When the Duterte administration stopped its Operation Tokhang, the bloody anti-drug war, the so-called vigilante killings likewise declined. The reason why the operations was suspended? It was not to investigate the more than 7,000 extrajudicial killings. It was not about looking deeply into the so-called shootouts that purportedly justified the killings of suspects by the police. It was to investigate the killing of a South Korean businessman.
There is no problem about investigating the killing of the South Korean businessman. In fact, it should be done. The problem is why the government is limiting the investigation to this specific case. Of course, the killing of the South Korean businessman, which turned out to be a kidnap-for-ransom operation by policemen and involved a high-ranking police officer, inside the very headquarters of the Philippine National Police is a big embarrassment for the Duterte administration. But the lives of the more than 7,000 killed are equally as important.
If the police officers had the temerity to kill a South Korean businessman with criminal intent inside its own national headquarters, one could just surmise how many among the more than 7,000 poor people killed were innocent and their lives snuffed out just to show that this government is doing something about the problem of illegal drugs. Already, international watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have come out with the results of their investigation: that the government paid policemen and other hired killers for every drug suspect killed and that evidences were planted on those killed to make it appear that they have drugs and guns in their possession.
PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa announced recently a renewed police campaign against illegal drugs. The PNP chief hinted again that it would still be bloody. This is not surprising as President Duterte himself has consistently egged policemen to kill drug suspects. Duterte has been adamant in his defense of the drug killings.
Now comes the death penalty. The death penalty bill has been approved on second reading at the House of Representatives. Because of the President’s push for it, chances are both houses of Congress would pass the death penalty bill in the near future.
Has the death penalty ever curbed crime? Results of studies do not show that it does deter crime. Worse, with the country’s flawed and anti-poor justice system, the poor would be the victims once again.
We could certainly expect the killings, both unofficial and official ones, to further escalate with the renewed police campaign against illegal drugs, Duterte-style, and the eventual legislation of the death penalty. Of course, the poor would suffer most once again.
It is imperative on us to seriously think about what is happening around us today to be able to act accordingly and with urgency. This is more than a numbers game. This is about how this country treats the poor. This is about the most fundamental human right: the right to life.
Two fundamental questions are begging for answers:
On what basis has this government arrogated upon itself the power of life and death over its citizens?