My mother is worried
Mama is worried. One afternoon, she welcomed me home with a frightened face and said a certain girl had been butchered by her friend. She told me these are “changing” times. Then she lectured me on the things that, she said, I have to keep in mind: Be careful, don’t come home late, don’t talk to strangers, avoid eye contact, and always respond to her text messages.
I grew up in a strict household, and these things are hardly new. However, this kind of alarm displayed by my mother is a result, not of her parenting behavior, but of the obvious dangers now posed by our society.
Mama is worried. She has watched countless news reports about deaths: a boy killed by a bullet that was supposed to be for his grandfather, a 5-year-old sexually molested by her uncle, a student shot by men in masks, and many similar stories. Some she can endure, some she can’t. Those concerning the “nanlaban” or those who resisted arrest—the usual reason for alleged drug users or pushers to be killed by lawmen—also takes the best of her patience.
News about alleged drug users and pushers is with us every morning, at the crack of dawn, at the start of our day—the promise of a new society without the bad people, purged by men in uniform, and cleansed with the holy blood of those whose life has been offered to immorality.
It has dawned on me that we—my mother and I—are living in fear. Maybe it’s an offshoot of the violence exposed on television and in social media: We have internalized this fear. Or maybe this is also about the social irony in which the supposed advocacy of instilling peace and order has greatly become a tale of killings and blood-soaked evenings. The police stand in a mighty fortress because chaos has become a cliché and they exist to serve the people. This great war on drugs has been declared because getting high does not do our country good. But what is happening is that we struggle daily with these tragic narratives, and imbibe them into our system, believing that they are part of a social progress we all want.
Whether or not we approve of this solution to the supposed drug crisis is not the only problem. I am equally interested in how we Filipinos have responded to this situation.
As far as my mother and I are concerned, we are afraid. We are afraid that one day, the targets would be in our place. We are afraid that one day, someone we know—a friend, an old classmate, a neighbor, a cousin, a brother, a parent—would have a tragic end. In this great hunt of cats and mice, it’s game over for poor people. We don’t ask for it. I don’t ask for ruthlessness, for violence, and for impunity. I don’t ask for progress using blood-tainted hands, for progress deeply rooted in aborted dreams, for progress where bullets find their targets in the night.
If we choose to take matters in our hands—after all, the President has said that we civilians can kill drug users and pushers—then who would check on us? Who would guarantee that this “justice” is the kind of justice people support? Where is law and order? What is peace? What is the definition of peace? For me, killing people is not peace. Unresolved deaths are not peace. Spilled blood is not peace.
Some may say that I am generalizing the situation and arriving at a raw conclusion. But the promised six months to solve the drug problem and curb crime are gone now, and more than 7,000 deaths related to drugs are not a joke. What equally disturbs me is the audacity of some to continue being involved in drug transactions, even with the danger of being brutally killed. I mean, if you are a drug user, wouldn’t the possibility of death make you afraid? Wouldn’t the high chance of not being alive tomorrow stop you from using drugs? Wouldn’t the bold words of our President—of hunting you down and killing you—make you change yourself?
Surely, all we want is a better Philippines, and by this war on drugs we want nothing but a safer country for our children. Yet it is also important to ask about the effectiveness of this “war.” And effectiveness goes beyond the number of deaths, beyond the names in The List, beyond making the people afraid by declarations of war on anyone who would not toe the line. And it goes beyond the display of masculine bravado and fearless words. In the intent of scaring the stubborn, we forget that the definition of a society is not inclusive to drug syndicates.
If our leader could know about the “love affairs” of bishops, the men behind murders and massacres, and the syndicates behind the drug trade, maybe he could spend time investigating these killings and finding the people responsible. He and his people have the means and the power to do so.
Who are they? Who are behind the killings? These are questions we all need to raise—questions often kept and never asked, and never answered. Who get to fearlessly kill people like it’s a normal thing to do? And who wields the power to order men in masks or bonnets to dispense “justice” from their own hands? Until when will we be mute witnesses to these killings—justice derailed, stories forgotten, faces turned into numbers—of our people, of your people?
I hope I represent some of the Filipinos I know, some of them who are afraid to say that they are afraid. Or, much better, I hope that I represent no one, that soon we will all get to prove that this is not true. That, indeed, we are heading to a better, brighter, safer society.
Until then, Mama and I will continue to be in this state of fear.
Margioleh G. Alonzo, 20, is a teacher at Tomas del Rosario College in Bataan.
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