"That should send chills of apprehension down the spines of peace-loving citizens."
It wasn’t too long ago when President Rodrigo Duterte said: “My only sin is EJKs.” He must have been referring to what happened in Davao City when he was still the mayor there. But he must also be referring to what had happened in the entire country after he assumed the highest elective post, when it became increasingly clear to the human rights community here and abroad clear that his war on drugs had gone far beyond the bounds of the Constitution and our laws.
Speaking before newly appointed officials in Malacañang recently, President Duterte said he would drag down to hell those who would try to put him behind bars. In other words, he would fight tooth and nail attempts to prosecute him and send him to jail over his war on drugs. This is a complete turnaround from his earlier remark that he was willing to be jailed for alleged extrajudicial killings.
The United Nations Human Rights Council recently adopted an Iceland-led resolution calling for a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
If the Duterte administration has nothing to hide, then how come it seems to be moving heaven and earth to prevent any probe by the international community of its anti-drugs campaign?
When he was still Davao City Mayor and gunning for the presidency of the Republic, Duterte partly anchored his campaign platform on a solemn pledge to get rid of the drug menace in three to six months.
Today, halfway into his six-year term, Duterte’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs continues without let-up. We still read daily newspaper reports of drug busts with police claiming that suspected drug pushers and users resisted arrest and fought back (“nanlaban,” usually with their weapon of choice: Rusty .38 caliber revolvers, according to TV footage). What is clear at this point is that no really big-time drug trafficker appears to have seen the inside of a jail since July 2016.
The official death toll in the war on drugs now stands at more than 6,000. That’s according to the Philippine National Police. But human rights groups insist that as many as 20,000 extra-judicial killings or EJKs have taken place since 2016, when the war on drugs began. While these human rights groups have failed to substantiate their claim of 20,000 EJKs linked to the war on drugs, what stands out is that the war on drugs has exacted a heavy toll on lives, with due process and the rule of law honored more in the breach than in the observance. That should send chills of apprehension down the spines of peace-loving citizens amid well-grounded fear that the body count in the war on drugs could rise further in the days to come.
Send ‘em to the gallows?
While at this, lawmakers are locking horns on the contentious issue of restoring the death penalty, particularly for big-time drug trafficking and plunder.
We’ve heard it all before: Those calling for the restoration of the death penalty argue that it would serve as a deterrent to the commission of heinous crimes. On the other hand, those opposed to capital punishment claim that there’s no conclusive evidence that it serves as a deterrent to crime, and that what would really deter crime is the certainty of arrest and prosecution of criminals.
Did the imposition of the penalty of death by firing squad on convicted drug trafficker Lim Seng immediately after the imposition of martial law in 1972 deter criminals from engaging in the illicit trade? I don’t think so.
But let’s take a more recent example. Did the killing of more than 6,000 drug pushers and users by the police in legitimate operations make criminals cowering in mortal fear of the law? Not by a long shot.
In fact, the illegal drugs trade appears to have even gained more momentum after three years of the take-no-prisoners approach of authorities.
Senator Franklin Drilon and other senators are on the right track in opposing the restoration of the death penalty, now being pushed by some of his colleagues, among them Manny Pacquiao and Bato de la Rosa.
The frenzied push by Pacquiao et al. for the restoration of capital punishment appears to be merely a kneejerk reaction to the proliferation of illegal drugs. I’m afraid that given the preponderance of pro-administration senators now, the death penalty bill could easily pass the Upper Chamber. So what will they think of next if the drug menace continues unabated despite the restoration of the death penalty?