The Promised Change
Change has come for the Philippines, just as the current President Rodrigo Duterte promised us during the campaign periods for presidency last year and vowed to wage war against drugs in the country upon winning. Within six months later, over a million drug personalities surrendered to authorities under Operation Tokhang (derived from Cebuano words, “Tok Tok” which means “Knock Knock” and “Hangyo” which means “To plead or surrender”). During those first six months, policemen and authorities would knock on one’s door if they’ve been listed or identified as one of drug users/pushers, to persuade them to stop the illegal use of drugs or surrender themselves to rehabilitation program of the government. At first, it looked promising. People surrendered willing to let go of drug addiction and hopefully have another chance to change.
The Drug War
But the promising days ahead for change and the hopes to eradicate illegal drugs in the country turned into a nightmare. Within the first six months, more than 2000 deaths were recorded, all in relation to drug war by a vigilant-style killings. And adding the fact that rehabilitation centers for illegal drugs in the country is limited and cannot accommodate the number of drug users and pushers who surrendered. As the operation and campaign against illegal drugs continue, more deaths came.
The mass is divided. Solid supporters would totally agree and support the government despite the increasing number of killings, but this is my take — this is not the change I am looking forward to.
In our barangay (smallest administrative district/most local level of government), over 30 people were killed in this drug war. Even during daytime, even in the busiest place, people were killed. Most cases in our barangay, people were killed by gun mans or “riding in tandem”, whether hired by authorities or big-time drug lords, we do not know. One case was even killed at 5 pm, sun still up, in front of a child in the street. And just like that, they will kill you and shoot you in the head.
The Collateral Damage
Some people believe in the saying “An eye for an eye.” Drug users or addicts committed a number of crimes that are unforgivable according to our own judgement. They should be punished according to the same extent of their crimes. The death toll increases. We are on war against drugs and there will always be a collateral damage, as they say. But unfortunately, the victims are always the poor.
Included in the increasing number of deaths, the number casualties of innocent people in this war. There were children, women, students, innocent people who were supposed to be saved and protected in the promised administration.
Lately, the authorities, especially, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is facing a grave issue on the way they implement “Operation Tokhang”. Last Aug. 17, 2017, Kian Delos Santos (17 yrs old) was shot by two policemen during a drug raid in their area in Caloocan. This causes controversies and noise even in social media. The police said Kian was a drug runner and he shoot the police first forcing the police to protect themselves and kill Kian, but the CCTV footage and some witnesses tell another story, claiming Kian was never related to any drug trade and he was innocent. They’re still investigating the case until now. We only hope that justice is served properly.
When the authorities supposed to protect and serve the country is now beginning to become a threat, are we still safe?
September 21, 2017 is declared a National Day of Protest. Also, this day marks the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. People will gather to exercise their right to freedom of speech and to express their grievances against the government.
I personally do not believe that in order to eradicate drugs in the country, one must kill. But they can only kill the poor. The high profile drug lords are spared — due process is served. Why not for the poor? People were killed brutally as if their lives don’t matter at all. As if a victim is not capable of changing, as if one doesn’t deserve a chance.
No matter what change, it should be for the better. No matter what, a life is a life. I also plead to stop the killings. Yes, this is not a perfect world, people will get killed and die, some people are greedy, but I believe in humanity, not in politics.
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” – Mahatma Gandhi