Some of us went to the streets, raised clenched fists, waved red flags, denounced extrajudicial killings, and even burned the effigy of a "fascist monster." How could we allow all these killings to happen, asked others in their statements and posts on social media. We demand a stop to these senseless deaths, various groups declared.
Really, is this all we can muster?
Nearly 6,000 poor Filipinos have been killed in 6 months in the Duterte administration's war on drugs. That's an average of a little less than 1,000 people killed a month since July 1, or a little less than 250 a week, or a little less than 35 a day.
On June 30, 1991, a mother and her two daughters were killed in their home in Parañaque in what has since been known as the Vizconde massacre. The sensational murders gripped an entire nation, and the public outrage jailed 3 batches of suspects, with the final batch – boys at the prime of their lives – eventually sent to the New Bilibid Prison.
In 2004, farmers demanding land reform at Hacienda Luisita, the estate of the family of ex-President Benigno Aquino III, were dispersed violently, killing 7 of them in what is now infamously called the Hacienda Luisita massacre. Government agencies were forced to investigate what happened, as the Left staged decade-long protests.
In 2011, when 19 young soldiers were slaughtered in the rebel stronghold of Al-Barka in Basilan, we called for blood, forcing officialdom to court-martial military commanders and demote them.
The list of deaths is endless, along with the dire consequences for those linked to them.
The current state of killings in the Philippines only has lists, without consequences for those behind them.
Yet, the facts are clear: this is the biggest number of Filipinos killed in any campaign – be it by the military or the police or rebels or criminals – since the Marcos dictatorship. This is also the worst in terms of public response to it: not enough anger, not enough rage.
The situation makes a mockery of human rights – and our history of human rights advocacy and organization.
Human rights is not only in our 1987 Constitution. We take pride in the way this concept took shape even before it was enshrined in our charter – courtesy of the men and women who first set up the Presidential Committee on Human Rights, the precursor to the Commission on Human Rights. We had the likes of the late nationalist Jose W. Diokno, the fierce Haydee Yorac, the tireless Sister Mariani Dimaranan – they who led countless fact-finding missions, gathered evidence despite obstacles, dug up mass graves, braved military camps, filed numerous cases, confronted authorities, questioned the rules, and most of all laid down the foundation for courage and methodology in human rights advocacy.
Theirs isn't just an example. Theirs is a challenge to people who ought to know better today: lawyers, researchers, academics, activists, sectoral groups, advocates, public servants, non-governmental organizations, and global networks.
If there's no national rage, so be it. Let's drop our lamentations and make one step forward by taking concrete legal steps to hold the guilty to account.
The numbers, people, and facts litter our bloody streets. The experts need only to look at them, and take action.