I am publishing below an opinion piece by Yvonne, one of the long-time member of Cyber Plaza Miranda, the forum on this site. I know Yvonne’s name but for now, she prefers to use this handle.
The questions that Yvonne poses are the same questions I have been raring to ask, in the absence of a press conference with President Rodrigo Duterte. – Raissa
The war against illegal drugs resonates strongly with the Filipino people hence there is a tendency amongst us to accept the government news reports on this matter – hook, line, and sinker – often blurring the lines between reality and what might be plain government propaganda.
Is the war against illegal drugs by President Duterte for real or just illusionary government propaganda to create the appearance that he is making good on his election promise to solve the country’s drug problem within 3 to 6 months of his presidency?
Let us ask some probing questions to find out. First, let us consider the following events:
The media have been blanketed with news about thousands and thousands of alleged drug users and pushers or dealers who ‘surrendered’ to police authorities, suggesting that the war against illegal drugs are gaining strong traction.
Thousands surrendered, really? People surrender when they are accused of wrongdoing and the police are going after them. Have those people been accused of drug-related crimes and are the authorities looking for them that they have to ‘surrender’?
Drug users usually fit their profile – they manifest fragile personality and emotional deprivation, typically incoherent or unresponsive, depressed, unkempt, disorganized, prone to violence, eyes dilated, etc. But not these thousands and thousands of surrenderee – they behaved, they follow orders, they are neatly dressed by our local standard, they look socially integrated, etc. Many are smiling and some are even waving into the cameras. It is also a big contrast to photos or video clips of arrested drug pushers who would normally hide their face in shame or to cover their identities from the press. So, are those people really drug users and pushers, or are they ordinary people who might have been misled into joining “a gathering” or “meeting” to show their support in the war against drugs, not knowing that they are being labeled as drug users or pushers?
Those people supposedly ‘surrendered’ because they fear for their lives. But didn’t Duterte say they would be killed only if they resisted arrest and fought back? So why fear for their lives if they were not under arrest, much less if they had no intention of fighting back if arrested? Are we now in a frightening police state that the mere appearance or suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to require your surrender, or risk getting killed by the authorities?
Duterte made a very public and well publicized threat that Peter Lim, a notorious top drug kingpin who was then believed to be abroad, will be killed the moment he set his foot at the airport. Well, surely he was not killed when he set his foot in Malacanang, instead of the airport. What he got was a well-publicized audience with Duterte, and what looked like an offer for him to help the president in the war against drugs. Is Duterte really serious? Isn’t this a clear double-standard in the fight against drugs? A different set of rules for the poor and powerless and another set of rules for the rich and powerful? Isn’t this sending mixed, if not conflicting, signals to the drug lords and the general public?
Consider also Duterte’s public declaration that five high ranking PNP officials, three in active service and two retired officials, are deeply involved and are major players in illegal drugs. Did any of those PNP officials get shot and killed just like the lowly drug traffickers and pushers that we read in the newspapers almost every day? Obviously, the answer is no, not by a long shot (no pun intended). Instead the three active ranking PNP officials got an emotional audience with Gen. Ronald “Bala” Dela Rosa where it was reported that the PNP Chief cried with them during their face-to-face confrontation at his office.
Why did Dela Rosa become emotional and cry with them? Is it because the PNP officials are innocent and are wrongly accused? Did he cry in pity with them because of their destroyed career and reputation? Why cry with them if they are really into illegal drugs as Duterte disclosed? Shouldn’t Dela Rosa be angry with them and arrest them on the spot? Could it be that he could not arrest them for lack of evidence? And if there was lack of evidence, why name and shame them publicly in the first place? Was the turn of events for real, or was it just a side show for public consumption?
And most recently news of the turnover of police control at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) from the regular PNP police to the PNP-SAP was all over the mass media. The news included footage of Gen. Dela Rosa confronting the three drug kingpins – Golangco, Co, and Sebastian – who are incarcerated at the NBP, and news of the confiscated contraband – drugs, weapons, signal boosters, money, etc. – found in their prison cells.
Ok, here are some simple questions: why didn’t the PNP-SAF punish the drug kingpins for keeping the contraband? Why are those drug kingpins not placed in isolation cells, or held incommunicado, as their punishment for breaking the rules at the NBP? Surely, they do not need a court order to do that. Why do they seem to receive special treatment even at the NBP? Are those drug kingpins still untouchable?
Let me be clear. I’m all in favor of an honest war against illegal drugs and I’m hoping President Duterte will be successful on this front. But let us all be vigilant that this “war” is for real and not a pretext to impose a police state reminiscent of the Martial law era during the Marcos dictatorship.