I’M BACK, FOLKS. My break took longer than intended, but I enjoyed the quiet. The forced hiatus gave me an excuse to avoid the news. Why keep updated? They were mere variations on a theme anyway — death, death, and death. I thought I could tune it out entirely, but really, I couldn’t.
The ubiquitous tally of the day’s kill, the images of trussed and packaged corpses, the blood pools, the cardboard placards, the keening relatives all invaded my consciousness. The onslaught of presidential execrations: “pa-tay!”, “pa-tayin kita!”, “I am ready to die,” “I will kill you!”, “be prepared to die,” and the violent cursing ad infinitum morning, noon, and night affected my psyche much as the endless whirr of a chainsaw does to an insomniac craving sleep.
They call it the war on drugs, and indeed, I feel I live in a combat zone. I do not feel safe. When I pass through the eskinitas and sitios on my way to work, my heart lurches at the sight of this garbage bag or that sack…what does it contain? Whenever a motorcycle runs alongside our vehicle, I prepare for the worst. When I walk on the street, I am wary. The uniformed checkpoint inspectors remind me too much of the PC and Metrocom of my martial law childhood who could whisk away anyone at will. At any time, I or people near me may fall to a bullet; whether intended for us or not, will it matter? Not really, in this war whose arbitrary, anonymous snipers shoot first and permit no questions later. In the three months since this war began, I have become paranoid, though I have never done drugs in my life. I miss my peace of mind.
I am not over-reacting. Several corpses have been discovered in my town, and not too long ago, one was found on a sidewalk near my workplace. All had been violently killed and labeled with the placard. This is close to home, and it is unsettling.
What’s worse, people with whom I once held common values (folks who shared my faith!), have suddenly turned Machiavellian and celebrate this carnage, saying the deaths are necessary: every war has its casualties. I cannot understand how on one hand they purport to uphold Christian standards yet simultaneously endorse the violation thereof. The end justifies the means. Well. Anyone with a mature grasp of Christianity understands that hard-boiled pragmatism and faith cannot co-exist. Despite my attempts to patiently remind them of scriptures on hatred and murder, they maintain that this campaign is necessary and hail the new president who has the political will to carry it out! Some even talk as if he were the new messiah. What dissonance.
So when in outrage I say, “How many killed?!”, these folks’ reflexive retort is, “How many arrested?” Ah yes…3,000+ dead vs. 17,000 imprisoned. See, there are more alive after all. Of course, my premise is not that there are more in jail than dead, it is that there should not be thousands dead at all. But I am too weary to argue. If they cannot see the point then…
Inconsistently, these crusaders will wince at the slightest criticism against the war on drugs, the president, and whoever else is on the “change” (*clenchedfist*) bandwagon. They will demand the fairness, objectivity, and latitude they are loath to grant the “other side,” and they have no qualms about it. They will blare their displeasure with invective and venom on the social media walls of their oppositors or post often snide status messages that communicate nothing more than their uninformed opinions. If you haven’t noticed, folks, we are warring not only against drugs but with each other now. Why have we come to this?
It has only been three months. If we do not overcome this dissonance, what will become of us? Already, the UN, the European Union, the US, and various human rights groups have expressed concern with the state of affairs under this administration. We cannot solve the problem by simply dissing them.
I could transcend my intense dislike for this president if he would ditch his bravado and not further jeopardize our country’s diplomatic and economic relations. I believe he sincerely desires to do well, but I do wish he would discard hubris and listen to reason. Above all, he must realize he is no longer a mayor, and whatever the truth about the Davao Death Squad, he must stop the killings now.
President Duterte has drawn a very stark line between his die-hard supporters and the rest of us. That demarcation has heated up and broken down the ground beneath it, creating a growing chasm between us. As a Filipino, I appeal to my countrymen, let us pause to take a breath and recover our objectivity. There is too much work to be done in this country to waste our energy on quarreling and witchhunts. Can we calm down and together achieve some sobriety to mute this national dissonance?
It’s worth a try.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!