"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.