Friday, December 30, 2016

The Pain of the Poor: Duterte, stop this slaughter.

                                                  Too poor to live, too poor to be buried

Extrajudicial killings in the Philippines continue without truce. The following account painfully recounts a campaign to eliminate drugs which has lost all reason. The poor and the innocent die, the rich escape. 
Gunmen hunting drug suspect kill 7
3 teenagers, pregnant woman among fatalities as main target escapes
Gunmen opened fire on two shanties in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, on Wednesday night while hunting down a drug suspect. Their target escaped, but seven people, including three teenage boys and a pregnant woman, were killed in the shooting. The victims were neither drug users nor criminals, their mothers said. Their only fault was that they were friends of the drug suspect. Seven people, including three teenagers and a pregnant woman, were shot dead on Wednesday night by armed masked men looking for a drug suspect in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.

“These boys are innocent. They killed our boys,” the mothers of Jonel Segovia, 15; Sonny Espinosa, 16; and Angelito Soriano, 16; told the Inquirer.

According to the police, the gunmen’s real target was Jay-R Santor, a drug suspect who earlier surrendered to authorities under the government’s “Oplan Tokhang.”
At 9 p.m. Wednesday, the masked men who were on motorcycles did not know where to find him so they fired into the two adjacent shanties in Phase 8, Barangay 176 owned by Santor’s parents.
The teenagers, along with their friends, Kenneth Lim, 20; and Edward Villanueva, 18; were in one of the shanties where a dance party was in full blast. Lim was also killed while Villanueva was wounded and taken to a hospital for treatment.
In the other shanty, three of Santor’s relatives—his mother Cristina, 45; brother Ednel, 22; and sister Analyn, 28, who was pregnant—died. Santor, meanwhile, reportedly escaped by diving into the creek behind their house.
“My son just turned 16 and they killed him like a chicken, as if he were an animal,” said Espinosa’s mother, Maria Isabelita.
When interviewed by the Inquirer, she, along with relatives of the other victims, were standing outside Crystal Funeral Parlor where they were begging authorities to release their kin’s bodies so that they could go to another establishment with cheaper rates.
According to the teenagers’ mothers, none of their children were drug users or had criminal records. Their only fault was being friends with Santor, they added, angry at claims that the boys were involved in the drug trade.
Espinosa turned 16 last month while Soriano turned 16 in September. Segovia, on the other hand, just turned 15.

Abby, Soriano’s sister, said
“But my brother does not use drugs. He does not even smoke cigarettes because one time, we caught him smoking cigarettes and we beat him up. So he stopped. Now they telling us he’s using drugs?” Abby said.
One thing the boys had in common was poverty, the reason why they were killed, according to Maria Isabelita, Espinosa’s mother.
“If the suspect is rich, they’re set free. If they’re poor, they end up sprawled on the street,” she said.

Maria Isabelita and the other relatives had another complaint as well. “Why do they want us to pay P40,000 when we can pay just P7,500 at another funeral home? We are poor, we don’t have money. Our children already died and they still want to rob us,” she said.
Hours after the massacre, she and the other kin of the victims were pleading with the police and employees of North Star Funeral Homes—the police-accredited funeral home which earlier picked up the dead—to turn over the bodies to them.
Since they were not given the right over their lives, maybe the families could have, at least, the right to handle their death?
When the funeral home refused, the families blocked the vehicles bearing their dead. “You cannot take them and make us pay a fortune. We have no money to pay you. Give us our dead,” said Segovia’s sister, Jenny.
However, the remains were taken to Crystal Funeral Homes instead. But before the bodies could be unloaded, the victims’ families arrived and blocked the process.
Another standoff started, this one lasting from midnight to 1:45 a.m. until the police and funeral home management relented, finally releasing the victims’ bodies.
Philippine Daily Enquirer, 30th December

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Pain of the Innocent

We oppose the death penalty as archaic and ineffective, it is inhumane and cruel beyond measure. But what of the execution of the innocent. Justice everywhere is fallible, even, or above all, when based on eyewitness account. There is a particular horror to execution of the innocent. An independent enquiry carried out by one European country, at a time when the death penalty was in use, reported a ten per cent error rate. Occasionally, by immense stamina of the condemned, by good fortune, and  by the lingering doubt of the judiciary, a death penalty is found to be fallacious.. Reading of such a case may help in a season of happiness to recall the ultimate injustice and the immense suffering entailed:            
Susan Kigula, of Ugandan origin, spent sixteen years in a prison in her country, including fourteen on the corridors of death.
In 2000, she was accused of killing her husband with a machete. She was 20 years old. No one wanted to believe her when she explained that burglars had entered her house in the middle of the night and assaulted her family, even though she was taken unconscious to hospital, with a severe neck wound.
Two years later, she was sentenced to death. "Waiting in prison for the final date, counting the days until death, suffering the anguish of never seeing her family again, is the worst," says the Ugandan woman.
"Hope gradually disappears.”
To ward off despair, Susan Kigula began to educate herself behind bars. She achieved the equivalent of a baccalauréat and thus gained access to higher education. "When a prisoner cannot read or write, she cannot even follow her own record or read her rights," explains Charlène Martin, head of the "Educate" program of the association "Ensemble contre la peine de mort".  Driven by a desire to see her daughter, aged one year at the time of her arrest, Susan Kigula completed law studies at the University of London, the same distance program that Nelson Mandela had followed.
"I was determined to learn, because it was the only way to fight my ignorance and thus escape death"
Based on her new knowledge, she was able to initiate a pioneering appeal before the Ugandan Constitutional Court, for herself, but also for 416 other individuals. The judges noted on 10 June 2005 that the systematic condemnation of the death penalty for certain crimes prevented taking into account of extenuating circumstances.
They also condemned the interminable waiting for a cruel and inhuman death.
Since her release in January 2016, Susan Kigula has been campaigning for abolition of the death penalty. She shares her experience with young pupils, "Education and awareness are the keys to success in the fight against the death penalty," she explains. "It is important for young people to understand the implications of a death sentence. It is an irreversible decision, a psychological and physical torture, a hidden vengeance of justice, the useless death of a possibly innocent human being." "Anyone can be sentenced to death for any crime, according to the law and the government of the country," says Susan Kigula. "It is enough that the evidence is convincing, even if it is manipulated or false." She wants to continue living in her country, even though Uganda has deprived her of sixteen years of life; "I've never been a criminal and I do not intend to be a criminal. We need to correct what is wrong for the country to move forward and provide a better future for its citizens" she declares.

Condensed from an account in "Le Monde", 21st October 2016   



Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Women take a lead in opposing Duterte killings

President Duterte's policy of extrajudicial killing of alleged drug dealers is being fiercely opposed by two women who are influential politicians. The prominence of these women in opposing the murders is a wonderful expression of political action and bodes well for Philippine government. It is also appropriate that women, who give birth to all human life, take a lead in fighting for its preservation.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Hecatomb of Duterte in Philippines grows

The bloody and chaotic campaign against drugs of President Rodrigo Duterte began when he took office on June 30. Since then, about 2,000 people have been slain at the hands of the police alone. The image above shows the location in 49 Manila killing fields where the bodies of 57 victims have been found  during 35 day investigation by a writer from the New York Times (December 7).
The mania of this modern Dr. Goebbels, is shown by his recent threat to include human rights critics who oppose his killings among his victims.