CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 September 2018

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Children in crossfire of Philippine Inquisition

The death of two small children caught in the gunfire of the vigilante assassins sent to kill suspected drug users and peddlers is an unfolding tragedy. The shoot-to-kill policy that has claimed at least 2,500 lives in the past few months is a descent into hell. 

Five-year-old Danica Mae Garcia was shot dead when two men on a motorcycle stopped at the house of Maximo Garcia while he was having lunch with his wife Gemma and their two grandchildren in the village of Mayombo, Dagupan City.

They opened fire as he jumped up and ran out the back. Danica, his granddaughter, was shot in the hail of bullets the assassins fired at Maximo. He was hit three times, but survived and went into hiding. Danica died.

Maximo had been called to the office of the barangay district official to confess he was a drug user and sign a paper. He said he had long stopped using.

Althea Fhem Barbon, a four-year-old girl from Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, died also in a hail of gunfire from police when they opened fire on her father, Aldrick Barbon, from behind, while he was riding his motorcycle.

Althea was sitting on the gas tank in front of him. The bullets passed through Aldrick’s body and hit the child. He died and so did Althea. He was listed as a suspected drug seller.

The shoot-to-kill policy has divided the nation. There are those who want the police to uphold the constitution and follow the rulebook of investigation and due process based on evidence.

They want Universal Human Rights respected and the right to life upheld. They want the sanctity of their homes protected and safe from invasion without a proper search warrant.

They want their families protected from harm and violence and false charges and abuse of authority. They want a civilised society under the rule of law. They want their constitutional rights to be honoured.

There are also those who support a shoot-to-kill policy where no evidence of a crime is needed to mark a suspect for a hail of bullets. No warrant or proof of guilt or innocence needed. All those named as suspects are simply regarded guilty merely because someone says they are guilty.

The death list is a call to action by paid assassins, police and now, under the emergency powers, the military.

Local district officials and law enforcers draw up death lists mostly based on hearsay. It is like the age of the inquisition. You are called to confess your crime and sign a paper, that is your death warrant, and you must accept the punishment.

No trial needed. Such a policy has left anyone and everybody vulnerable to be listed as a suspect and marked with a death sentence for any reason or none.

The door is open to those with a grudge or desire to remove a rival, enemy or competitor. Just denounce them as a drug pusher. Then vigilante killers will shoot them and leave a placard with the words, “I am a pusher.” There will be no questions, no investigation. Case closed before it is opened.

It is a policy that has put the power of hearsay in the place of evidence. It has bypassed the rule of law and entered the realm of lawlessness. The gun has replaced the courtroom and the balance of right and wrong.

There is no need to listen to the pleas of innocence or recognise the truth. No more pleas of guilty or not guilty, no more the presentation of evidence and the rebuttal. There is no place for doubt, reasonable or otherwise.

There is no need for the passing of judgment. It is already done once your name is listed. Sentence is passed with a nod and a promise of payment and the motorbike killers target their quarry. Such is the process of extrajudicial justice.

While the attention of government is apparently focussed totally on the war on drugs, abuse crimes against children is increasing.

The abduction of children by human traffickers who take them from their villages or pick them up on the streets in order to on-sell them into thriving and ever increasing sex bars and brothels goes on right before the noses of the authorities.

This is not new. It is the cruel sex slavery that has been common and ongoing in The Philippines for 50 years.

The rights of the children and young people are being violated daily with slow, spiritual death and, at times, by physical death as well, as illegal drugs and HIV-AIDS spread among the enslaved young sex workers.

The new danger of the Zika virus is also being sexually transmitted.

The sex industry is run on illegal drugs. Shabu (meth) and other drugs are available in the sex industry, sex bars and brothels to elate the customers and keep the young girls docile and submissive.

It is a business that is not a target of the war on illegal drugs. The girls are victims and can be rescued by the authorities, helped recover and testify against the operators and pushers.

Justice can be done under the rule of law, but not under the rule of the gun.

 • Father Shay Cullen