A climate of fear

A SURVEY by the SWS published last week claims that most Filipinos are afraid that they will become victims of extra judicial killings. This finding came in the heels of President Duterte’s statement that the war against illegal drugs might need harsher measures. He did not elaborate and his defenders were quick to say that he does not intend to declare martial law.

Indeed, martial law in Mindanao has failed to prevent violence there within the six months than he said he would need. It has now stretched beyond the timetable and there appears to be no end in sight. People nevertheless are not complaining because they believe that the problems there cannot be easily cracked.

So is the fight against illegal substances. This is not a local problem but an international one that despite collaboration among nations, the problem does not seem to ease; it even expands considering the huge amount of money earned by the syndicates and the general breakdown of tradition and moral and spiritual values.

The crackdown against illegal drugs has caused the death of so many that claim they are innocent despite evidence to the contrary. The usual defense is an accusation of “planting of evidence” and violation of their rights. Lately though, the police had been careful in their operations and people seem to accept the police version.

But the operation against prohibited drugs is not the cause of the fear but rather the killings that cannot be clearly characterized as drug related or even due to political rivalry though strong political ambitions do make criminals of otherwise good men.

There are also killings that are perpetuated by the insurgent communist groups but the NPA is quick to claim responsibility. The military has been asking the politicians and businessmen not to succumb to extortion by the communists, but that is easier said than done because the military cannot be everywhere to protect the victims. We have said this many times but so far, the government forces are unable to protect the vulnerable.

The incidents I cited are in a grim way “normal” because they had become part of our daily life. Reading about them on a daily basis somehow makes these killings “as usual” and we become inured to them. Part of life, as it were, for truly killing takes place daily since time immemorial. What is probably eerie would be when there is no such violence, a wish forlorn.

But while we look at the national and international killings as part of human life, we are deeply concerned with the killings close to home. We were shocked with the ambush of Councilor Ricardo Tan and his, Nita, prompting the councilor to take an indefinite leave of absence that can result in his early departure from the Bacolod City council. Of course his staff remains functional but his physical presence is necessary. I think that it would be unwise on his part to tempt fate just for the sake of an office where he is ostracized and practically being eased out.

Then we had the ambush of the lawyer and her bodyguard that resulted in the death of the latter and the injury to the lawyer. While a case has been filed by the lawyer and in effect pinpoints the suspect, that is still unproven and the real perpetrators could be just out there probably in search of another target. These incidents, as of the others, had contributed greatly in creating a climate of dread.

Then when the fear seems to have abated, businessman Alex Yao was killed in a church yard. His wife survived but like in the case of Councilor Tan, the fear for the lives of the family is immeasurable.

I was in a dinner when a businessman asked whether another man is being targeted. How should I know? Then he mentioned another businessman on a supposed list of subjects for assassination. This man has already left the country, he said. That was a wise move regardless of whether there is such a list or not. He mentioned another name but I suggested better check that first.

Is there really such a list or is this being spread around just to create fear? But why sow the seeds of fear? Who is to gain? What can be done to end this fear?