There’s no rage, but we
hear the whimper
EACH morning since the May 9 elections, we woke up watching the news that a drug suspect was killed overnight somewhere in some dark alleys of Metro Manila. Who killed him? We were not sure. And why? The dead, according to the police, was either a known user or a known pusher in an area the government seemed to have completely forsaken.
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And then there were two, then three, four, even five slain suspects in one night, and later in the provinces, too. In less than a week, the list of dead suspects just grew longer and longer. And we could hardly explain why, except to surmise that there could have been more than just one killer.

By May 18, there were additional details. Killers gave us something for us to make no mistake. It was a message written on a cardboard left on the body of the dead: “Pusher ako, huwag tularan.” Which left us all asking: Were they all summarily executed? Shouldn’t they have been hauled instead to court? Who, what decided whether the drug suspects should live or die?

Things got clearer days into the administration of President Duterte. On July 1, the government launched an all-out war against drugs it called “Oplan Tokhang,” supposedly an innocuous invitation by the police for drug suspects to surrender and promise to leave a life of drugs-—or face violent consequences.

Lo and behold, the police campaign prompted in no time the surrender of more than 700,000 people all over the country, which only shows that the drug menace has grown into the size of a dragon, which possibly explains the many crimes traced to drug addiction.

Alas and alack, the campaign resulted in the deaths of so many men hooked on drugs. As of Oct 18, there were 2,123 killed, 1,227 of them during police operations.

Why the police have killed so many in so short a time? Because the drug suspects resisted arrest and traded fire with better-armed, better-skilled police shooters. All of them.

To be sure, some policemen have likewise fallen. Penetrating some suspected drug lairs and dealing with drug pushers was no walk in the park. We believe the police. We believe in stories that some great crimes could be the handiwork of people high on drugs. We believe that some pushers are armed, all because we have seen men engaged in illegal activities finding the need to protect themselves. Against lawmen. Against competition.

But nobody told us it would be like this. We have since been counting bodies day after day, night after night, the highest number of dead was 30 all in one night last July 1. We have been hearing the police saying that one or two or three of a team of 10 or 30, or even 100 policemen gunned down a suspect who decided to take the law into his own hands by putting up a fight in a cramped place that even two amateur boxers would find neither an elbow room nor the bwelo to raise a fist to show bravado and defiance. After counting 1,000 bodies, that has become an all-too familiar plot, a convenient one seems meant to justify the lack of maximum tolerance and compliance with the age-old tradition and commitment to bring the suspect to the bar of justice, to honor due process, that every man has the right to be heard, every man should have his day in court.

We don’t hear the rage of people marching to the streets, smashing windows to protest the killings. There’s no rage, but we hear the whimper, the cry in some corners of some mothers and fathers, wives and children who lost their loved ones to the war against drugs which, like in all other wars, according to British leader Arthur Neville Chamberlain who led Britain in the first nine months of World War II, “whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”  The death of one, according to the late Inquirer Publisher Isagani Yambot, diminishes us all.

The ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group sought out at random the stories of some 50 men killed in the police operations through the accounts of witnesses, their families and neighbors, tales hardly heard, tales lost in the confusion in the slaying of the dragon. They are the unheard, these are their stories.

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