Responsibility and hope
We Filipinos should not forget our values as people. Reading the news and social media postings of many, including the news that we hear from relatives, friends, and loved ones in the Philippines, it is undeniable that many have accepted the extrajudicial killings (“EJKs”) linked to Operation Tokhang and the government’s war on drugs as a “necessity” and a part of life in the Philippines.
Recently, majority of the members of the House of Representatives also voted to resurrect the death penalty.
The blame should not only be put against the incumbent president, Rodrigo R. Duterte, who during his campaign for the presidency and after he was sworn in as president vowed to “kill them”--- them referring to drug lords, drug pushers, and drug users. For almost nine months now, President Duterte continues to rally his supporters to support his drug war.
I am puzzled and perplexed by the way the Filipino people have accepted and tolerated the president’s iron-fist approach. I also wonder why many continue to believe that this approach will work and be effective in moving the nation forward. Countries like Thailand and Colombia tried the same approach before and came out unsuccessful despite the number of casualties that ended up six feet underground.
Have we forgotten the age-old Filipino proverbs “Kapag may buhay, may pag-asa” and “Hanggang buhay ang tao ay may pag-asa” which were handed to us by our ancestors many generations ago. Both of these proverbs tell us that while there is life, there will always be hope.
There is also the Filipino maxim that says “Kung buhay and inutang, buhay rin ang kabayaran” which implies that if a life was borrowed, the debt should also be paid with life.
This may sound like a good justification for the death penalty--- as in the law of retaliation during the ancient and barbaric times--- commonly referred to as “an eye for an eye.” However, if we analyze and reinterpret the maxim in this modern and civilized world, what we will see is a profound balance sheet and accountability approach.
The equivalent of accountability or responsibility in Pilipino is “pananagutan.”
Pananagutan goes deep into who we are because it is related to our “pakikipagkapwa-tao” (how we treat others).
Following the mantra of “Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko,” that popular Philippine public service television show in the 1970s hosted by Rosal Rosal and Orly Mercado, Filipino service providers and community-based agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area have adopted “Kapwa Natin, Pananagutan Natin” as their service principle and purpose statement during the 1990s.
Pakikipagkapwa-tao is one of the more important core virtues of being a Filipino. The meaning of kapwa is shared identity which on a certain level leads to shared responsibility and solidarity.
Hence, kapwa natin, pananagutan natin may mean caring for one another and in the larger context this helps promote a community of caring and responsible people.
How do we reconcile the concept of community and responsibility if we tolerate and accept EJKs as part of life in the Philippines? The same goes to accepting the death penalty if the penal punishment makes a grand return in the Philippines. Remember, the Philippines made a pact with the community of nations years ago against the imposition of the death penalty?
Let us not forget that we Filipinos are also responsible for the more than seven thousand deaths attributed to the drug war (if the Philippine government is indeed responsible for those deaths)--- because we are responsible for the lives of our “kapwa” and the families that the departed have left behind.
The Philippines cannot move forward as a nation if there is no accountability as to the more than seven thousand lives lost and the continued killings going on in the name of the war on drugs.
As long as there is life, there will always be hope. And for hope to grow and hopefully reach others in the community--- including the nation’s leaders--- there must be pananagutan first to protect and care for the lives of our fellow human beings--- our kapwa.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.