Criminals or oppressed people?
"We have an unjust system shaped by many factors."
During his last State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talked about the things he did for the past years. This includes bringing justice to the drug-dependents’ victims.
Duterte was both proud and enraged by what the state has done to these drug addicts, whom he labeled as criminals. He claimed that he was doing it for the sake of justice.
Critics and opponents see otherwise.
In June, with an estimated number of 12,000 to 30,000 deaths in the brutal war on drugs since 2016, International Criminal Court special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda urged the ICC's pretrial court to allow an investigation into the drug war deaths.
These statistics are significantly higher than the 7,000 stated in the Philippines’ official report. Duterte refused to cooperate with the supposed investigation.
The Philippines already had a death penalty since the Spanish colonial period. In 1986, Dr. Jose Rizal, the country's national hero, was shot in public. Electrocution was first used in the Philippines during the American rule
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved a law in 2006 lowered the maximum sentence to life imprisonment, in which the Catholic church had a big influence on, thereby eliminating the death penalty in the Philippines for the second time.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) conducted a poll of 890 people on death row in 2004. FLAG discovered 63 percent had recently worked in blue-collar jobs in industries including farmland, transportation, and labor.
The execution of prisoners convicted of major crimes by the Philippine government back then did not solve the problem of criminality. The system was fueled by a variety of influences such as economic hardship, wealth injustice, wage stagnation, and the deterioration of explicit and implicit sociocultural power mechanisms.
On the other hand, Duterte has created his own version of the death penalty during his regime. We cannot argue that criminals in society do have their victims. But these criminals are not confined to drug-dependent people only. Any individual who has been hurt or harmed as a result of a criminal or unethical conduct should be deemed a victim.
Having that said, those 12,000-30,000 people were not suspects. They, too, were victims of oppression -- just by a different system.
The author is a journalism student at the University of Santo Tomas.