WE KNOW KIAN. His story has assailed us since that bloody Wednesday night when he died. We narrate every stage of his final moments like folks at a wake, telling and retelling how he left the world. It helps ease the ache. He has become close, like our own children. That’s the rub. They could very well be Kian.
What cuts most is when we hear about how he lived. When his father and mother say he was their “good, sweet boy.” When his classmate sobs while recalling what a jolly presence he was, and his teacher weeps as she points to his chair, saying he was no drug user, only a simple kid who wanted to finish his studies. When his girlfriend looks despairingly into the camera and wails through her tears that Kian was a lovely person but his killers treated him like a beast.
In fact, it is his killers who are the beasts.
Reports say that the four Caloocan policemen who shot him have been relieved pending the investigation of his death. The DOJ has ordered the NBI to look into it. Typically, the Palace through Ernie Abella downplayed the incident, maintaining that it is an “isolated case.” With more than 8,000 homicide cases under investigation, it is impossible to call Kian’s murder “isolated.” Abella’s statement is silly.
The fact is that many youths have died over the last year in the war on drugs. Rodrigo Duterte knew this would happen; he ignobly called them “collateral damage” and dismissed them like a bad debt. Now the nomenclature has changed. Kian is not cited as “collateral damage” but as an “isolated case.” Abella says, though, that “happily” Kian is not the norm.*
Despite Abella’s gaslighting, it’s clear that Kian’s case is the norm. By that I mean the indiscriminate killing of drug suspects, regardless of age and gender, whether the allegations have basis or not, is now a daily occurrence. Since Duterte became the president there have been about 13,000 homicides committed, 31 of those involving minors (the youngest drug war victim being reportedly an infant in Maguindanao.) It is impossible to get accurate data even by searching #RealNumbersPh, which has not updated its figures since June 16. But Bato dela Rosa himself said that the PNP “doesn’t care sino ang mamamatay,” it will pursue the war on drugs relentlessly.
THEY DON’T CARE
Over the past week, 84 people have been killed in anti-drug operations. To put this in perspective, 14 people died in the Barcelona terrorist attack, evoking global grief. The death toll here in the last 5 days was 70 more than that. Should we not be outraged? GMA’s Marisol Abdurahman asked the PNP about the sudden spike in number. She was told that the PNP was merely responding to Duterte’s directive to intensify the campaign. According to Bato:
It’s a lie that there aren’t any sacred cows. The BOC fiasco demonstrates that amply. It’s a fact, though, that they are not averse to killing anyone among those they are allowed to touch, as their record has shown. There is talk of a “quota” imposed upon them. Some stories have it that each cop is required to kill 2 individuals… per day? per week?… it depends on who’s telling the story. The PNP has denied it, but the “reality on the ground” (as Alan Peter Cayetano likes to say) is that people are dropping like flies.
I have long wondered why the police don’t merely disable their quarry. Are they so badly trained that they can’t engage suspects without resulting deaths? Bato says it’s cops before suspects. “I’d rather have the bad guy on the ground and the good guys standing,” he said recently. While it’s now difficult to distinguish who the good guys are, the police are supposed to be equipped for such crises. They should disarm or debilitate, and not dispatch. It’s their mandate to protect and serve. The NBI served a search warrant on a gun for hire ring on August 18. They did it during the day, with media in tow, and even figured in a shootout with one of the suspects, but they overcame and arrested him. Why can’t the PNP do the same?
The Senate says it will investigate Kian’s case and all related homicides. It should. Duterte’s chuwariwaps are starting to sing, some are even harmonizing with the opposition. They know the public is incensed. Even Duterte supporters have expressed disgust over Kian’s murder. This is a hopeful development and a sign that we may yet recover our humanity.
But even as we seek justice for Kian, let us insist that justice be meted out to all who have perished at Duterte’s command. This is his war, the blood is on his hands. The 31 known minors whose lives were curtailed in Duterte’s bloodbath deserve their day in court. So do the 13,000 who perished without due process, without dignity, without a chance. Not all of them were innocent, but they were all covered by our laws just as we and our children are. If we fail them, we fail ourselves. Let us demand the immediate restoration of the rule of law in our land – and if need be, let us fight for it.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. — Proverbs 31:8-9Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. — Eph. 5:11There is a time to be silent and a time to speak — Eph. 3:7
*Abella’s office later clarified that he meant “haply” and not “happily;” the official transcript was changed to reflect that correction.