Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

"I will cre­ate my own spar­row. Walang hanapin kundi mga is­tam­bay na mga tao, prospec­tive NPAs at bibi­rahin sila."

ITH these words ut­tered be­fore soldiers at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Car­men, Bo­hol, Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Roa Duterte for­mally and un­equiv­o­cally de­clared mur­der state pol­icy.

Not that it isn’t yet. Af­ter all, there is the grow­ing river of blood that flows through the land, fed by his mis­be­got­ten war on drugs and his de­ranged “kill, kill, kill” mantra. Not to men­tion the also con­tin­u­ing political mur­ders of dis­senters, lawyers, re­li­gious, jour­nal­ists, in­dige­nous peo­ples, hu­man rights de­fend­ers.

But if we pro­ceed from the premise that a pres­i­den­tial ut­ter­ance car­ries with it the weight of pol­icy, then his words in Bo­hol make it of­fi­cial.

Never mind that mur­der is not only the most heinous crime in the pe­nal code of any coun­try and its use by states pro­hib­ited even dur­ing armed con­flicts, both in­ter­nal and in­ter­na­tional, some­thing our se­cu­rity and law en­force­ment ser­vices know very well.

And yet, the coun­try’s chief law en­forcer, Philip­pine Na­tional Police Di­rec­tor Gen­eral Os­car Al­bay­alde, sees noth­ing wrong with what his boss had the self-in­crim­i­nat­ing temer­ity to dub “Duterte Death Squads” – yes, DDS – to hunt down and liq­ui­date real and per­ceived en­e­mies of the state.

Not even if, go­ing by Duterte’s own words, the killings are likely to be ar­bi­trary since the tar­gets would in­clude “mga is­tam­bay na mga tao” and “prospec­tive NPAs” loi­ter­ing in trans­porta­tion ter­mi­nals, eater­ies and most any pub­lic place.

In fact, he sug­gested – as if it would make things right – that mem­bers of these hit teams would be screened and cho­sen care­fully.

“Hindi na­man ‘yung sin­abi niya na aar­masan niya basta-basta ‘yung mga (sibilyan). Those that are qual­i­fied to han­dle firearms and to be owners of li­censed firearms (will only be al­lowed),” Al­bay­alde said.

The way he puts it, he ap­par­ently be­lieves the DDS will be made up of civil­ian killers – prob­a­bly all those rid­ing in tan­dem gun­men be­hind many of the war on drugs mur­ders, and sees

Wnoth­ing wrong with that! Or does that mean that these ter­ri­ble duos are ac­tu­ally al­ready work­ing for the gov­ern­ment and will just see their sta­tus shift from crim­i­nal to of­fi­cial? While De­fense Secretary Delfin Loren­zana ap­pears to be more cau­tious, ac­knowl­edg­ing that “there is great dan­ger of abuse or mis­takes in these un­der­cover op­er­a­tions,” nei­ther does he ob­ject to the for­ma­tion and ex­is­tence of gov­ern­ment-cre­ated death squads.

Rather, the ques­tions he wants to be an­swered are: “Who will com­pose it, who will su­per­vise it, who will be the tar­gets, who will be ac­count­able?”

He even goes as far as propos­ing one way to en­sure the killers make no – are at least, very min­i­mal – mis­takes: “... for some­one higher up to give the go sig­nal af­ter a care­ful and thor­ough vet­ting. Da­pat walang blan­ket au­thor­ity ‘yung mga op­er­a­tives.”

Oh, and yes, it seems clear to him, un­like Al­bay­alde, that these hit teams will be made up of state agents.

So, we now have the law en­force­ment and se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus of the state sup­port­ing the cre­ation of the DDS.

Wouldn’t the ju­di­ciary shoot down this patently il­le­gal – crim­i­nal, in fact – idea?

Well, we now have a new Chief Jus­tice, Lu­cas Ber­samin, who, when asked for a re­ac­tion to the sug­ges­tion of cre­at­ing death squads, said he would “trust the gov­ern­ment to do it job” and even called the is­sue “a mat­ter of per­spec­tive,” as if the le­gal­ity and even moral­ity of mur­der, es­pe­cially state­sanc­tioned, could still be up for de­bate.

As in most any­thing con­cern­ing the bro­ken sys­tem that we live in, in the end, it is up to we, the peo­ple, to end this mad­ness and set things right. The ques­tion is, how will­ing are we?

There will, of course, be those who ac­tu­ally ap­prove of this, in­vok­ing the the­ory that if you have done noth­ing wrong, you need not fear the death squads. And those who will in­voke one rea­son or an­other for why they can­not en­gage in di­rect ac­tion to­wards change.

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