CIDG now like Nazi SS?
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group’s raiding team killed Mayor Rolando Espinosa last month in his prison cell. The National Bureau of Investigation looked into the incident and concluded that Espinosa was murdered by the CIDG operatives. But President Duterte promptly absolved them. The message is clear: Killing people suspected of involvement in the drug trade is not a crime; involved policemen can be assured of prompt clearance from the President. The CIDG now has a license to kill.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, something similar happened in Poland. Officers of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) were appalled by the slaughter of the Jews by the SS (State Security) units. Some officers arrested the erring SS troopers and brought them to court martial for violation of the Geneva Convention. But the SS troopers were released on orders of Heinrich Himmler, the SS head. Thus, a Nazi rule of engagement in World War II was the SS can kill Jews with impunity, and they cannot be held accountable. In time, the Wehrmacht officers looked the other way or turned a blind eye to the atrocities being committed by the SS. This rule led to the Holocaust and the loss of six million lives.
Mr. Duterte’s prompt clearance of the CIDG men involved in the murder of Espinosa will have the same chilling effect on officials of the NBI and other agencies overseeing the police forces. They will act in the same manner as the Wehrmacht officers during World War II. With a virtual license to kill, policemen can commit atrocities in the war on drugs.
Or we can go all the way and ape the Nazis by building gas chambers in the rehabilitation camps for drug users. We can then claim that we now have the “final solution” (the Nazi term for the extermination of Jews) for our drug problem.
At this point, the big number of casualties in the war on drugs is appalling. But the bigger casualty concerns the destruction of institutions. According to well-known political scientist Samuel Huntington, the difference between First World and Third World societies is the presence of institutions that bind a nation together. There are myriad institutions in the former and a paucity of the same in the latter.
The most important institution in any country is the administration of justice. It is this institution that safeguards peace and order, so that society can function in an orderly manner. Mr. Duterte’s statement putting police misconduct above the law undermines the administration of justice.
It has been claimed that toward the end of martial law, farmers in the rural areas feared the military more than the communist New People’s Army. Members of the military often committed human rights violations in conducting their operations. They also often stole the farmers’ produce, which the NPA did not do. Something similar is bound to happen with the way the war on drug is being waged. By the time Mr. Duterte ends his term of office, police authorities will no longer enjoy the respect of our fellow citizens.
The dysfunctional nature of the present administration is evident. The war on drugs is only a segment of our peace and order system. To have peace and order, we must have a reliable system of justice. Thus, even if we were to win the war on drugs, by destroying the credibility of our police forces and our administration of justice, we shall not have any peace and order.
Looking down the road, it is difficult to see a future president of our country following the same path taken by the current administration. There will have to be a day of reckoning. In Latin America, in the two decades of the past century, that period when military dictators waged a bloody war on insurgencies is termed “the dirty war.” At the pace our policemen are killing our fellow citizens, this period in our history should also be aptly termed “the dirty War.” Sadly, we have to live through this nightmare.
Retired ambassador Hermenegildo C. Cruz holds a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy, major in international development studies, jointly conferred by Tufts and Harvard Universities.
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