The silence of the beasts

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When was the last time that we saw hundreds – thousands in some places – of self-confessed drug addicts and pushers surrendering to authorities to have themselves counted and put on record – profiled, as it were – made to sign an oath, and ‘monitored’ for the rest of their waking days? Never.

Never before have we seen a spectacle worthy of an epic movie – of men and women, menor de edad and nakatatanda, lolo and apo, even lola, for crying out loud – trooping to basketball courts and barangay plazas; meek as lambs but admittedly in fear – courageous nevertheless for coming out in the open and identifying themselves as “adik” or “tulak”. When did they accept the reality – because addicts are mostly in a constant state of denial – that they are users of illegal substances and peddlers of death, and that they needed redemption? Only now.

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Only now are we seeing and believing that, my God, ang dami pala nila. So many of our countrymen have been living in the darkness wrought by drug addiction, some of them doing the malevolent act of luring innocents towards the same hell hole for a few hundred or thousand bucks. How, when and why have we as a nation come down to this? Where have our leaders led us to?

To a state of utter indifference. Cold and biting. The leaders we have elected in the past – from barangay halls to the corridors of Malacanang – knew but they chose the path of least resistance. Like monkeys that see no evil and hear no evil, they probably thought that by doing nothing, they are doing no evil. Which is a greater crime than greasing their palms with dirty money. Blood is dripping from their hands but they just shake it off and look the other way, unmindful of the stench pervading their protectorate.

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The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has reported that around 20.51 percent or 8,629 out of the 42,065 barangays nationwide have drug-related cases, with Metro Manila registering the highest incidence at 92.10 percent, followed by Region 4A (Southern Tagalog) at 38.78 percent. According to the Dangerous Drugs Board, there are an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the country. Additionally, a UN Report in 2012 showed that the Philippines has the highest abuse rate for methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu, in East Asia.

Were those numbers not high enough for a country’s president – yes, the President because every single buck stops at his desk – to take a good hard look, grasp the imminent enormity and fire off directions to the agencies concerned? Those startling statistics could have gone up in succeeding years as even the remotest barrios have already been invaded by this menace. In the past, people in the provinces have been complacent with the thought that drug abuse was confined only at urban centers mostly due to the wide divide in lifestyles. Only the well-to-do could afford to buy illegal drugs – cocaine, LSD, marijuana, etc. Today, both rich and poor have become narcotics users, with only the type of substance distinguishing economic classes – shabu being the poor man’s ‘means of escape’ while the rich wallow in their own ‘ecstasy’ and can easily move on to more ‘sophisticated’ harbingers of doom.

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Poverty as an excuse to get into drugs is an insult to the hardworking lot who earn their living the honorable way – like police officers themselves who house their families in modest dwellings at villages built for servicemen. The ‘haves’ get away with their debauchery because they can. Money has become the primary purpose of most everyone’s existence – the poor for subsistence, the rich for self-indulgence. And those who were sworn to serve and protect both rich and poor have taken it upon their lack of conscience to succumb to greed and avarice.

Now some sectors – those whose hearts are bleeding for criminals who, they say, are being summarily killed – are hueing and crying over alleged human rights violations, lack of due process, resorting to extrajudicial means and, shudder, shudder, turning the country into a huge killing field. They focus on the few who fell by the wayside but ignore the thousands who have turned themselves in and are given the choice to go on rehab, do community service, or apply at Tesda, among other things.

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Would those bleeding hearts rather that the so-called dregs of society proliferate their trade and extinguish the Filipino Family with the plague that is slowly gnawing at the fibers of their young? Should we just close our eyes to the heinous crimes that they commit without scruple? The rape and murder of children? The guns for hire who ride in tandem? The thieves who massacre mothers and toddlers right inside their living rooms? The mothers who maltreat their three-year-olds? The not-s0-petty felons who hold up passengers of buses and jeepneys, taxi drivers who rape and rob female passengers, mobsters who steal cars, even bicycles in broad daylight? The big crooks in government who help themselves without compunction on the people’s money?

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How many families have one pusher ruined by enticing one innocent member into their way of life? Ten, twenty, a hundred per pusher? Not to mention the drain in the already limited financial resources of these families because their addict children resort to selling property and even stealing just to keep up with their “cravings”?

Was anybody listening when President Duterte warned that it is going to be bloody? In the same breath he said that abuses if committed will not be tolerated. Better that than “business as usual”.

“Business as usual” being that Filipinos are resigned to the certainty of perpetuating the drug menace and watching families being besieged by it. There is no lesser evil here, and while killing should not be condoned, what if criminals ask for it? So sue the police for not doing their job. The Solicitor General says the presumption of regularity in the performance of duty will apply in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

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To the indignant members of civil and upright society, ask yourselves these questions: Would you feel safe to live in a neighborhood infested by drug addicts and drug pushers? Would you know what to do when faced with a drug-crazed individual intent on doing you harm?

Of course we can do better than just keeping silent until God knows when. Silence is the rule of the beasts who brought the Filipino people to this sorry state. Many of us don’t want to be silent anymore.

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Freedom of information

generals2If President Duterte was fed wrong and “poison” information as the generals allege, would they provide him the “right” stuff in order to, as they say, clear their names? Would they incriminate other men in uniform or would they implicate their patrons – i.e. politicians?

But if indeed they are blameless and their records spotless as they declare, why was it convenient for them to look the other way while their fellow countrymen were being consumed at the innards by the drug trade? Why did they allow it to flourish when they have, in the first place, the responsibility to eradicate it? Doesn’t tolerating a crime make one an accessory to it especially if you are a law enforcer?

President Duterte, in one of his media interviews prior to assuming office (before media pissed him off, that is), related in detail how the ‘quota system’ (for lack of a better term) at the PNP hierarchy works – from the bottom up to the topmost and (probably) beyond.

But media failed to pick up such a significant piece of information which the public ought to know; perhaps because a) they were not listening b) they could not make out what the erstwhile mayor was saying due to his Visayan inflection c) it was not new to them as those things are just whispered about but not discussed in the open or d) their editors deleted it from their story. Donald Trump has a succinct description for the US version – ‘dishonest media’.

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Did the President violate any laws for announcing the names of the five generals? He is a lawyer and former prosecutor, he should know. He has a phalanx of legal experts around him to provide advice, they should know. Would he be so rash as to make accusations without standing on solid evidence?

The Communications Secretary said the testimonial and documentary evidences are being kept at the moment, not for release to the media as yet, for obvious reasons. And the basis for the naming of names are intelligence reports that the President of the Republic has access to – validated many times over.

Someone being interviewed on radio said Digong has been gathering data and building up dossiers since a year ago, before he even decided to run as president. It might not be a far-fetched idea that the generals themselves were informed beforehand. They were asked to just leave the service quietly or avail of early retirement like a few others of star rank did, including the Chief PNP who retired without fuss a few months before reaching the compulsory age to give way to his successor. Kung sumabay sila, hindi sana nahalata.

Would it be a stretch to think that they thought this President, who is unlike his predecessor by any bounce of the imagination, will observe their code of silence and allow them to go on with their business as usual?

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Public shaming is a violation of due process? See Tanauan, Batangas’ periodic parade of addicts, pushers and lawbreakers. Have any of them gone to court yet to sue the town mayor who, like Duterte, speaks softly but carries a big stick?

The President is exercising his strong political will at a scale never seen before in a long succession of leaders. If you are an honest and law-abiding government official, bureaucrat or functionary, being publicly humiliated should be the least of your concerns. But if you provide your families with a lifestyle not commensurate with your salary in government, then your happy days are over.

So, yes, cry your hearts out because your reputations have been smeared. But did you ever shed a tear for the millions of Filipinos who suffered the scourge of illegal drugs under your watch? You go through the motions of raiding drug dens and seizing contraband, but more often than not, the culprits were nowhere near the scene of the crime. Were they tipped off? How many “ninja cops” – those who recycle seized narcotics and put them back on the streets for sale to innocent kids – have you put behind bars?

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The Big Brick Wall – i.e. General Bato – said that there are more names in Digong’s list but they are still being verified. The 35 or so local executives that the President has hinted as being on the drug trade as well should be on pins and needles now. DILG Secretary Sueno has just revealed on a morning TV show that the list has grown to 200, targeting mayors, governors and barangay captains. Again, they are being subjected to thorough verification but their names will be revealed sooner or later.

If in the end, he is proven to have erred on the side of discretion, then it would be interesting to see how the man called The Punisher will fess up to his mistake. What is apparent, though, is – not only are people (addicts and pushers) surrendering in large numbers on a daily basis in many parts of the country; many citizens are also volunteering morsels of information that they have known all along but were afraid to tell the authorities. If that is not change, then Mar Roxas is president.

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