Today’s observance of Human Rights Day gains a certain significance in this country for this year especially under this administration, which drew criticism for its relentless, take-no-prisoners war on illegal drugs and its support for the burial of the late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Despite a timed rally by diehard supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, last Wednesday’s rally to denounce the Marcos burial at the Plaza Independencia in Cebu City drove home the message that both young and old alike have not forgotten the Marcos legacy of corruption and rights abuse.
The rally, one of many mass actions organized and held across the country that was timed to mark the annual Heroes Day observance, was a repudiation of the Duterte administration’s adamant position that the country must move on from the collective acrimony caused by the Marcos legacy.
Taking advantage of public sentiment, the Communist New People’s Party-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA) said it would make the Marcos burial an issue in the peace talks, but whether their stance would gain currency with the Filipino people has yet to be determined.
For now, the pressing concern remains to be the dubious nature of the police operations that had claimed the lives of more than a thousand drug suspects who supposedly resisted arrest, and the war on terror in which the administration raised the terror alert that caused not a few Filipinos to voice concern of a creeping martial law declaration.
We don’t know if the public can sustain the momentum and energy shown in last Wednesday’s rallies and if public sentiment against the Marcoses’ seemingly imminent return to the Palace remains high.
It didn’t help any that President Duterte was quoted as having threatened to execute rights activists if their continued defense of drug suspects worsen the drug menace in the country.
What the President fails to realize or continues to ignore amid the rising body count of casualties is that not only will the deaths of drug suspects not deter the drug trade, it may only result in a witchhunt in which drug dealers like Kerwin Espinosa can accuse any public official of being a drug protector without benefit of evidence refined from hours of meticulous investigation.
Last time we checked, we are still a country of laws and due process, which requires that the accuser produces incontrovertible proof against the accused in a court of law before he or she is brought to justice. But as the spate of congressional hearings had shown, any public official deemed as a drug protector is shamed in public. Due process, to them, had become a mockery.
It’s still early on in the Duterte presidency, but things are looking grim for believers of due process and the rule of law.
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