We, in the human rights umbrella KARAPATAN-Cebu, support the call of the Roman Catholic bishops in their recent Pastoral Letter to defend human rights and the most fundamental right to life. Concomitantly, we also support their call for a grand procession dubbed as “Walk for Life” on Feb. 18, 2017 in opposition to the spate of vigilante-style killings in the country and proposals to revive death penalty.
Like the bishops, we too are concerned with the spate of killings in the campaign against prohibited drugs. This war on drugs has hurt the poor the most even as the well-entrenched drug lords protected by scalawags in uniforms go about nonchalantly with their daily, dirty business.
But it is not only the ordinary drug users and petty drug pushers who has fallen victim to this spate of vigilante-type killings. In the guise of running after suspected drug offenders, government security forces have targeted trade union leaders, indigenous peoples and activists. The military, in particular, has appropriated the war on drugs, to harass suspected communists and their sympathizers. In fact, last October alone, four members of a farmers group in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan were arrested and jailed on trumped-up drug charges. Since July, 18 farmers, lumad leaders and activists have already died at the hands of soldiers and militiamen in the same period of supposed ceasefire declared unilaterally by the AFP. In the said period, 85 farmers and activists were illegally arrested, 27 of whom were detained.
While we don’t doubt the President’s conviction at stamping out the drug menace, we oppose his militarist approach as this is prone to abuse and, in fact, being abused by hoodlums in government and police-linked criminal syndicates.
We believe the solution does not lie in the killing of drug dependents and petty pushers, but in improving the economic conditions of the marginalized thru secured jobs with living wages, free education, health care, and land to till. It is only through the upholding of the socio-economic rights of our people can we as a people stamp out the illegal drugs trade.
It is therefore of supreme importance that the government explore immediately the concretization of socio-economic reforms, which is the next agenda of its peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front should the peace talks push through in April. Charting changes in the economic infrastructure of our country will not only spell the success of any war against illicit drugs but also in instituting real change as promised by the President in his campaign trail. ###