While pounding their beats, news reporters learn things not taught by journalism schools and textbooks. One of these is that some guys, particularly politicians, will never tell you what they are really up to. Their intention is to spring the trap on people when it is too late.
For instance, politicians running for office have programs of government. Some reporters soon feel that many such programs are meaningless, having been set up to create an attractive “cover” for running. Worse, some platforms are just a camouflage for dastardly things a politician aims to do.
With this mind-set, this ex-reporter has never bought the administration’s so-called war on drugs. When its chief proponent began saying things like fattening the fish in Manila Bay with the corpses of druggies, skepticism became a belief that there would be, not a war on drugs, but on people.
The belief solidified when cops killed more and more users and pushers, even mere suspects. Experience shows that very few criminals—contrary to claims—dare fight back. Chance encounters did prompt a few to battle the cops, but very, very rarely in a raid or a large-scale police operation. (Because of this, some reporters used to barge ahead of the cops during raids.)
Detectives and policemen in the old days didn’t kill users and petty pushers. They arrested and interrogated them to trace the drug source, and to identify the middlemen, in order to plug drug sources at the grassroots. They coordinated with higher or elite outfits in going after the big dealers and smugglers.
Without the effort against grassroots suppliers, middlemen, and big lords and smugglers, a government is not waging a war on drugs. It’s applying a Band-Aid approach to a cancerous sore that needs a major operation. Even if cops kill and kill and kill (or apply many, many Band-Aids), the government is not attacking the problem’s root cause.
As the drug casualty list grew to thousands, reports on the huge smuggling of drugs at the Manila port, including a thwarted attempt, further made the claim of a war on drugs impossible to swallow. Then, the smell of rats from those smuggling operations rose—and came, per uncontroverted indications, from influential people. Is there really an antidrug war?
Apparently, the government has set up a nationwide killing field. On it, drugs will continue to be smuggled or to come in. The grassroots distribution will go on as its system has largely remained intact. Drugs will continue to reach petty pushers and users, especially in poor communities. And users and pushers will continue to be killed even on mere suspicion.
Thus, a bloody and merciless war on people—not a war on drugs—has engulfed our land and will continue to savage it as policemen, acting with impunity and unitarily as enforcers, judges and executioners, push their killing rampage, with poor folk—at the moment—at their mercy.
Despite the “war,” the government has claimed that drug abuse has worsened and that the number of users has increased. The war’s chief proponent has pleaded for more time to finish the job. There is no palpable end to the killings. There is no regret or remorse on the part of the killers, only the wailing and anguish of victimized families.
Policemen in the old days did kill criminals—occasionally. They chose the most notorious or hardened law breakers, particularly cop killers, as the targets of their extrajudicial sallies. Their aim was to terrorize the lawless, to keep them in line—and discourage cop killing. Nowadays, the aim seems to be to terrorize ordinary people.
Also, the distinction between users and others is being blurred—with guys being killed on the say-so of mysterious informers and sometimes for no discernible reason. The floodgates to mass killings are being slowly pried open. Soon, almost everyone will be fair game—as the lust for killing among authorities reaches a high never before attained.
It is very hard to believe that our own government can launch a program to kill people, or an antipeople war. It’s something very difficult to swallow even when it is already taking place. It stretches the imagination to its limits. Perhaps, some guys reading this may think this ex-journalist has lost his sense of reality.
Why would the head of a state embark on a program to kill people? There seems to be a plausible answer to that query. Because he needs to cow and scare people for he has some things in mind, things that people—except his blind followers—would never accept. He needs to cow people to force his intentions down their throats.
Another deceptive tactic is apparently now also in progress—to wreck the check-and-balance mechanism in the Constitution so that venal goals will be coerced down the maw of a terrified, docile citizenry without opposition from potent and weighty government personalities or institutions. Other avowed goals, like federalism, truly seem to be deceptive covers for other dastardly intentions.
For some Filipinos, the effort to force things down their gullet has begun. With the killing of thousands of users and pushers have come some highly protested moves that rankle, particularly to the victims of the Marcos regime. Many more such moves can be expected as the outlines of the true and real plan of action slowly become discernible. The worst is yet to come.
Quin T. Ataviado, a retired newspaperman, covered the police, local politics and other news beats from 1960 to 1980. He later worked as press and information officer of a government executive department.
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