A Deeper Loss

I realized yesterday that I haven’t added an entry about current events in my art journal for a while. The last one was from December 4, 2020. I came to a point where I just had to take a break from social media. Except to post food photos and browse through my favorite hobby groups, I stopped using Facebook. More importantly, I stopped consuming news from Facebook. The comments sections disheartened me. Not gonna lie, posts from friends supporting the drug wars disheartened me too. I feel like people aren’t seeing the human cost anymore, and I was losing faith that we would ever recover from this.

The change in our social media spaces was so distinct with the past presidential election. There was so much hate, so much misinformation and paranoia. All of a sudden, people couldn’t even agree that fighting for human rights is important for all humans. As in all of us. All of a sudden “human rights” became bad words. Words that triggers an “us versus them” attitude, prompting certain people to go on attack mode. All of a sudden I have friends who actually unfriended me, not even because I confront them over their politics (I try to do that only in person), or that I actively post a stream of anti-Duterte memes or articles on my wall (I don’t), but because I don’t agree with their politics. Many Duterte supporters openly resented democracy and freedom, which I found odd. We “wokes” and “liberal yellows” have “too much” freedom, they say. These people who grew up and thrived in an atmosphere of hard-earned freedom don’t want the same for their own children? Weird.

I think about the fact that the issue of extrajudicial killings have not compelled many Duterte supporters to think “hmm, is this even true”? I guess it’s easier to automatically believe that all operations in the drug wars are above board because the police say so. It horrifies me to be confronted with the fact that the distance between the poor and the privileged is so far that people can become so disconnected from it because it’s that far from their daily reality. That many can be unperturbed by persistent accusations that the state has turned against some citizens is very disturbing for me, until you realize that it has, in fact, happened before. Before DDS stood for “Diehard Duterte Supporters”, it was “Davao Death Squad”, after all.

I feel that this has blighted our land. Not just the miscarriage of justice but also the deadening of the senses to the loss of lives without due process. Does it not disturb us that people are allegedly being dragged out of their homes and killed? The answer of most people, apparently, is “it depends, saan ba sila nakatira?” Try to imagine people just ignoring the persistent issues surrounding the drug war if these controversial operations were to happen inside the walls of exclusive subdivisions and gated communities. I can’t imagine it.

In other places, governments try to heal drug addiction by rehabilitating the addict and trying to address societal ills that lead to drug abuse. In the Philippines, “drug addiction” is the blanket excuse to take out a bludgeoning instrument that indiscriminately strikes and kills. All people killed in the drug war are guilty until proven innocent, and there’s no great hurry to prove that innocence. The dead aren’t going anywhere, anyway. To grow insensitive to this just unmasks the fact that the poor are seen as less than human in this country, and the cost of human life has become so cheap that the sound of families crying is nothing more than “drama” and even mere children can be shot dead in the streets and people can just shrug and say “meh, collateral damage”.

I grieve over this.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.”
Proverbs 14:31