The Long View: Liquidations



There are four campaigns of liquidation taking place. The first, biggest, and whose boldness made all the rest possible, is the so-called “war on drugs,” establishing that the Roman maxim “in times of war, the law falls silent,” is true.

The second, and most closely related to the first, is the liquidation of local officials that from time to time takes place. The third and fourth are connected to each other, because they represent a different, older war: the liquidation of the above-ground Left, for whom neither ideology nor activism can ever be a justification for being murdered. This was another war embarked upon when the President and the Communists’ efforts to coalesce collapsed in mutual recriminations. The President bestowed on the armed forces the same grant of absolution he formerly bestowed on the police: So long as the President’s broad instructions are followed (always claim there was armed resistance in response to an operation and ensure no witnesses), impunity would be rewarded not only with pardons if required, but equally if not more importantly, the President assuming any and all responsibility for the consequences of his declarations of war against drugs and Communists.

And so it has come to pass that in recent days alone, a Feb. 20 video surfaced in which a policeman in Bukidnon was recorded on video firing a gun thrice before placing it beside the body of a drug suspect. Policemen, too, have been implicated in the assassination, in broad daylight on a public road with dozens of witnesses, of Ronald Aquino, mayor of Calbayog. Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento pointed out that uniformed policemen with bonnets and M-203s, participated in the attack.

Lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen, part of a team of NUPL lawyers, succeeded in having a Bacolod court quash a search warrant issued by Judge Angelo Karlo Guillen in 2019 against seven persons for their political activities. The Bacolod court did an ocular inspection of the property in question and determined that the search warrant wasn’t specific enough. The thing is, Guillen himself had been attacked last week, and is recuperating in hospital. He is lucky to be alive; nine political organizers were liquidated on March 7. Beyond this, lawyers themselves have become a category ripe for liquidation themselves (one documentation counts 56 slain lawyers in 55 months) with two former Supreme Court justices, four current or retired deans, or a total of 62 lawyers, focusing on a particularly hard-hit subset of lawyers: petitioners against the anti-terrorism law. Thus, the 62 lawyers have petitioned the Supreme Court to do something to stop the attacks against those questioning the law before the courts, and to issue a TRO against the law.

To repeat: the President created the conditions for a sense of impunity to embolden the police and armed forces, by taking on any and all moral and legal responsibility himself, and guaranteeing impunity to those who obey his orders (and conditions: being careless and antagonizing public opinion will lead to a withdrawal of presidential protection). He also perfected the manner in which the bloodlust of the loyal are inflamed, and that bloodlust channeled into a concerted campaign of liquidations. Timing, as they say, is everything. We saw it first on Aug. 14-18, 2017, when the police engaged in what was supposedly a “one-time, big-time” campaign against drugs, but which claimed the life of Kian delos Santos in such a manner as to force a temporary pause in the killings. We have seen it again on March 7, 2021, this time, against Communism. Surely no one has forgotten, yet, the fate that befell local officials against whom the President thundered and shrilled.

In all these cases, the gun has served as judge, jury, and executioner, when the state itself has abolished death as a penalty for crimes, and has abolished political crimes (such as membership in once-prohibited organizations) that used to have penalties attached to them. The President, with his primeval, assistant fiscal’s approach to the law, has seized on the crude formula of the law’s latitude given to killing in self-defense, a slim defense only made possible first, by the manner in which all institutions have become enfeebled by public approval or indifference to the bloody results, and second, by blurring the distinctions between armed rebels or drug syndicate goons, and the vast majority of victims who, being dead, are conveniently unable to testify they could not be, by any stretch of the imagination, either of these two categories of people.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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