HomeCommentaryThe Duterte gov't should be held accountable, and why you should not...

The Duterte gov’t should be held accountable, and why you should not vote for his enablers

Father Pilario said the persons responsible for the killings are still in power, and many of them are running for positions in the coming elections

(This was posted on February 2, 2020, Feast of the Presentation. In the readings of the day, Simeon told Mary that a sword will pierce her heart in the suffering of her son. This suffering continues today. The persons responsible for these killings are still in power. Many of them are running for positions in the next elections — all supporters, allies or enablers of President Rodrigo Duterte. Some gave their vocal or silent support to EJK and are quiet until now about what happened. Some even do not want to prosecute Duterte and his minions. Please reflect if you can take it in your Christian conscience to vote for them in the next elections. Think of the suffering they have caused to thousands of families and children. — Father Danny Pilario, CM)

After the Sunday Mass, a group of widows in Payatas went to visit the wake of the new victims of extrajudicial killings. They also welcomed the family of the new victims in their weekly meeting. They still remembered the time when no one came to the wake of their loved ones. It was a painful experience and they wanted to ease the pain of the new widows and mothers. After a year of “peace” in Payatas, there were three new victims. I have visited two in their wakes.

Vicente Rufino, 37 years, was just released from prison last December 2019. He was apprehended one year and a half earlier for drug use. But he was released. No evidence can be marshaled against him. He came home to a very sick wife in the last stages of cancer. She was in the hospital when Vicente was killed in these cramped alleys leading to a very small “room” at its end. Two armed men banged his “door” and finished him with seven bullets on January 29, 2020. The other armed man was in charge of securing his sister in the other room with a gun pointed at her. No one cried for help. They were effectively silenced.

His younger brother was apprehended a week earlier. He is still in prison now. Vicente was a young construction worker. He died without his wife, and without his brother.

Dante Red was a father of three very young children — the youngest is six months old. He went out at 9 p.m. on January 30 with some friends who called him. While peeing at the road side, gunmen who were riding in tandem finished him off with 27 bullets recovered in his body. They threw “shabu” at his dead body and drove away. His mother said he was never into drugs.

We had an honest talk with the mothers, widows and neighbors during the wake. These are some sentences that I heard in hushed voices.

“Hindi pa po naming alam kung kailan ililibing. Mahal po ang bayad sa punerarya. Bawal po ang cara-cruz. Wala po kaming ‘tong’ na makukuha.” (We still do not know when to bury him. Funeral expenses are high. We cannot have card games in the wake which could have helped us defray the expenses — the winner of the card games donate to the family part of his win).

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“Ang bago pong utos ay patayin na ang mga pinalaya.” (The new command is to kill those who have gone out of prison).

“Mga pulis din yon. Sila-sila din yon.” (It is still the police who did it).

“May bayad po ng 20,000 pesos bawat isang mapatay. Mas mahal ang iba. Depende kung sino.” (There is a reward/incentive of P20,000 for each person killed. The other rates are higher, depending on the person).

“Kung lalaya yong anak ko, tulungan nyo po kaming itago, Father. Mas delikado na po ngayon.” (If my son will be out of prison, please help us hide him. It is more dangerous now).

While they were talking, I noticed a chick on top of the coffin. I have seen this from three years ago, and in all EJK wakes thereafter. When I asked what this means, the mothers answered: “As the chick strikes its beak at the grain of rice, it also strikes at the conscience of the one who did it. God would know. He will bring us justice.”

All they have is the “chick” — their way of asking for God’s intervention to mete out justice on earth.

This government has always risked the lives of its people. We have the first dead victim outside China of the coronavirus Virus today (305 died in China). [Editors note: This was written in February 2020.] We are all alarmed and rightly so.

But come to think of it. We already have more than 33,000+ killed in “Operation Tokhang” for the last three years. The killings have resumed. And we never panicked.

But the widows knew it all along. And they are right. “These are dangerous times”.

May God come and save us.

Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M. is a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community in the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York.

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