MANILA – The police has ceased to be the defender of the weak, and has turned into their enemy. This is according to Professors for Peace spokesperson Dr. Jayeel Cornelio, after noting that the back-to-back killings of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz and 17-year-old Kian Lloyd delos Santos, both in Caloocan, showed a pattern of young people being killed by the police.
On August 17, Arnaiz went missing after he left his family’s Cainta home to buy a midnight snack with 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman, a friend and neighbor. His body was found in a Caloocan City morgue 10 days later. Police claimed he had been arrested on the complaint of a taxi driver he had supposedly robbed, and was shot dead for fighting the cops.
“Makikita natin na the integrity of the police is called into question. Andun na kami na marahil ito ay mga rogue elements, or certain militant elements within the police force. Pero kung meron ka nang pattern and the police as an institution seems very slow in responding to this and to the many other deaths under investigation, then may problema na tayo sa integrity ng institution (We can see that the integrity of the police is called into question. Yes it is possible that there are rogue elements, or certain militant elements within the police force. But if you already have a pattern and the police as an institution seems very slow in responding to this and to the many other deaths under investigation, then we have a problem with the integrity of the institution),” said Cornelio, also the director of Ateneo’s Development Studies Program.
“So now the police becomes the enemy and no longer the defender of the weak. ‘Yun ang position namin ngayon (That is our position today). It becomes an opportunity for the Philippine National Police to question how far it is willing to go with elements who do not respect human rights?” said the Professors for Peace spokesperson in a phone interview with InterAksyon on Monday.
Professors for Peace is a group of 500 – and growing – academics from Philippine and international institutions who recently issued a statement seeking the overhaul of the government’s anti-drugs campaign.
Members of the informal organization include Ateneo de Manila University President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, University of San Carlos President Dionisio Miranda, Panpacific University North Philippines President Rhonda Padilla, De La Salle University-Manila President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC, and De La Salle Philippines President and former Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro FSC.
Professors for Peace was formed in 2015, when it issued a statement on the Mamasapano tragedy, where 44 members of the police Special Action Force on a mission to apprehend a Malaysian terrorist were instead killed in a clash with fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
As the police commandos sought to apprehend Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and two cohorts, they came under fire from the MILF, BIFF, and other armed groups. A total of 18 MILF fighters and five civilians were also killed.
Professors for Peace became active once more in the wake of the “unnecessary killings” due to the war on drugs.
They did not just organize themselves to condemn human rights violations, said Cornelio, but also to assert the importance of evidence-based interventions. Did they actually work?
“Ang pinakamahalaga sa amin ay kailangan merong batayan ang mga interventions ng mga pamahalaan. Hindi pwedeng out of emotions or out of whatever is popular or whatever is the sentiment of the public (It is very important to us that the government’s interventions have a basis. They shouldn’t be done out of emotions or out of whatever is popular or whatever is the sentiment of the public),” he explained.
For example, members of Professors for Peace had been looking at practices that had worked in other countries’ fight against illegal drugs.
“We want to contribute something positive to the intellectual discussion about the policy,” Cornelio said.
An example of such an initiative was the publication by the Ateneo School of Government of “War on Drugs: What Works and What Doesn’t Work” last year. These academics reviewed studies from Colombia, Indonesia, and Brazil, among others, who had faced similar problems.
Since the war on drugs being waged in the Philippines was focused on demand, and because the demand was coming from the poor, said Cornelio, the poor, including the youth, were being targeted by authorities.
“Which of course is ironic because this is supposed to be a policy that should help our future generations and the poor, pero nakakalungkot na sila mismo ‘yung tinatamaan (but it is saddening that they are the ones getting hit). They are the most vulnerable,” he said.
The publication showed that focusing on demand was not enough. Rather, authorities needed to pay attention to supply, too.
“‘Yung supply chain, kapag hindi ‘yun naputol, let’s say from China, so obviously, mahina ‘yung borders natin, obviously merong mga smuggling na nangyayari, so ang mangyayari, ‘yung demand will simply move somewhere else (The supply chain, if it isn’t severed, let’s say from China – so obviously our borders are weak – obviously smuggling occurs, so what will happen is, the demand will simply move somewhere else),” Cornelio explained. “So the supply chain will move to another location, to another sector of the population, and what that, in the end, would do, would create, is what we call the balloon effect.”
The drug problem would be reduced in Brgy. Payatas in Quezon City, for example, so residents would feel safer. But in the long run, Cornelio said, the supply chain would just move to another place where the police, military, and government interventions were weaker.
Another angle academics were looking at was the need for rehabilitation.
“Because right now, as we see it in the Philippines, it’s really about punishing the criminals. But in reality, because we do not see it as a criminal problem, we see it as a public health problem, therefore the focus of our intervention… based on the experiences of other countries around the world, is the need for greater attention for rehabilitation,” Cornelio said.
Filipinos had often been described as a resilient people, so why not capacitate drug dependents to become resilient? “They will bounce back, and we will have a stronger population like that,” he said.
He added that Professors for Peace would be glad to present and discuss their studies to lawmakers and even the police.
Read Professors for Peace’s statement below.
STATEMENT CALLING FOR A SENATE INVESTIGATION INTO THE DEATH OF KIAN LOYD DELOS SANTOS AND OVERHAUL OF THE GOVERNMENT’S ANTI-DRUGS CAMPAIGN
We, the undersigned academics, teachers, analysts and researchers are issuing this joint statement to call on the Senate to open an investigation into the death of seventeen-year-old Grade 11 student Kian Loyd Delos Santos.
Kian Loyd is among a growing number of children and youth who have been killed as a result of the government’s anti-drugs campaign. The long and still growing list includes 4-year-old Althea Barbon of Negros Occidental, and two 5-year-old children–Danica May Garcia, an honor student from Pangasinan, as well as Francisco Manosca, who was gunned down with his father in Pasay City.
Whether killed by police, or murdered, allegedly, by unknown assailants, the senseless deaths of so many of our youth and thousands of our citizens are a signal of the worsening environment of violence and lawlessness that now threatens the very communities that the anti-drugs campaign was supposed to protect.
We are deeply alarmed by the growing divide within communities as Barangay leaders are asked to draw up lists of suspected drugs-affected citizens who are then identified, rounded up, and in many cases later killed in either police operations or by unknown assailants.
We also note the evidence of continuous influx of illegal drugs into the country, notably from China. We are alarmed that too much attention has been given to punishing small-time drug users and pushers, but little has been done to prevent big-time drug smugglers from continuing to flood the country with illegal drugs.
We call on the Senate to investigate and consider the urgent need for a complete overhaul of the government’s anti-drugs campaign. Any such campaign should protect instead of harm our children and youth, include target interventions on the main sources of drugs, and value the rights of all Filipino citizens under a strong rule of law.
We recommend alternative and more evidence based strategies and policies to combat drugs. We urge government to place a greater focus on the root causes of drug use, the root sources of drug supply in the country, and the root issues of poverty and corruption that have aggravated the drug problem.
We emphasize, in particular the need for nonviolent, humane, holistic, health-based and community-based approaches to address drug addiction, as well as information and education campaigns to protect young people from falling prey to the menace of drug addiction.
We urge everyone not to forget the main reason why the country needed an anti-drugs campaign in the first place – to protect our citizens, particularly our children and youth, from harm.
For a list of signatories, go to peaceprofessors.wordpress.com.