[Y-SPACE] Philippine Purge: A Never-ending Bloodshed
by Maria Nicole Dominique Dimayacyac
"What if the purge happens in the Philippines?"
It was just a day ago when I watched the film Forever Purge and had that thought. If you are not familiar with the movie, 'Purge' is about the government authorizing an annual 12-hour period when all criminal activity, including murder, is legal. Its purpose is to allow people to vent their anger and hatred toward anyone, anywhere—lowering the country's crime rate. However, the purge is not for everyone, especially in the Philippines, as not everyone can afford the security for their lives and families. Filipinos, most especially the poor, cannot protect themselves from the government's fight to reduce crime in the Philippines. More so, only those in positions of power and wealth are protected.
If we will think of something that President Duterte became very true to his words, there is only one that comes up: Drug war.
“Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor. You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I'd kill you,” said the then-presidential candidate Duterte on his final campaign in 2016.
True enough, after winning the elections, shoot-to-kill was issued against those who will resist arrest.
There were two-pronged approaches to end illegal drugs: Project Tokhang and Project High-Value. Project Tokhang involves house-to-house visits to persuade drug suspects to stop their activities. Meanwhile, the latter focuses on illegal drug personalities and syndicates. However, contrary to how it should be, tokhang has become a death sentence for alleged drug users, particularly in poor areas.
According to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, there have been at least 8,663 drug-related deaths since the start of the anti-drug campaign of President Duterte as of June 2020. Human rights groups estimate that the death toll from the drug war could be as high as 20,000 to 30,000 if extrajudicial killings and collateral damages were included.
President Duterte's war on drugs did not just kill suspects that are not proven guilty yet but also innocent youths. To name a few: Althea Barbon, 4, died from gunshot wounds during a buy-bust operation against her father. Hideyoshi Kawata, 17, was shot to death for allegedly helping a drug suspect in a shootout. Kian delos Santos, 17, was killed in anti-drug operations for allegedly fighting back against an arrest. Carl Arnaiz, 19, was suspected of shabu and marijuana sachets. He was killed in a shootout between him and the police after allegedly robbing a taxi. Kristine Joy Sailog, 12, died from a stray bullet meant for an alleged drug suspect. Raymart Siapo, 19, was abducted and killed the day after a neighbor tagged him as a marijuana peddler. Rowena Tiamson, 22, was found dead with her hands tied and a cardboard sign saying, "Huwag tularan, pusher." These young people are more than just names and faces in a drug war's collateral damage; they are a son, a daughter, and most of all, a victim.
But how are all of these possible? Is there a purge happening in our country that we are oblivious about?
For years, people have been hearing this from the policemen to justify their killings. The question going around is if these individuals fought back or were they just one of those innocents killed.
"Do your job and I'll die for you. Do your duty, and if you kill 1,000 people in the process because you were doing your duty, I will protect you,” President Duterte said in 2016.
Under the 1987 Philippine Constitution Article 2 Section 3, “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the state.”
However, multiple cops are abusing their power under President Duterte's administration. Instead of serving and protecting the people, the authorities tasked them to sacrifice human lives in the name of the 'public good'.
Seven months ago, Police Senior Master Sergeant Jonel Nuezca killed a mother and son out of rage. Police Master Sergeant Daniel Florendo, Jr. fatally shot a retired military member suffering from post-traumatic disorder three months ago. A month ago, drunken Police Master Seargent Hensie Zinampan murdered a 52-year-old woman. The only silver lining in these tragedies is that the policemen were caught in a video. These are only a few of many rampant cases of abuse of authority on which people are aware of what and who should be held liable. With all that happened that went far against the law, abusive and corrupt policemen seem to outnumber the good ones.
In the film Forever Purge, there is no justice to fight for as a yearly 12-hour period encourages crimes. In the Philippines, where there is no such purge, the same thing still happens most of the time—justice is not served. Crimes were never legal in the Philippines, but offenders were never punished unless they were from the fringes of society. Rampant murder, socioeconomic inequality, and the wealthy and powerful preying on vulnerable communities are just a few of the film's and the Philippines' common denominators. All because a government is longing for a better country, innocent lives have been sacrificed. Ironic.
Perhaps a metaphorical purge is already taking place in our country, but unlike in the movies, only a few are aware of it and have been abusing it. We never know.
Maria Nicole Dominique “Nikki” Dimayacyac, 21, is a small girl with big dreams. She is a Journalism student at Cavite State University and a consistent Dean's lister who prefers feature writing over straight news writing.
YSPACE is a platform open for young writers to contribute their worth-sharing thoughts and stories to the world. It is a space for young people and by the young people which aims to promote a strong sense of empowerment and inspiration to young Filipinos.