The killings of two young people, Kian and Carlos, remind me of an incident in a City in Mindanao that involved young people mostly minors who protested, on the day the President delivered his SONA, the extension of martial law in the region. We learned about it directly from two young people.
Their group, around 30 in all, were not several minutes at a spot on the main street with their placards when police came and hauled them into the waiting police vehicles (there were some in the group who were able to get away unobtrusively which caused the rest of the group to, later, accused them privately because “didn’t we say that we’d stick together no matter what?”). They were brought to the central precinct and held up there for almost four hours.
In the precinct, the police (except for one who they said treated them humanely) proceeded to verbally harass them, pressing them to own up “c’mon, who”s really behind this protest?” Media people were there but were basically useless. This treatment stopped when, first, somebody, a City resident who’s on the government’s peace panel, arrived to assist the youth group, and soon after, the lawyer for the youth group whose presence earned them their release.
The two young people had been recounting this to us in a light and humorous manner. In fact we laughed at some of their accounts while the head of my host organization interspersed the air with “congratulations!” He meant it as compliment for them being able to come out of that first experience in relatively good spirits. Still the young people’s group concluded it was the President’s mandate, that he was going against his own assurances of non-abuse during martial law.
Me, I was busy thinking. I was bothered and piqued that those policemen dared to act out of character to what no less than the President constantly reminds them to be especially during martial law. I probed the two young people further. I learned that the order to round up protesters on that particular day, the SONA, emanated locally, from the LGU, which purportedly didn’t want potential PR disasters in their backyard on such a day. A blanket official backing is cover that could justify the means, means that national government, the Office of the President or the PNP, may not be privy to. There were no similar orders from the LGUs in other areas. which points to discretion.
This is what I’m reminded of with Kian’s and Carlos’ death, the politicians’ and media people’s knee-jerk reaction, convinced as if they’ve all witnessed each and every incident first hand, as to who is behind the deaths: the President. A very dangerous and damaging thought considering
(1) the CCTV recording of what clearly are the backs of, was that, a couple of men, accosting, what appears as a younger man, is not conclusive. One wonders where the story of cops dragging someone named Kian blah blah blah popped out from. Anybody with clear vision and a brain will tell you it sure does not come from that recording;
(2) Senator Hontiveros appearing on the scene to take away the witnesses in order to protect them herself along with “another institution” promising “they’ll appear in Congress at the right time” is highly questionable, given that there are their families, the Barangay LGU, and the local social welfare office as the proper custodians. Next, we see the Senator at the Senate grilling the PNP, pressuring them to own up to their policy to kill indiscriminately, the authority coming from the President. In any case, my God, even if it was true, who is dumb enough to own up to something that’ll put your own head on the block?
(3) the female witness who appeared in Congress has material information missing in her account, that anybody with a brain could tell. Materially incomplete accounts do more harm than good, as, one, people who are watching or listening are propelled toward wrong conclusions.
Nothing therefore of what the politicians and media people said since the death of the teenager named Kian made sense. Who is to tell it was actually 10 men and 4 women (remember, the recording only shows the edge of the dragging scene such that there could be more than what appears on screen), two of whom were in police uniform the lucky ones caught on screen, who accosted a teen named Gian after a gang fight and brought him to a nearby alley where…in a corner they saw a dead body their age, which gave them such a scare they took off on all directions. What if that’s the true story of Kian, whose already dead body was found? Remember that reforms are like disturbing the mounds housing armies of red ants.
On the other hand, what became clear out of these young people’s deaths are the relentless attempts to confuse the nation, to shake the people’s trust, to switch off the sunshine, to nail the country in perpetual third world mode, to usurp a legitimate Presidency. What’s even more disturbing is, this is not just in Duterte’s time, but true in past administrations as well. The first responders, citizens’ first line of defense, are the Barangay LGUs thus when residents get murdered in or abducted from their own villages the Barangay LGU is the first one accountable- what measures did they put up to make the alleys safe? to secure and protect residents? do they actually believe that CCTVs on every corner is enough? Citizens are working hard to pay their salaries but they, for instance, tanods couldn’t even put themselves in between residents and their attackers? Why are LGUs not called on the Senate hot seat? We’re moving in circles when it comes to failures of LGUs.
What is clear is, those behind these attempts are traitors, not only to the legitimate leader, but also to the republic. They’re just lucky that while the law is hostile to such acts, this government, unlike those in the rest of the world, tolerates treachery and treason. Real impunity is when people and institutions get away with words and actions that debase, divide, demoralize, and destabilize the nation and government rather than promote reflection and learning for reform and growth.
The people’s eardrums are near bursting from continously hearing of accusations against one individual, the President, Duterte and past ones, of human rights violations. What about institutionalized – politicians’ and civil servants’ compounded – violations of people’s human rights as a result of dirty politics and plain laziness?
What is clear is, no politician truly cares who or how a citizen dies as their bodies are mere playgrounds for political power.
In the end, ang kawawa, those essentially ripped off of respect and dignity, victimized many times over, used, are people like Kian, the families they left behind, as well as the witnesses dragged into the public eye who have had no access to proper legal procedures hence justice.