I started watching and I couldn’t look away. And way before the end of the short, silent black-and-white CCTV clip, I was heart-broken and angry as hell.
As the father of two college-age young men, I was mesmerized by the surveillance camera recording of the killing of Nick Russell Oniot. This was the 18-year-old Adamson University student who was waylaid by two older men on a street in Taguig last Friday, one of whom stabbed him 18 times until he bled to death.
Oniot would probably still be alive today if he had only handed his backpack to the robbers. But the young man chose to fight, refusing to give up his bag even after he was repeatedly stabbed by one of his assailants.
In the end, the robbers gave up and left Oniot, bloody and staggering—but standing, his backpack still safe in his possession. It was a victory that came at the cost of the young man’s life.
In his critical condition, Oniot tried to hale a passing van, which sped by without slowing. After he fell in a bloody heap, a resident approached but walked away after giving the dying young man a once-over from a safe distance, as if fighting to bring the young man back up again.
The Taguig police have reported that the two suspects in the fatal mugging of the student have both been arrested. The knife-wielder supposedly tried to grab the gun of one of the arresting officers, who then shot him dead.
I check my response to this development and find that I am not outraged. In truth, I wish the other suspect had grabbed a cop’s gun, as well, so that he, too, would have suffered the same fate.
I know that I am not alone in feeling the way I do. On social media, the TV news report that first showed the surveillance footage has gone viral, with commenters crying out for justice—and a lot more.
Crimes like the killing of Oniot have made people seek leaders who will keep us safe. The reason why Digong Duterte is president is because he, among all the other people who sought the highest office in the land last May, vowed to do just that.
Crimes like the killing of Oniot are also why people really don’t care about all the hypocritical weeping and gnashing of teeth from the so-called human-rights advocates. What about the rights of people like Oniot, they demand, who will protect them from those who took his life so they could get their hands on his cheap cellular phone and the few pesos in his student’s wallet?
Of course, those who are merely using human rights to push their political agenda cannot be expected to take the side of the killers of Oniot. Because they are really in it for political reasons, they know they cannot stand up for the slain suspect in this case, even if the perp’s death bore all the marks of an “extrajudicial killing” by the police.
I’d like to see them try, though. I’d pay to watch them reap the whirlwind of public anger and disgust.
* * *
Yesterday, the authorities were once again up to their old tricks, but in a way that is sure to get people mad at them. At the height of the dispersal of an anti-American rally in front of the US Embassy in Manila, a policeman in a van started running over protesters, speeding in reverse and forward, hurting three persons, including a woman who was pinned under one wheel of the police vehicle.
The violent dispersal was the second in as many days, in this supposedly enlightened time when extremists of all kinds are being welcomed into the mainstream. Last Tuesday, authorities used water cannon to disperse indigenous people who gathered in front of the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo to press for their rights to their ancestral land.
I thought violent dispersals were a thing of the past. And I thought protesters were now welcomed and ushered all the way into the presidential palace, where the president himself would listen to their demands.
I understand that the military is still unused to being the target of mass actions right outside their headquarters. And that the Manila policemen in charge of guarding the US Embassy have always acted more American than their most ardent flag-waving Stateside “brothers.”
But the superiors of the soldiers who used water cannon to disperse the protesting lumad and the cop named Kho who drove the killer police van need to discipline their men right away. This is, after all, a time when the entire politburo of the local communist movement can have dinner with the president in Malacañang and when both the MILF and the MNLF have become real partners of the government in the pursuit of lasting peace in Mindanao.
The police and the military, of course, need time to relearn their jobs and their true role in society. They must understand that they are the protectors of the people and not their oppressors.
In the same way that criminals should understand that they will no longer be able to get away with crime, the police and military must accept that the people are their allies, not their foes. To paraphrase Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, the times should already be a-changing, right?