The world has began tuning in on what’s happening in the Philippines. At any other instance, I would’ve mocked the international media for only featuring what’s ‘amiss’ with my country. Yeah, I know a lot of Pinoys would agree that we only hear about flood casualties, rudimentary firecrackers, or poverty porn. If there’s nothing tragic occurring in our backyard, we have silence. But this is different, so now I must weigh in.
There’s an old Filipino saying that roughly translates to, ‘no matter where you hide a jackfruit, it’s gonna smell.’ I’m a little late when it comes to following the news in my homeland. It’s not like I watch Bandila online on SBS, or follow Vice Ganda’s Twitter feed. I only really started keeping tabs after seeing 60 Minutes Australia’s segment on Digong’s war on drugs. Liam Bartlett’s investigation was an eye opener, complete with haunting images of a land that seemed mighty different than the one I used to know. Given, I have neither been in the Philippines under Pnoy or Duterte (Digong/ Rodi); it’s been a while. What I saw from the account was a scared nation. Some reports online have put the total casualties to 2,000, and counting. I see a nation trembling at their king’s feet.
The inhuman conditions of overfilled jails has likewise been documented. Eighty suspects detained in a small cell has been common. I heard the story of how a CNN reporter was drenched in sweat while covering the overcrowded cells. Men, and women, guilty or not, it does not matter. No dehumidifiers for these ‘suspects’, just sub zero treatment. I remember once before my dad and I were watching the local news when the image of a covered corpse on a gurney flashed on the screen. ‘Ay, may gadan,’ said the little girl in our home. We had to laugh. ‘Ngata, nakailing ka na ki gadan?’ ‘Iyo, duman sa uruinitan mi, pigguguyod duman su mga gadan.’ Surely the last thing we Pinoys would want are haunting images of lifeless bodies.
Panic at the barrio
As the bloodshed continues, government agencies, and human rights movements around the world, could not stand in silence. The UN has condemned the carnage, with Digong subsequently calling the Ambassador, a ‘son of a whore’, and ‘gay’. These sweet nothings from Rodi remind me of a hombre I used to know. In the coming weeks outgoing US President Obama will meet Duterte for the first time, and the killings should be on the top of his agenda. I doubt though that this will accomplish much, if at all.
You would have heard by now of how the incumbent Filipino leader had threatened to get the Philippines to leave the UN. You might have also registered how he wanted to impose martial law, giving unadulterated power to the military. The King is simply tired of the rules and conversations about human rights; he wants to rule his kingdom with an iron fist, free of interference from any sad watchdog. If this means putting a bounty on those in the drug trade, then so be it. As a play on the law, you are guilty until proven innocent. The five year old girl killed in the crossfires was just that, collateral damage. Next!
Right now, Duterte seems distant from the charismatic Davao governor who swept to power in the last election. However, his approval rating is still off the charts (hovering at 90%), and he’s keeping his promises of taking out the trash. He has also vowed to eradicate the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, which has caused so much headaches for Filipino governments, past and present. So far, the deployment of thousands of new troops in southern Mindanao has exemplified his gunk spunk. He has the police chief as his choice enforcer, reminiscent of a former Arroyo general who did the government’s dirty work. The latter allegedly killed hundreds of journos, but retired un-convicted and living well.
Tell that to the families of all the thousands of suspects languishing in our bursting prisons. Or, worse yet, to the wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers of the departed. There is a price for cleaning up the streets, and the toll surely doesn’t end with the supposed ‘druggies’, nor with Rodi’s defiance to rid our regions of every last drug criminal. Every Pinoy, whether there or otherwise, is keeping close guard on the unfolding events. These are issues affecting every Filo, whether you voted for Digong or nah.
These are beyond smoke cones discussing world issues.
Maherap na, marereparo tayo niyan.