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BEYOND THE FOUR WALLS: Reflecting on the killings for “better Philippines” 

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 July) – The world is very opinionated, thanks to social media.

Even a nine-year old may now react directly to a shared post on a politician’s decision or a starlet’s narcissism on her selection as the sexiest. And a minor can draw direct and sometimes unkind responses, too. This child could be a victim of cyber-bullying or even drug addiction.

I think many people flaunt their views like experts, analyzing through almost every matter in the public sphere to the extent of intellectual exhibitionism. Of course, this shows a vibrant and healthy democracy. But I am curious if they used an iota of reflection before clicking the “post” button. No harm intended for real experts, some of them my friends, who take time out from their busy schedule to help us make sense of what’s going on.

To a certain extent, I admit I, too, had become a provider of this content. My Facebook selfies draw mixed reactions. That is why sometimes, upon rare moments of reflection, I withdraw; I choose to mortify my views and my energy for expression. Our tendency to hyper-document ourselves is fueled by technology. Others say it’s due to a shrewd sense of self. When I get a slap in the face, I hold off. It is not because I am afraid to express; maybe I am just allergic or cautious to commit what I thought are the things I abhor.

I know this is dangerous. This is self-censorship. This is censorship. To a large extent, it affects how the discourses around are going on. Some people’s silence or refusal to stand up and defend what they think is their right and what is right, is causing us a lot of trouble. The reason why some lousy and stupid initiatives run on public funds is because we were not there when these were conceptualized; we did not take part in shaping these moves or if we were not consulted, we failed to assert.

I remember the face of a tribal elder when I asked her a question about her expertise in their tribe’s council of elders. She froze and glued her eyes calmly at me, the wall, and the shrubs outside from the window. For three minutes she remained silent. She said she had to recollect her thoughts because whatever she would say to me will probably reach thousands if not million others.

She reflected on her thoughts. I want to do that. There is already a surplus of opinions milled around on the killings of suspected drug users and pushers in the country.

That’s why it took time for me to add to the discussion on the killings. I’m not new to this language. I have gotten used to comment, react, and take a stand on media killings. There must have been a hundred statements I made on the killings to express our stand: end impunity.

Unlike in media killings, where some people I know are the victims, in drug related killings I have no love lost for the suspects. In fact, I detest them because they have addicted many of our community’s talented and able-bodied young and old people alike.

Let’s not be confused. I share the goal to stop drug addiction. We all love to have a peaceful, healthy and productive community, say nation. We all want to raise talented, agile, and smart young people. We don’t want to see them wasted on MJ or shabu. We all want the pushers, traders, and producers to go bankrupt, and languish in jail or burn in hell. We all want the criminals to be punished.

But I want to ask if we also want the killing spree to happen.

Lately, news abound on the surrender of pushers and users for fear of summary execution. I heard the curfew hours being observed. At one point, as I consumed my camote cue snacks near Dr. Jose Rizal’s statue in the city plaza, a mobile announcement was aired from a small multi-cab.

“Gipahibalo ang mga kabataan ug mga hingkod nga lumolupyo niini nga barangay nga nigamit og nagpayuhot sa gidiling droga. Nga modangat sa buhatan sa barangay og magpalista. Gipahimangno-an kamo nga taman na lang sa petsa ….” (Informing all drug users and pushers in this barangay. Visit the barangay hall and enlist. Reminding you that the deadline is on…)

The rest was inaudible. Or maybe the sweet potato from Impalutao was really delicious or I was just very hungry.  “Surrenderees” came in hundreds (in other barangays at least).

The media reports on the killings were very graphic on national television. Recently, a photo on the Inquirer drew the President’s ire for allegedly being dramatic. It’s surreal.

My tipping point, however, was when I read news for our radio station’s morning news program to pitch for someone absent. Someone was shot in a barangay after he did not enlist in the barangay hall. Is this justice? This is appalling and it is getting nearer by the day.

I remember our desire to be illegal drugs-free. I remember the 9-year old child reacting on Facebook who could be a victim.

But there is an aftertaste to the killings. I sensed it is cast to be a cure for the drug problem, but isn’t it also a poison to something else?

In the mouth of a child who watched news on TV about a suspected pusher lying dead on the street: “Unsay iyang sala?” (What’s his fault?) An elder replied: “Bad man siya. Namaligya siya hilo.” (He is bad, he sold poison).

“Pagnaay sala patyon diay? Horror lagi noh?” (If you have done wrong, you will be killed? That’s horrible!) the child added.

I want to believe I am just expressing an opinion here. There are people who are entrusted to keep peace and order in our land and they should know better.

But I remember we want to teach the value of life to any child. I am afraid my simple efforts to demonstrate the values of fairness, truth, justice, humaneness, respect, life-giving, among other things will be undone each day by the image of the killings. Where is justice and decency in the killings? Even the simplest tribes who live in the remotest villages have the concept of justice.

Any day, news organizations will have a head count of the victims. I’m afraid we get thousands in a month considering the number of people involved. Is this what we wanted? Is this the “better Philippines” we are talking about?
I’ll get it straight: I want our Mindanawon President to succeed. I’m proud of most of the things he stands for. I want Filipinos to prevail against all odds, drugs included. We want criminals punished for their violations.

But as I was reading the news story on air that day, at the back of my mind was a thought: I don’t feel good doing this. How many more stories do we tell announcing the death of a suspect by summary execution (state-sponsored or inspired)?

As I was about to give my extro spiel, the word “violation” flashed in my mind. I was imagining seconds of dead air.
I hope we are not fanning our appetite to kill in our aspiration to save lives, just so we can have a “better Philippines.”

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Walter I. Balane teaches journalism and economics at the Bukidnon State University and manages the university’s radio station.)

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