To the boy who lost his father to Duterte's drug war
President Rodrigo Duterte has been consistent with his campaign to eradicate the illegal drug trade in the country. He resolved that his war on drugs shall continue regardless of the increasing death toll.
More than 7,000 deaths have been linked to the war on drugs. But the bloody campaign did not only kill alleged drug addicts, it also turned children into orphans.
Worse, according to Rowena Legaspi, executive director of the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center, at least 31 minors have been killed by the police and vigilantes since the campaign began.
'Nadamay sa TokHang'
It was 8 pm along Taft Avenue in Manila when a street child was hopping from one store to another to beg for food. He was thin, muddied, and soaked in the rain. He approached me with the usual request. "Kuya, pahingi naman ng pambiling pagkain." (Brother, can I have money for food?)
I told him that I didn't have my wallet with me, then I started a conversation with him.
"Nasaan si mama mo? Umuwi ka na. Umuulan." (Where is your mother? Go home. It's raining.)
"Walang pagkain sa bahay (There is no food at home)," he replied.
"Eh, si tatay mo?" (How about your father?)
"Wala, nadamay sa TokHang (He was killed in a TokHang operation)," he answered, referring to the "knock and plead" police operation that is among the pillars of the campaign.
Change in hope, not fear
To the boy I spoke with, I wanted to tell you that night that none of the choices of your parents should stifle your potentials in life. Whatever you experience today should not be blamed on you. You are a victim of social inequality.
I wanted you to know that whatever choice your father has made – he still is warranted to be given due process without being killed. It's not because justice is only for the privileged but because justice should be for all.
I was stunned the moment you told me that you lost your father, without any hint of anguish from you. Instead of pain, there seemed to be acceptance. I would understand if you were told many times that your father was evil, that he committed a mistake that could have turned him into a monster, one who is capable of aggression, hostility, and violence. He was a waste – this was your father to them.
I wanted to tell you that these people who see your father as evil are also the ones who openly encourage violence and vigilantism. The people who killed your father are the ones who should protect civilians. And the person who is supposed to help you out of your unwanted circumstances was the one who permitted your father’s death.
I wanted to tell you all these things, and if only I could, not to seed anger and retribution but to help you realize that the bullets in your father's body will never be justified for the kind of "change" that others want – discriminatory and selfish.
Someday, when you realize how painful it is growing up without a father, I still want you to believe that justice should favor no one, and that tirelessly, we must all seek it.
I wanted to tell you that violence is never a way out of desolation; that there is change in hope, not in fear.
I wanted to tell you: dream again. – Rappler.com
RJ Barrete is a development worker focusing on human rights and social protection. He is finishing his master's degree in international studies, major in West Asia at the University of the Philippines.
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