“THEY HAVE FORGOTTEN about him,” says Luzviminda Siapo. She was talking about her 19-year old son, Raymart, who was abducted and murdered on March 29, 2017 by 14 hooded and masked men. The boy was disabled. He had club feet, but witnesses say that his killers ordered him to run. Confused and afraid, Raymart merely sat on the sidewalk. They broke his arms then shot him in the head and left him there. Raymart was not on any drugs watchlist but after his death, the police labeled him a pusher, just as they did with Kian delos Santos. They had no evidence to prove it.
Luzviminda went under the radar after the funeral but resurfaced when she heard Raymart’s case discussed at the Senate last week. The attention Kian is getting gives her hope that Raymart will finally receive the justice he deserves. Though she has lain low, Luzviminda has followed up on his case regularly with the Navotas police. Nothing has come of it. She told the Inquirer, “When I talked to a certain PO1 Latagan of Navotas police last May (or two months after the killing). The response I got from him was: ‘Who was your son?’ I had to explain Raymart’s case all over again. They have forgotten about him.”
“DEATHS UNDER INVESTIGATION”
The police are vague on deaths like Raymart’s. Officials originally classified them as “Deaths Under Investigation,” an ambiguous term that did not define them as deliberate killings. Later, #RealNumbersPH reclassified them as “Homicide Cases Under Investigation” and distinguished them from “non-drug-related” and “drug-related” killings. Only the latter are acknowledged to have occurred during “legitimate police operations.” Notably, it is the smallest figure in the list.
The term “Homicide Cases Under Investigation” gives the police plausible deniability. They insist that these 8,200++ fatalities are not all related to Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. Never mind that many of them were “Tokhang surrenderees,” or on the drug watchlist, or known peddlers or users, or simply looked like junkies and were killed “kasi nanlaban.” Never mind that they were often decked out with cardboard placards declaring the now famous “PUSHER AKO. WAG TULARAN.” No, the PNP won’t admit that the HUI are in any way directly motivated by Duterte’s shoot to kill order, even though he has repeated it over time with increasing intensity. Recently, he commended the Bulacan police for “neutralizing” 32 in one day, and even pegged it as the new standard.
Whatever. The public doesn’t bother with the government’s quibbling or fuzzy nomenclature. We call them “extrajudicial killings” because we understand them to be summary executions by law enforcers carrying out the war on drugs. This is conventional wisdom. These include kidnap-murders by people who act and sound like cops yet disguise themselves as hoodlum vigilantes. Truth be told, many of us can no longer tell the difference.
The official terms merely obfuscate; the fact is that killings escalate when Duterte calls out his boys. And we all know by now that they aim to please.
HOW MANY INVESTIGATED?
If these are “Homicide Cases Under Investigation” then how many have been investigated? Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre III couldn’t clearly answer that at the recent Senate hearing on the DOJ budget. He fumbled over figures and failed to provide data the senators requested. At one point, he said there were “only around 1,000 victims of vigilante killings” since the onset of Duterte’s war on drugs, a claim which raised eyebrows. When asked for his source, he said it was the PNP; but his figure differed vastly from the statistics submitted by the PNP’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (which, by the way, differs vastly from the #RealNumbersPH).*
When Frank Drilon asked how many cases of drug-related deaths were currently under investigation, Aguirre said that the NBI was handling 37, 24 of which were pending and 3 submitted for prosecution. He could not cite the numbers for the cases under the PNP. “Dismal,” sniffed Drilon. The senator later stated that there appeared to be a deliberate effort by authorities to cover up the real score. I agree. Every week when I write these essays, I search for accurate figures to cite but all I get is a cyber runaround. The official #RealNumbersPH figures are not updated and they disagree with the PNP’s numbers, which are current but are significantly lower. It is impossible to get a clear picture of this war’s actual death toll.
My natural conclusion is that we are being gaslighted by the very officials who should allay our suspicions and fears. None of Aguirre’s prevarication helps Luzviminda, and Kian’s parents Saldy and Lorenza, and all the other parents, spouses, siblings, and children bereaved by Duterte’s war on drugs. What they yearn for is justice, as do we.
Once an OFW, Luzviminda now sells barbecues for a living. She says, “I’ve tried to move on. But sometimes, when I’m alone preparing the skewers, I couldn’t help but cry. I miss my son.”
What she and everyone wants is for the dead not to be forgotten; for their sullied names not to rot, unwashed, in their graves; for their just recompense to be delivered to them that they may truly find repose. They are all our sons and daughters, these victims who were so glibly condemned. They remain innocent, not having been convicted by a court of law. We are duty-bound to sue for justice on their behalf, for their wasted blood calls out to us, keening for vindication.
The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. – Genesis 4:10
To crush underfoot
all prisoners in the land,
to deny people their rights
before the Most High,
to deprive them of justice—
would not the Lord see such things? – Lamentations 3:34-36
* “According to the data provided by the Philippine National Police’s Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management (DIDM), from July 1, 2016 until May 30 this year, there are 12,426 total number of homicide cases, 7,888 of which are still under investigation. Meanwhile, 3,050 were killed in legitimate police operations in the same period.” http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/923434/aguirre-claim-that-only-1000-killed-by-vigilantes-questioned#ixzz4qyJ5PU63