buy-bust operations that end up with bodies holding guns to show proof.#


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