Headlines Opinion

Hell-bent and law-bending

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s aptly named “Kill List,” a total of 136 deaths of suspected criminals have been recorded since Duterte’s inauguration as President on June 30 as of press time. A huge number of them were identified by policemen as suspected drug killers and drug pushers. Some of them were killed by police in buy-bust operations, and the rest by unknown hitmen. Although the Duterte administration has expressed alarm at the sudden spike in killings over the past few weeks, it should not really be a surprise at this point that these killings started in the first place. What should be a surprise, however, is the lack of unease over the vigilante-style killings that have surfaced over the past two weeks or so.

Since the launch of his campaign, Duterte has been very vocal about his intent to eradicate the problem of drugs and criminality, championing his belief that drug addicts are better off dead than continue rehabilitation, and promising to rid the country of criminality within the first three to six months of his term. Upon being inaugurated, he has since given the police the power to shoot to kill, implored communist rebels to kill suspected drug traffickers in the areas under their control, and called upon the people to join the war on drugs, even going to the extent of giving them the freedom to shoot suspected drug pushers if they resist arrest.

And precisely that the people did. In less than two weeks after Duterte was inaugurated, bodies started to pile up on the streets, riddled with gunshot wounds, often covered in packaging tape and made to carry signs bearing deprecatory statements. Pusher ako. Wag tularan,” seems to be the most common. In less than a month, 136 people—and possibly more that have not reached the media—have been summarily executed without an ounce of due process to their name. This isn’t serving anyone justice. It is plain murder.

July Editorial

This is not any more of an indication of the “depth of the drug menace” as the administration puts it, but more an indication that, with the President’s apparent support, the Philippines is being turned to a mass killing ground without regard for the rule of law for those suspected of being criminals. The vigilante justice that the administration has inspired to come to fruition is problematic at best and horrifying at worst. Fighting fire with fire will yield little to no results. Violence begets violence, inculcates unwarranted fear, and breeds a culture of death. If anything, the only people who may benefit are the drug cartels themselves, as these killings only further drive the drug trade underground and enable cartels to get rid of whistle-blowers and potential witnesses under the guise of vigilante justice.

At the very least, these suspected criminals should be given a fair trial, and due process and the rule of law must be followed. We are a democratic nation founded on the ideals of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace. Our Constitution must be upheld. One does not need to be a lawyer to know this; all that is needed is compassion and a dose of common sense. The so-called war on drugs is failing, and we are failing ourselves.

Being hell-bent on eliminating the problem of drugs and criminality in the country and having no qualms nor second thoughts about bending the law are not compatible and should not be paired together. If we truly want to solve the problem of drugs in the country, then we should turn to proper means to do so. A bullet may be faster than our judicial system, but it isn’t any more effective. Lives shouldn’t be taken in the name of justice.

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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