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7

Saudi Gazette, Saturday, February 25, 2017

Perspectives

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LOCAL VIEWPOINTS

LOCAL VIEWPOINTS

MIGUEL

SYJUCO

Death on the night shift in Duterte’s Manila

O

NLY five people had turned

up dead. It was a slow eve-

ning.

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

the body.

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

York Times

Miguel Syjuco

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

Abdullah

Al-Aqeel

I

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.

Abdullah

Jamili

I

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

Haya Al-Maneea

T

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

materialize.

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

rights.

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

medical condition.These

people need us.