It is one of the horrifying sights that have become familiar since the beginning of the Duterte administration.
I’m talking about the dead bodies found strewn about on sidewalks, street corners and open fields, which are terrible finds in themselves but made worse by the fact that many are wrapped in packing tape, like perverse special delivery packages. Often, especially at the launching of the “war on drugs,” the wrapped cadavers came with a cardboard placard declaring “I’m a drug addict (or pusher), don’t follow my example.”
The signs are no longer to be found these days, and so, we thought, was the packing tape ritual. But the tape showed up with shocking rudeness last week, with the recovery of the body of Reynaldo de Guzman, 14. His remains were fished out of a creek — his scrawny body bearing signs of repeated stabbing, about 30 times, his head wrapped with packing tape, for what reason no one knows.
From what I’ve read, stabbing someone to death indicates a far more personal motive, not least because it is a lot messier than simply shooting someone. Stabbing, especially 30 times, means having to get “up close and personal” to the victim, and is a sign of tremendous anger, ire and malice.
Also relevant is how the killing of the boy nicknamed “Kulot” (curly-haired) is linked to that of Carl Angelo Arnaiz, 19, who was with De Guzman when last seen. Police have said that Arnaiz was shot when he attempted to flee responding policemen who had allegedly been summoned by a taxi driver who claimed that Arnaiz had tried to rob him. Where was Kulot during this incident? And how did he end up floating face down in that muddy creek?
“With pain and horror, we continue to get daily news of killings around the country,” lamented Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in a pastoral letter released Friday.
“We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal,” the Cardinal said. “We cannot govern the nation by killing. We cannot foster a humane and decent Filipino culture by killing.”
In his letter, Tagle also called “on those who harm or kill others” to listen to their conscience, while ordering the tolling of church bells for all who had died in this spate of killings at 8 p.m. each day, starting on Sept. 14.
Cardinal Tagle’s letter has been described as his “strongest written statement against drug-related killings,” adding his influential voice to those of other prelates who have likewise decried the antidrug campaign, especially the latter-day massacre of innocents which we have been confronted with in recent days.
In public statements, opposition senators have denounced the deaths explained away by President Duterte as part of a campaign against illegal drugs. Indeed, Mr. Duterte has even “denounced” unidentified parties as “orchestrating” the killing of teen boys as a way of stirring public opinion against his war on drugs.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros has denounced the “pattern of killing young and poor people, particularly innocent minors,” describing it as a “policy to kill.” Sen. Francis Pangilinan has counted more than 30 boys killed so far in the course of this bloody campaign.
You don’t have to be a parent of a young male, or be a parent even, to feel dread in the wake of this seeming shift in police operations to target boys from poverty-stricken areas for suspicion and then perhaps execution.
At first the President said he was going after those who profited from the trade in illegal drugs, mainly traffickers, drug lords and pushers. But within a few months, the death toll began to fill with the nightly killing of poor and humble folk. At first many of the shootings were carried out by motorcycle-riding gunmen or else by police who claimed the dead had been shot for attempting to flee or for shooting back. These were followed by police “operations” targeting poor neighborhoods, with cops knocking on the doors of suspects’ homes and killing those who put up a fight.
Now they are after our boys. Who will be next?
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