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Becoming Davao

By: Radel Paredes August 04,2018 - 08:10 PM

Radel Paredes

As if taking cue from the President’s promise to keep the drug war “relentless and chilling,” the spate of killings purportedly aimed at drug personalities have dramatically increased here in Cebu.

While in most cases, the assassins were not identified, some of the killings were part of legitimate police operations often conducted so clumsily, it once led to the death of a three-year-old boy.

And yet, like the corpses of casualties, the dossiers on these crimes pile up on the desks of investigators and prosecutors, doomed to be forgotten.

One of the latest controversies was that alleged assassination attempt on a barangay councilor, whose driver was fast enough to shoot first at the would be killer riding with another suspect on a motorbike.

That victim, who the driver accused of drawing a pistol first, turned out to be a cop.

The councilman, who claimed to have been receiving threats, said his driver was only trying to defend themselves from their would-be assailants.

The police, on the other hand, said the victim was only doing his job of keeping an eye on the councilman who they now claimed to be part of the President’s list of suspected drug personalities.

And, as if this bloodbath was not enough, two men were seen dead near the road in Balamban last Thursday.

This came just few days after four people, including a 16 year old girl, were also executed and dumped in different places in Mandaue.

Now Cebuanos wonder who would be the next victim in this shooting spree.

Church leaders and local officials have raised concerns regarding the public’s growing numbness over the killings and the utter disregard of the safety of innocent people.

In one incident, masked assassins brandished their weapons in the presence of children and their teacher in a classroom as they searched for their target in a school.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña asked if Cebu is still a safe place while Governor Hilario Davide, III, said that we are turning into a “criminal city.” Even local tourism officials are wary that the killings may create an impression that Cebu is no longer a safe place to visit.

This situation in Cebu seems to mirror the brutal killings that marked then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s term in Davao.

At first the local media criticized the use of summary execution to “cleanse” the city of drug pushers and other criminals.

But when they start killing the critics in the media, the city was wrapped in silence as no one dared to speak against the murders anymore.

Duterte and his supporters quickly exploited this lack of dissent to show critics outside Davao that residents there actually approved the bloody campaign and were happy at the result, a clean and disciplined city free from crime.

Filipinos outside Davao were impressed.

Davao was the Philippine version of Singapore, the archetype of the reformed city.

When Filipinos elected Duterte as President, it was because we wanted him to turn the whole Philippines into a nation like Davao. We wanted him to use the same iron fist, the same bloody campaign to rid the nation of criminal elements.

That is our social contract with him. But not being residents of Davao when these killings happened, we did not know the actual cost of its “peace and order.”

We forgot that not all of the casualties were criminals. Some were members of the media, politicians from the opposition, and, of course, lots of innocent civilians.

So now, Cebu is following Davao in a path drenched in blood.

We are still free to speak out in local media that, thankfully, is still too diverse and much harder to control by just one man.

But this privilege might not last long. Silence may soon creep into this city, the silence of fear and denial.

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