The Long View: Freedom from fear


Freedom from fear

You may have noticed the Inquirer Briefing last December 3, which mentioned Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear.  Two surveys of the SWS (September and December) suggest that fear is widespread, in terms of public opinion on the so-called “War on Drugs.”

There are some questions that aren’t really questions, because people end up wanting to give socially-acceptable answers (for example, everyone hates corruption; but probe futher and quite a larger number might admit to paying bribes). Approval or disapproval for the so-called war is one of those questions that only has one acceptable answer: approve! Which is why in September, even as a thumping majority expressed satisfaction (85%), a vast majority said drug suspects shouldn’t be killed (74%).  Even then, the public overwhelmingly disapproved of the some-must-die-so-most-will-be-saved argument of those waging the war.

The recent December survey made the contrast even more vivid: a similar, thumping majority expressed satisfaction with the drug war (84%). A huge majority then saying they feared they or a loved one might end up killed (78%). Add to this a public either unsure of (42% undecided), or frankly disbelieving of (29%), the police (28% more or less believe the cops), and yet supportive of the president and his top people (85% satisfaction with administration’s efforts) while also saying they agreed there’d been a reduction in drug-dealing in their area (88%). A clear message: the jury is out on the police, while little culpability has been assigned to those who ordered the police to act.

On December 20, Will Ripley of CNN tweeted that Manila had a rare night of no drug-related killings, giving funeral workers a break –on the same night that the Manila Police Department happened to have its Christmas Party. Readership and viewership of the news is usually very low during the holidays, so it’s entirely possible the teenager killed in Pasig on the 6th, the 5 year old slain on the 11th, the three killed Manila on the18th, a 12 year old girl killed during Simbang Gabi on the 21st, three in Mandalyong on the 22nd… Individual tragedies turned into mounting statistics.

That same day, the 22nd, along N. Domingo St. in San Juan City, firetrucks mounted a noise barrage to demand justice for a volunteer firefighter killed in a Tokhang operation. Let us not forget that there have been voices raised in opposition to a campaign that has been waged with maximum lethality and a constant disregard for planning, evidence, redemption, or justice. They may be relatively few but it is always so in a time of fear. And in a time of few choices.

We grant a monopoly on armed force to the authorities in the expectation it won’t be used on a whim, to inflict tyranny or to be wielded without the public having recourse to the institutions and procedures of justice. We expect everyone up and down the line of authority to use force as an instrument of last resort, with regret and awareness of accountabilty. When force is deployed in fulfillment of quotas, then policeman, bureaucrat, and citizen alike become cogs in a lethal machine thirsty for statistics, however obtained.

The barangay captain instructed to produce hundreds of “confessions” (involving hundreds of people given a choice only to pick their degree of guilt, and never to plead innocence); the patrolman sent on a mission to liquidate, because if there are too few liquidations patrolman and precincpt captain and even provincial police chief all risk reassignment; the soldier enticed with raises and cash to join the hunt; all these represent people at the base of the pyramid of the state. In a generation or less, they will –or aspire to—be at the apex of that pyramid.

Along the way, having given in now, they must, for the remainder of their careers, uphold what has been done. The ties that bind them are the same that will cut deep into our collective wrists for decades to come, regardless of whether the present dispensation goes out with a whimper or a bang.

Twitter: @mlq3 FB:


Manuel L. Quezon III.

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