The banality of bloodshed
More than 6,000 people have been killed because of alleged links to illegal drugs since Rodrigo Duterte became president in July 2016. That’s 1,000 corpses per month, or 33 per day.
More than 4,000 of those killed were victims of outright murder committed by masked vigilantes. That’s 670 victims of murder per month, or 22 per day.
More than 2,000 of the fatalities died at the hands of policemen, and their deaths were justified under one refrain: that the policemen attempted to confront them for use or sale of illegal drugs, but they all chose to fight it out with the law enforcers.
In one incident in Quezon City, policemen claimed that the drug suspects shouted they would not surrender and would fight: “Hindi kami susuko! Lalaban kami!” The policemen involved were obviously under the influence of too many Joseph Estrada or Fernando Poe Jr. movies because they ascribe movie-scripted derring-do to the would-be fatalities.
These appalling incidents of killing have produced more than 6,000 widows or widowers, 15,000 fatherless or motherless children (based on a 4.6 average household size), and 12,000 parents who have lost sons or daughters. And the numbers continue to pile up each day.
The more than 6,000 fatalities in just the first six months of the Duterte presidency have surpassed the 3,240 deaths during the darkest nine years of the Marcos dictatorship from 1972 to 1981. The number of deaths by the time the Duterte presidency reaches its first anniversary will be virtually four times the total number of deaths during those nine years of the Marcos dictatorship, if the current rate of killing continues.
Of the 4,000 murders by vigilantes, not a single suspect has been arrested and charged in court. It is so disturbing that there is no sense of alarm or anger at all from police authorities. No special measures have been adopted to prevent these murders from escalating. Not even a special task force has been formed to focus on this unprecedented increase in murder incidents. This nonchalant behavior of our police force is one piece of a jigsaw puzzle that can be used later to prove that these murders are state-sponsored extrajudicial killings.
With regard to the 2,000 police killings, President Duterte has emboldened policemen to be quick on the trigger by giving them advance assurance that any killing they make enjoys a presumption of regularity, and a blanket pledge that he would use the full resources of the state to defend them in any court case. The President has made these statements notwithstanding multiple Supreme Court decisions declaring that killings made by policemen do not enjoy any presumption of validity, and that it is the duty of policemen to show that each killing was extremely necessitated by self-defense.
Police investigators accept the statements of their colleagues involved in the killings, and these statements are hardly counterchecked against physical evidence in the crime scene. Family members of several victims of police killings have complained that the crime scenes are cleaned immediately after the corpses are removed, without any investigation.
Given these disturbing spikes in police and vigilante killings, the absence of widespread condemnation from the citizenry is equally worrisome.
Has murder become so ordinary that it has numbed our people to its dreadful nature? Are the people unwilling to speak out for fear that they would be targeted? Do our people endorse the killings as a summary means to solve the problem of illegal drugs?
In the December 2016 surveys of the Social Weather Stations, 78 percent of the respondents individually expressed worry about becoming victims of extrajudicial killing, and 94 percent said it is important that drug suspects be captured alive.
This widespread expression of personal anxiety and fear must be articulated collectively to put a stop to this increasing banality of bloodshed.
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