Yesterday was Facebook reactivation day, and what a day it is to see the newsfeed again. Congress has voted to give the Commission on Human Rights Php1,000 or USD20 for its next year’s budget. Obviously this is because the CHR has been vocal against the extra-judicial killings of drug addicts, including so-called collateral damage, under President Duterte’s watch.
It’s disgusting how illegal drugs can push people to commit the most atrocious crimes imaginable but one would wonder if the Philippine government could consider long-term solutions to drug addiction such as bolstering mental health in the country, or boosting the national budget for sports and recreation which is currently at less than 1%, or focusing on reliable rehabilitation institutions accessible to the poor.
Supporters of the killings in the country say that murdering drug addicts without due process would instill fear among other drug addicts but one would wonder if this is the case given the continuous reports of drug related crimes, which supporters use to argue for the need to kill them all – a rather questionable circular argument.
If this is what the Philippines is coming to, it is interesting how the country is shifting its values, not religious ones but moral. Filipinos – or the 80% who approve of the government’s activities – seem to be rewriting what has been deemed right or wrong especially when it comes to valuing human life. There is a lot of irony surrounding this issue, such as Filipinos cheering the killing of people in condemnation of, well, the killing of people. I personally know of people who without second thoughts would say, sige, patayin lahat yan (Go ahead, kill them all). What could be the implication of all these in the future? What does a Filipino value now? Is it cultural identity? Economic survival? Whatever it is, clearly, human life couldn’t be it. This isn’t even a self-righteous posturing, but a plain string of curious questions.
A staunch supporter of the administration explained to me recently that the president is a symbol of change and she indicated that not supporting the president is like not supporting the masses’ desire for change. But what kind of change does the government propose to build? One time I was interviewing an artist in California, and his thoughts on change made sense. He said that whenever he’s asked if his art can change the world, he would offer the response: but isn’t the world constantly changing? So this takes us to thinking: what kind of change do we want? What kind of Philippines are we aspiring for exactly?