Saudi Gazette, Saturday, February 25, 2017
w w w . s a u d i g a z e t t e . c o m . s a
Death on the night shift in Duterte’s Manila
NLY five people had turned
up dead. It was a slow eve-
The journalists on the
night shift in Manila say Fridays are
like that. A predictable rhythm has de-
veloped to the killings in this dense me-
tropolis of nearly 13 million. Weekdays
are busier, often producing a dozen bod-
ies before morning. One reporter told
me the record was 27 one night. Week-
ends are more tranquil, which is when
those who cover this beat attend wakes
and funerals of victims, or follow up
with witnesses and other sources.
In the eight months of Rodrigo
Duterte’s presidency, reports on the
drug war have caused concern around
the world and in the Philippines, though
the president’s supporters cast the news
as biased and the killings as necessary.
Alarmed by the daily death tolls and
tales of systemic abuse, I spent a week-
end on the front lines with some of the
journalists who track the mass death.
The media can hardly keep up. “The
night shift used to be boring,” one re-
porter told me outside the press office of
a police precinct. “Fires and domestic
abuse and car accidents,” he said. Now
their stories on daily deaths, crooked
cops and the exploitations of the power-
ful no longer shock.
Filipinos were forewarned. As a
candidate, Mr. Duterte vowed to rid
the country of drugs and crime in six
months. As president, he has guaranteed
a pardon to any police officer who killed
people in the line of duty, and said that
human rights do not apply to drug ad-
dicts because they’re not human. To set
a good example, Mr. Duterte boasted of
shooting suspects dead himself.
His rhetoric and policies have
yielded dramatic results. More than
7,000 people have been killed, while
the police point to over 43,000 arrests
and the surrender of nearly 80,000
drug pushers and more than 1.1 mil-
lion users. Crimes like theft, carjack-
ing and cattle rustling have collective-
ly dropped 42 percent. But murder has
spiked 51 percent — the consequence,
according to a recent report by Am-
nesty International, of an “economy of
death,” resulting from corruption, po-
lice abuse and pressure for results that
have victimized society’s poorest.
A nightly vigil is kept by a group of
local and international reporters, docu-
mentary filmmakers and photographers.
They call themselves “night crawlers,”
and they shadow the police who are
armed with lists of alleged users and the
mandate of door-to-door visits.
These night crawlers wait for word
from radio reports, text messages from
funeral homes, calls from colleagues
and tips from sources within the police
force (though tips have become rare
since the media brought international
attention to the killings). Authorities are
now more guarded, and often the only
tip-off reporters receive is the departure
from the precinct of “scene of crime”
officers. As soon as their van leaves,
a convoy of journalists gives chase,
lights flashing and horns blaring, on a
white-knuckle race through the streets
of Manila as calls are made to sources
in the area in an effort to find the loca-
tion and beat investigators to it. Crime
scenes have reportedly been altered,
official statements often contradict wit-
nesses, and the families of victims have
accused police of intimidation.
Media scrutiny has changed the
way both murders and investigations
are conducted. In recent months, kill-
ings have gone from the streets and
into the privacy of homes. Police cor-
dons are now established farther out
from the scene, to ensure distance
from photojournalists’ cameras. Wit-
nesses fear reprisals from authorities.
Police officers hasten bodies to hos-
pitals, which journalists cannot enter,
clearing away crime scenes before
they can be documented.
On the Saturday night, I arrived
early at one location to find a 22-year-
old man on the ground with a bullet
through his head. Witnesses said the
police had earlier picked him up nearby.
Authorities, however, reported that he
was gunned down by vigilantes after
he committed theft. In his pocket, the
police found two tiny rocks — about
$4 worth of “shabu,” the form of crys-
tal meth at the heart of this drug war.
The officers took hardly 15 minutes to
investigate, document and haul away
As I examined the pool of blood that
remained after police left, a teenager
on a scooter rode up to have a look. I
asked if he knew the victim. “He was
my cousin,” he said. I told him I was
sorry. He shrugged. “It was expected.”
Polls show that the drug war re-
mains immensely popular, but a simi-
lar majority say they are against all
the killings. Critics of Mr. Duterte’s
methods say this is a war against the
poor, because no drug lords, or politi-
cians alleged to be protecting them,
have been punished. After months of
reports of poor Filipinos being bru-
talized, the situation changed only re-
cently thanks to a high-profile death.
On Jan. 30, authorities an-
nounced a temporary suspension of
the drug war after a South Korean
businessman living here was found
to have been kidnapped by antidrug
officers, strangled at the national
Police Headquarters, cremated at
a funeral parlor and flushed down
a toilet — all while his wife was
being extorted for a ransom of
$100,000. Under pressure from
South Korea, Mr. Duterte called
the case an “embarrassment” and
focused his rhetoric on “cleansing”
the national police force, though he
vowed to continue his crackdown
on drugs until the end of his term.
The killings, though, continue. The
Duterte administration is accountable
for sanctioning, condoning or being
unable to prevent them, and for fail-
ing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
What was once a dispute about facts
surrounding such deaths has turned to
public acceptance. It is now a moral
question — to which there is no answer,
only opinion and conjecture.
“It’s the new normal,” a photo-
journalist told me. “It’s easier and
cheaper to kill them. We can only
document it, for a time when Filipi-
nos have regained their sanity.”
More are now speaking out. A rally
on Saturday against the killings, led
by the Catholic Church, drew at least
10,000 people, and lawyers have vol-
unteered to file cases for the families
of four men allegedly killed by police.
This week, a high-level officer linked
Mr. Duterte to multiple crimes. These
voices of protest echo what journalists
have been saying for months.
The work is taking a toll on the
night crawlers. Some of the journal-
ists suffer health problems or nervous
tics from the hours they keep and the
things they see. Many cover the beat
in their spare time, their publications
having moved on from the now-com-
monplace killings. For their trouble,
the media have been called “pressti-
tutes” by Mr. Duterte’s followers;
some receive threats of rape, violence
and death. I asked some journalists
what keeps them going. “Guilt,” one
said. “Anger,” added another. “The
widows, whose pain I know well,”
said a third. “The families of all the
victims,” said a fourth.
When the dawn broke that Sunday
morning, most of us left the press office,
with its badminton tournament trophies
and pantheon of portraits of long-passed
reporters who covered martial law and
revolutions and coups d’état. Tomor-
row the night crawlers will return to do
what journalists have always done, and
what they’ll always do. Long after Mr.
Duterte has gone and his most vocifer-
ous followers are footnotes in history,
we will write about this terrible era of
avarice, injustice and death.
– The New
is the author
of the novel “Ilustrado” and a
professor at NYU Abu Dhabi.
Polls show that the drug war remains immensely popular, but a similar majority say they are
against all the killings. Critics of Mr. Duterte’s methods say this is a war against the poor,
because no drug lords, or politicians alleged to be protecting them, have been punished. After
months of reports of poor Filipinos being brutalized, the situation changed only recently
thanks to a high-profile death.
Parents must let their children
choose their own careers
Visiting patients can give them hope
HAVE a big family consisting of four
sisters and three brothers. Each one of
us has our own personality, interests,
hobbies and tastes although we were
born and raised in the same family and
under the same circumstances. Neither
our father nor our mother has interfered in
the choices we have made for our futures.
They gave us complete freedom and did
not impose their desires on any of us. That
is why I will never interfere in the decisions
that my children make with regard to what
they want to be when they grow up. They
are different from me and have different
interests. It is not my right to impose my
decisions on them.
When I think about the future of my
children, all I want is to see them happy
doing what they want regardless of what it
is, even if they decide to take a simple job.
As long as they are happy, I am okay with
it. I do not care what other people say or
think. It is wrong to instill certain ideas in
the minds of our children regarding their
future. We should not tell them what they
should be in the future when they grow up.
On the contrary, we should let them decide
for themselves. Insisting that your child be a
pilot, a doctor or an engineer just to be able
to show off in front of others is wrong.
Our children are human beings and
not our property. They are not our watches
or our cars for which sometimes we pay a
large amount of money just to be able to
flaunt them in front of others. We should not
tell our children that happiness lies in them
pursuing certain careers, such as medicine
or engineering. I know many people who are
doctors or engineers and are unhappy. They
pursued those careers just to make their
parents feel happy.
VISITED a friend a few years ago when
he was in Onaizah General Hospital.
While sitting next to him, I saw a visitor
walking from one bed to another
greeting all of the patients with a big smile
on his face. He wished every patient a
speedy recovery. I asked the nurses and
was told that the man was a frequent
visitor. He visited the hospital every Friday
afternoon and had been doing this for years
without missing a Friday. What he did was
impressive. Even the nurses and doctors
were amazed by the man’s generosity.
I remembered this when I read a news
story about Zamzam Society for Health,
Volunteering and Charitable Services, which
is based in Makkah. The society said it is
planning to visit 5,000 patients in Makkah
this year. Last year, it visited 2,535 patients
and gave them simple gifts to give them
hope and happiness.
I would like to thank the society for this
beautiful gesture, which helps boost the
morale of patients and speeds up their
recovery. It also promotes the important
values of social solidary and love for one
another. The Ministry of Health is doing a
great job by facilitating and encouraging such
activities in the best interests of society.
I encourage everyone to go and visit
patients in the hospital and take small gifts
to them every now and then. Trust me, there
are patients lying in hospital who do not have
relatives or friends with no one visiting them.
There are some who have been hospitalized
for weeks or months because of their medical
condition. These people need us. We should
give them hope. After all, it is one of our
duties through which we can send a message
of peace and care to all patients.
All Saudi women to have
national ID cards
HE other day, the spokesman
for the Civil Status Depar tment
Muhammad Al-Jasser said a
woman’s ID card would become
official proof of identity for women within
the next three years. This is impor tant
news, given that cer tain members of the
public have opposed this. The happy
news is that women will be able to apply
for ID cards without needing the consent
of their male guardians. In fact, this
decision will enable women to regain
their rights as citizens. There is no doubt
that the decision will enhance social
security and reflect positively on the
economy. In the past, women who applied
for divorce, inheritance rights, etc., in
cour t had to bring male witnesses and
supply the cour t with official documents
to prove who they were.
Although the decision to allow women
to apply for ID cards without the consent
of male guardians will become effective
over the next three years, this is a step
in the right direction no matter how long
it takes. Once it has been implemented,
the decision will make men and women
equal before the law, which means that
women will have obligations and rights.
The Basic Governance Law clearly states
that men and women should be treated
equally in this regard. This decision
will now allow the spirit of the law to
No woman will be able to apply for
a passpor t unless she has first applied
for an ID card and obtained one. This
reflects the Civil Status Depar tment’s
keenness to ensure that all Saudi women
have ID cards, something that bolsters
their Saudi identity and patriotic values
and protects their rights.
Some external observers might
wonder why the decision was not
implemented a long time ago. Those
observers are most likely unaware of
the local social traditions and customs.
If they were aware of them, then they
would be more thankful to the Civil Status
Depar tment for taking this vital step.
We all wish that the decision had been
implemented a long time ago but it is
never too late.
It is hoped that the Passpor t
Directorate will pass a law that does not
require a woman who wants to apply for
a passpor t to obtain her male guardian’s
consent. After all, it is a woman’s national
right to obtain a passpor t. Those who
oppose such steps should understand
that a woman applying for a passpor t
does not necessarily mean she intends
to travel abroad. A passpor t is a national
document and every Saudi has the right
to apply for one.
Three years from now, the national ID
card will be the only proof of a woman’s
identity. It is an impor tant step on
women’s journey toward regaining their
It is a woman’s national right
to obtain a passport. Those
who oppose such steps should
understand that a woman
applying for a passport does
not necessarily mean she
intends to travel abroad.
A passport is a national
document and every Saudi
has the right to apply for one.
We should not tell our children that happiness lies in them
pursuing certain careers, such as medicine or engineering. I know
many people who are doctors or engineers and are unhappy.They
pursued those careers just to make their parents feel happy.
Trust me, there are patients
lying in hospital who do
not have relatives or friends
with no one visiting them.
There are some who have
been hospitalized for weeks
or months because of their
people need us.