MANILA, Philippines – It's martial law minus the official declaration.
This is how Senator Leila de Lima described the Duterte administration’s seeming disregard of the rule of law in its fight against illegal drugs.
De Lima has long criticized the Philippine National Police for the spate of drug-related killings, which have breached the 2,000-mark as the administration entered its third month in office. On Thursday night, she slammed the PNP for its door-to-door campaign inside gated communities, without any search warrant.
“They are asking subdivision associations to allow PNP access to the gated communities of the more affluent among our people. Kakatok na po ang pulisya sa inyong mga bahay, at kapag hindi kayo nagpaunlak isasama na lang kayo sa isang listahan. Katulad ng pagsama nila sa aking pangalan on their so-called drug matrix,” De Lima said in a speech on Thursday, September 1.
(They are asking subdivision associations to allow PNP access to the gated communities of the more affluent among our people. The police will now knock on your houses and if you don't welcome them, they will just include you in their list. Like what they did to me, they included my name in their so-called drug matrix)
For the President’s fiercest critic, it is martial law even without the formal declaration.
The intensified war on drugs, she said, opens the country’s doors to becoming a “police state,” in which the government can easily search private communications and properties without a court order. (READ: Village 'TokHang': Disadvantage to say no to cops – NCRPO chiefs)
“I can only characterize such a situation as martial law without the formal declaration,” De Lima said.
“Precisely in the name of this war on drugs, we are slowly but surely inching our way to the actual realities of a police state, where the government can look into your private affairs and visit you in your homes, even without any probable cause, without any search warrant, without any report or complaint against you or anyone of you in your households,” she said.
Rise of a new dictator?
It then came as no surprise to the senator that Duterte is insisting on burying the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite the public outcry against it, especially among victims of human rights abuses during the Marcos regime.
It’s a move meant to make the sins of the past acceptable to the present generation, she said, to usher in a new dictator.
“Kaya rin po siguro pinipilit sa atin ang paglibing ni Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, para makalimutan natin ang kasaysayan ng diktadura at martial law, at para muling maging katanggap-tanggap sa atin ang mga pamamaraan ng ganitong klase ng pamamahala na atin nang isinuka at winaksi sa EDSA noong Pebrero ng 1986,” she said.
(Maybe that is the why he is insisting on burying Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, so we could forget the history of dictatorship and martial law, and so that the form of government that we have already ended in EDSA in February of 1986 would again be acceptable among Filipinos.)
Duterte earlier said the hero’s burial of Marcos would heal the wounds of the nation that was subjected to torture, killings, and corruption during the 14-year martial rule. (READ: #AnimatED: Marcos, Duterte and burying our history)
De Lima denounced this, saying it only aims to condition the minds of people to forget the fight against Martial Law and to pave the way for a new dictatorship.
“Sa paglibing kay Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani ay nais nitong gobyerno na ilibing din ang mga alaala ng ating pakikipaglaban sa pag-abuso sa kapangyarihan ng isang diktador. Ang paglibing ng mga alaalang ito ay pagbaon sa ating kakayahan na labanan muli ang isa pang nagbabantang diktadura,” she said.
(In burying Marcos in the hero's cemetery, the government wants to bury as well the memories of our fight against the abuses of power of a dictator. The burial of these memories is also the burial of our capability to once again fight another looming dictatorship.)
De Lima earlier filed a case before the Supreme Court seeking to halt the planned hero’s burial of the former president. There are several other petitions for the same purpose.
Calling the present government efforts a tool to “disempower” Filipinos, De Lima said the Duterte administration is slowly separating civil society from political power.
“What we are witnessing is the disempowerment of the people. Slowly but surely, civil society is being separated from political power, whether through our own fault of surrendering our rights to the vision of a strongman and trusting that he can do no wrong, or out of fear, hoping that the repression does not reach our doorsteps and that we do not become another victim of the war on drugs,” she said.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email firstname.lastname@example.org