I remember watching Narcos. At first, my friend kept blabbering about it, as if I would be interested in a story about a certain man named Pablo Escobar, who ran a massive cocaine cartel in Colombia. To be honest, I didn’t want to watch it, because I was fed up with the idea of fighting drug criminals, as if it was just a military campaign, as if it could be solved at the firing of a pistol. But I’m glad I watched it. I wasn’t happy whenever Pablo would assassinate an important government official, but it helped me understand that people would go to any length just to protect the ones they love, and to survive. And it strengthened my belief that violence cannot solve violence.
Just recently, Cesar Gaviria, then president of Colombia during the fight against Pablo Escobar, had an open letter of some sort to our president here in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. He explained that a war on drugs is a war that cannot be won. Of course, anybody could say that. But hearing it from someone who has already been there and had done that, is something. It makes one’s voice stand out from an ocean of opinions. And right now, Duterte’s war on drugs is on hold, for proof of corruption in the very ones who vowed to eradicate drugs.
That’s another thing. You see, I’d feel safer if I knew it’s the drug addicts and the criminals who want to do me harm. But if I found out that the very ones who swore to protect me and my best interests at heart are the same ones who could do me harm, then that’s an entirely different story. And I have my own tale to tell regarding that. Barely a month ago, my neighbor was arrested for allegedly selling drugs. To be honest, he did sell drugs before. But when Duterte won in the presidential election, he had to stop, for fear of what might happen to him. One day, after hiding inside their house for days, he went out to buy cement. Then he was cornered by the police. And one of them slipped in a P500 bill in his pocket, along with a pack of methampethamine (popularly known as shabu here in the Philippines). He kept screaming, saying that someone’s putting a packet of meth inside his pocket. But nobody listened, because it was the police themselves who conspired to do it to him. He was beat up to a pulp, and couldn’t bail. What’s worse is that they’re poor, and they could not afford a decent defense counsel.
There are already more than 7000 dead Filipinos in seven months of this war on drugs. And I have already lost count of how many of them were children, grandmothers, bright highschool students, even OFWs. They were innocent without a doubt. But somehow, they seemed to have been neglected, and were branded as mere collateral damage just to put an end to drug use.
Duterte was able to brainwash my countrymen, saying that it’s the worst problem that this country has. But the truth is, there are only relatively fewer drug users and pushers here in the country compared to others. Without a doubt, others have it worse. And according to reliable sources, my country only falls in the middle regarding crime index. And yet my countrymen wouldn’t listen.
But that, I could accept. What I couldn’t understand, is my fellow Christians’ support on this madness. They even want me to shut up, and to submit to the authorities. But to be honest, I am submitting to the authorities. In a democratic setting, the law is the authority, not necessarily the president.
I made many enemies from the Christian faith because of that. I could not support the drug war because I don’t consider myself clean enough to do so. Just like the ones being put to death, I am a sinner, worthy of punishment. It just so happened that I held on to the grace of God, fully realized through the sacrifice of my Savior on Golgotha 2000 years ago. Aside from that, I am no different from any criminal there is. I sin. I have been corrupted by evil, and had it not been for the kindness of God, I would never have repented. Not only that, but as an avid reader, I have learned through the bloody history of Germany, Russia, Indonesia, etc., that you cannot urge a person to be good at the point of a gun. Nowhere has it ever happened, and I don’t think the Philippines would ever be an exception.
And because I couldn’t see any progress in my being boisterous about opposing death penalty and extrajudicial killings, I began to zip my mouth. Despite the injustice that I kept seeing on the news, I kept quiet. I believed God was still in control, so I left it to God’s hands.
Now, the drug war is suspended, Colombia’s former president spoke out about the odds in ever succeeding to eradicate crime and drugs in the Philippines, and Duterte’s six-month campaign has expired. He may take all the time he needs, and kill as many as a million Filipinos, but crime and drugs will not be gone. Not until the root issue has been solved.
Poverty, covetousness, education, corruption – these are just some of the main issues that need to be solved first. But if I were to take it even further, I’d say it’s the lack of love, God’s love, that’s the main problem. Christians can have a profound solution to offer, and if they would only have the guts to speak up when our president is wrong, things would have turned out differently. If only we listened more to our King, our president wouldn’t have failed this much.
Today, evangelical groups are coming up with a stand on this, as they have realized that they really have to take a stand. It’s a bit late, but at least they have realized that their silence only allows the oppressor to move freely. Now, they are leaning against death penalty, just like the Roman Catholics here in the country.
I feel vindicated, albeit with a heavy heart. I said to my enemies before, “I wish you’re right, and I don’t have any problem admitting I’m wrong, as long as things turn out better.” It seems, that apart from God, and the repentance of the Church, things will never get better here in the Philippines. Jesus, come back here, please. And fast. Help.