Dear Mr. Jegou,
It took me a lot of thinking whether I should respond to your article that was published on rappler.com just last week about President Duterte’s war on drugs where you played it as an act similar to opening Pandora’s Box. Although you placed a disclaimer that you are not an expert on Philippine politics, I honestly feel that some of the arguments that you raised were erroneous and that you need not be an expert in politics to be able to identify that.
First, your claim that President Duterte openly called for the murder of drug dealers and addicts is unfounded. He had only one call made during the campaign period until now – to apprehend and rehabilitate drug dealers and users. In the event that these individuals fight to avoid arrest then the police would have to fulfil their sworn duty to protect the public and, if need be, fight back even if it meant that either parties may incur casualties. I think that is logical.
President Duterte never called for the murder of anyone. He encouraged these dealers and addicts to surrender peacefully. The proposition is for them to let go of their old ways and be rehabilitated. Daily news reports have seen hundreds of users and dealers surrendering peacefully. In fact, as of this writing, an estimated 60, 000 drug suspects have voluntarily surrendered to authorities and yet none of those who surrendered were murdered. So to stake your claim that President Duterte openly called for the murder is completely baseless and is just your attempt to react on and feed people with misinformation.
Yes, we cannot discount the fact that we have seen an increase in the numbers of deaths due to police encounters and summary killings. In your accounting, you have mentioned 119 individuals who received no investigation and no judgement. Though I am with you on certain points on this one, I also would like to give a different perspective on this issue.
I believe that police authorities are in a solid position to enforce the law and to apprehend individuals who violate it. In situations where suspected drug dealers and users become aggressive and becomes a threat to public safety or theirs, I expect the police force to neutralize the person. If the suspects decide to fight it off until death then I expect the police force to do the same. If in the process, death comes to the suspects then that is a consequence of their decision. It is NOT murder. In the same way, if death comes to any police officer then it comes with their national duty and, again, it is NOT murder.
I have often wondered why a small number of drug suspects would take the brazen act of engaging police forces into a fire fight and face death rather than surrendering peacefully. My initial conclusion is that the neglect to empower our police forces by previous administrations and the possibility of drug links of the country’s top officials have implanted into the minds of these criminals that they are above the law. In the same way, that our police forces are laughed at for doing their job.
It does not help that government bodies have put too much premium on upholding human rights in such a way that criminals have comfortably placed themselves that apprehending them for a crime is a human rights violation. They can initiate engagement with our police forces in a firefight because they feel very secure that their “human rights” will be protected by the government should they die or get injured but NONE of our police forces get the same treatment if the same thing happens to them. The way previous governments have treated criminals have given them the confidence that they are above the law.
I stand by President Duterte’s recent statement that if suspected criminals want due process then they should go to the courts. The ONLY way that they can get due process is when they surrender peacefully and go through the due process accorded by law. If they decide to engage in a firefight and they die in the process then these suspects have decided upon themselves not to go through the due process. Again when our police forces are engaged, I expect them to keep public safety their priority and to defend themselves when needed. When suspected criminals get killed in a firefight with police authorities that is not murder. It is a consequence of their decision to evade the law.
But then again you will argue that we cannot discount the fact that we still have a number of dead bodies popping up around the city. These victims of summary killings, I would presume, you would associate to the current administration. However to associate it to President Duterte as an action in response to his call against drugs would be premature. Again, no full investigation has been done on these killings and it would be an injustice to blame it on the current administration.
I guess the big question that really needs to be answered is whether these killings are done by vigilante groups heeding the call against drugs or is this the work of drug syndicates as a means of cleaning up their ranks? Both are possibilities. Unless a thorough investigation is already done, we would have to wait for the answers and hold off any premature judgement.
Yes, the drug problem in the Philippines is a deep-rooted problem and it needs to have everyone involved. Filipinos have a choice to become this administration’s partners for change hence the call for the active participation of every Filipino to help fight the problem of drugs in the country. But President Duterte never gave direct orders to anyone to murder or kill these drug dealers and users as per your argument. His instructions was simply to assist police forces to identify these suspects. A citizen’s arrest is the last resort. If the suspect resist arrest and poses a threat to the community then regular citizens have the right to defend themselves.
You were right in saying that the current drive against drugs opened a Pandora’s Box. It has clearly given every Filipino a picture on how big and wide the problem that we need to deal with. It made us realize that we need to take a strong stance and be partners for change. Our desire to rid our nation of this problem is not a war against our fellow Filipinos so it is not the first step of a civil unrest. It is a fight against drugs, not against anyone so please be wary of the words that you use, as you suggested.
Again, I thought about whether to write this blog but I wanted to also give you an insight of how I have seen my country deteriorate and the need to address the REAL issues at hand. I think that it is better to focus on the 60, 000 Filipinos who voluntarily and peacefully surrendered to the police force rather than focusing on the hundreds who died because they opted to pursue their old and illegal ways. Again, their death is not murder but a consequence of their decisions and actions.