Filipino students learn early on in their history and social studies classes about the people, the significant dates and places, and the events that helped shape the Philippines as a nation.
During the month of August for example, we remember the “Cry of Pugad Lawin” in 1896 that was led by Andres Bonifacio of the revolutionary Katastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (“Katipunan”). Before the Katipunan uprising, Bonifacio wrote a poem with the title “Katapusang Hibik ng Sangkatagalugan” (The last appeal of the Philippines)---
“Mother, in the east is now risen, the sun of the Filipinos’ anger, that for three hundred centuries we suppressed, in the sea of suffering and poverty.”
Then on August 13, 1898, poet Amado Hernandez wrote--- “Ganito ring araw nang agawan ka ng laya, Labintatlo ng Agosto nang saklutin ang Maynila,” in his work “Kung tuyo na ang luha mo, aking bayan,” as he expressed his thoughts, feelings and opposition to American colonialism and imperialism.
Fast forward to August 2017 and we are witnesses to the rare occurrence of a solar eclipse as the moon passes between the sun and the earth. For a moment, the bright sky darkens and where the sun should be, we see a black circle ringed by a halo of light instead.
In the Philippines the “dark skies” these days that people see and witness is not a natural phenomenon. I refer to the “obsession of killing people” in the name of the war on drugs perpetrated by unknown motorcycle-riding vigilantes and allegedly by some members of the Philippine National Police who have made numerous claims that the victims “resisted” and that they were left with no choice but to shoot and kill.
The family of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno, a human rights and democracy icon and a fellow detainee of Sen. Ninoy Aquino who was fatally shot at the airport tarmac on August 23, 1983, released a statement recently about the gross human and civil rights violations that are taking place in the Philippines in the name of the government’s war on drugs. The Diokno family stated---
"ENOUGH of the slaughter of mostly poor Filipinos. Enough of the perversions of law in the name of the war on drugs. Killings, rather than the arrests and prosecutions mandated in our laws, have become the standard operating procedure of law enforcement. The murder of Kian de los Santos, and the deaths of thousands before him, show how little the government values the lives of Filipinos, and how much contempt it has for the law.
It is time to speak out against the killings. Silence abets murder, and we will have none of both. The Diokno family, guided by the principles of our parents, pledges to stand for justice and human rights. We lend our voices to the raging cries of the thousands killed and call on the government to comply with the Constitution and laws of our country, and stop the bloody war on drugs, which has only resulted in death, and has not reduced the influx of drugs into the country. We invite all Filipinos to stand with us, for love of country, justice and human rights."
The archbishop of Manila, His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, also asked the Filipino people to reflect, to pray, and to act in response to the increase in the number of people who have been killed as a result of the “intensified war on drugs” in the Philippines.
It appears that the only strategy of the government is to “conduct police raids” in poor residential areas while it continues to ignore the need to seek a joint solution with the country that is said to be the primary source of illegal drugs in the Philippines. What about closing the access of big-time drug lords to the country’s piers and ports?
While illegal drugs remain a problem, the nation has lost its national focus on the more telling and important problems that it must face and tackle--- poverty, lack of education, territorial dispute with China, access to affordable health care, high-level corruption of government officials, Manila traffic, and unemployment--- problems that have made drugs attractive to some people because they feel hopeless.
The “crimes of the poor” became the national focus and agenda while problems that have caused more damage to the nation, to the people, and to the national psyche and soul of the Filipino people have been ignored and not dealt with.
Until next week!
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.