Drug War: Lesser chance to live for poor people

By Angel De Mesa

Drug dependency was a phenomenon unknown in the Philippines prior to World War II according to Dr. Cesarea Goduco-Anglau’s article – “A note on drug abuse in the Philippines”.

But drugs become the serious national problem in the country after how many years since Philippines is most frequently reported as origin, departure, transit or destination of illegal drugs.

Filipinos today are now facing a controversial war. Casualties on Duterte administration’s drug war are alarmingly increasing yet root causes of the undying trade is unseen and ignored.

President Rodrigo Duterte warns those drug pushers and users around the country on the continuous use of illegal drugs and threatens them. For the past 1 year and 2 months of his administration, a total of 12,000 casualties of the war on drugs campaign were mostly coming from those unfortunate families.

According to the Amnesty International, victims of drug-related killings tend to have two things in common. First, they were overwhelmingly from the urban poor. Many were unemployed and lived in informal settlements or squatter communities.

Also, killings mean further misery for already impoverished families, at times compounded by police officers stealing from them during crime scene investigations.

This is the reality that most of the Filipinos are now fearful for these cruel acts that might caught them as a victim too in Duterte’s drug war.

Promised Change

Duterte has been very vocal about the things and plans he wanted to execute and achieve for the country, but one thing that he didn’t get to realize is the possible effects of his ‘change’ will get into.

During Duterte’s presidential campaign, he promised to suppress drugs and crime within his first six months of office, including by killing 100,000 criminals. He cited “drug pushers” in particular as he pledged to “fatten all the fish” in Manila Bay through dumping of dead bodies.

Threat becomes reality after months of the new administration.

Extrajudicial killings were documented every after police operations or because of vigilante’s execution, commonly under the war on drugs of the administration.

Starting July 2016 when he assume his post until January 2017, statistics from the Philippine National Police (PNP) already revealed a total of 7025 drug-related killings with an estimate of 34 deaths per day.

Amnesty International investigated 33 incidents of drug-related killings in 20 different cities and towns across the National Capital Region, provinces of Cebu and Cotabato.

In the 33 incidents, of which 20 involved police operations and 13 involved unknown armed persons, 59 total people were killed. Based on corroborating witness statements and other credible information, the vast majority of these killings appear to have been extrajudicial executions—that is, unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by government order or with its complicity or acquiescence.

This month of August has probably the highest rate of documented casualties under the war on drugs due to massive killings.

Amnesty International is deeply concerned that the deliberate and widespread killings of alleged drug offenders, which appear to be systematic, planned and organized by the authorities, may constitute crimes against humanity.

Faith of the Poor

The recent youngest casualty of war on drugs was Kian Delos Santos from a poor family whose mother is a domestic helper from Saudi Arabia.

According to Lorenzana Delos Santos, mother of Kian, she chose to work abroad just to give her children a good life, considering that there is a lesser opportunity for her to work here in the country. “Actually Kian’s barong was out from the contribution of our neighbors, while the coffin is still unpaid”, she added.

Kian who is a grade 11 student was suspected as a drug courier, killed in one snap by three policemen in an ‘Oplan Galugad’ in Barangay 160, Caloocan.

The 17 year old boy is one of the many victims that have been given unfair judgment at the hands of the government forces and were not given the chance to speak and undergo the legal process.

“The drug related killings represents a flagrant violation of International Humanitarian Law that is legally binding on the Philippines. At their forefront is the non-derogable human right to life, which is extrajudicial executions violate. Other human rights, including the right to due process, right to health, prisoner’s right to humane treatment and the right of victim’s family members have also been violated”, Amnesty International stated.

In drug war, Kian’s death made fear more visible among the poor people. Skyrocketing numbers of the unfortunate and innocent victims has been greatly seen as a success for Duterte administration. But as people get killed, there are lesser chance for their family to prosper and live.

Justice most often served to the rich people, while poor people get killed without due process.

Last May 2017, Intelligence officer Marine Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino and his Chinese companion Yan Yi Shou was released after the DOJ dismissed their P380 Million drug case. Marcelino and Yan were arrested in a drug bust on Felix Huertas Street in Manila on Jan. 21, 2016. They allegedly possessed 76,697.7 grams or P380-million worth of shabu.

Marcelino filed a petition for bail before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court which was granted for lack of evidence. In short, due to ‘lack of evidence’ the DOJ drops the case of the two suspected drug pushers.

The case of Kian depressingly stresses out on where the justice system has often sided.

The Philippines needs to urgently adopt a different approach to drugs and criminality, one which promotes, respects and fulfills the human rights of all concerned according to Amnesty International.

“Police and Judicial authorities should ensure accountability for any unlawful killing by police officers or unknown armed persons, promptly, impartially and efficiently, investigating allegations and prosecuting those involved,” Amnesty International stated. “The impunity that currently reigns has facilitated killing on a massive scale, hitting the poorest and most marginalized segments of the population in particular.”

Impunity

While the family of the lost victims takes time to grief, suspects for the crime are seemingly free from charges and responsibility. For those thousands victims of extrajudicial killings on war on drugs, no suspect has been prosecuted.

No member of the police faced charge against drug-related crime since Duterte took office. Duterte himself pledged to protect those officers who deliberately done their duty, but committed to punish abusive police when proven.

According to media reports, the claim of ‘Nanlaban, Patay’ of the police officers was just a mere alibi for them to escape from the possible case that may be filed against them especially for not giving the proper jurisdiction and the violence present on the incident.

In some cases based on the record of Amnesty International, the families of the victims are being discouraged to file a case because of its alleged futility.

“When families do fight against all odds and pursue a complaint, they are often profoundly afraid of police reprisal, several described instances of intimidation. As the state has failed in its responsibility to investigate, promptly, impartially, and efficiently, the Commission on Human Rights and civil society Organizations are trying to fill the gap, but, in addition to intimidation confront of scarcity resource and a system built to block progress”, said Amnesty International.

Impunity of state forces is not surprising since the Marcos regime. The equivalent of those thousands of victims under Martial Law is the thousand numbers of the oppressors, that was not charged with any criminal cases.

There will be more Kian Delos Santos if Filipinos will stay blinded and silenced with the injustice happening in the society. (BaretangBikolnon.com)

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