Indiscriminate Killing of Filipino Lives in the Name of the War on Drugs Campaign

Indiscriminate Killing of Filipino Lives in the Name of the War on Drugs Campaign

July 3, 2024 | Written by Dimple Paz and Edited by Jovie Galit | Photo credit: Rappler

Featuring the story of "Boga" (not his real name), a 17-year-old killed in 2018 during Duterte's anti-poor War on Drugs campaign.

"Boga and I are siblings from the same mother, but I am the only child of my mother and father. Boga is one of four children from my mother's second partner," said Patria, Boga's sister (not her real name). Their mother now has another family with two children who have special needs.

Patria added, "I have become both sister and mother to my brothers." After their mother formed a third family, Patria took on the responsibility for her siblings and stepfather, who became addicted to alcohol, fell ill, and died in 2017, a year before Boga was murdered.

While supporting her siblings and completing her studies, Patria had a daughter, which limited her ability to care for her brothers. Their mother, busy with her new husband and young children with special needs, was unable to help.

Boga, a Boy with a Friendly Heart

"Boga became a refuge for his friends when they had problems. He is in community with everyone, including people with disabilities and youth who were victims of abuse in their families. Many judged my brother for being a 'street' person, but his friends were diverse. Once, he was held by the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) for curfew violations. When I went to get him, I found out he was there to help a friend and ended up getting punished himself," Patria, not her real name, explained.

Remembering Boga. Photo shared by his sister, Patria.

"I asked him why he sympathized with his circles. Boga told me he felt a sense of family with them, as they all lacked a stable family environment. Seeing our family's situation made him connect with them. Being part of an inclusive youth center group helped me understand him," Patria said.

Boga had his Life Mercilessly Taken by Unknown Assailants

"In 2018, during the time of the Black Nazarene, Boga was waiting for our brother to come home from work. He and his best friend decided to eat lugaw (porridge). According to eyewitnesses, someone asked Boga if he knew 'Jan-Jan,' which he didn't because we were only renting in that area. Suddenly, a man, alias 'Jan-Jan,' started running and was chased by the men who had asked my brother. Everyone hid in fear because of Duterte's War on Drugs campaign, where shootings were common," said Patria.

"Boga was shocked and stunned by the situation. His friend tried to save him but was stopped by his parents out of fear. The pursuers shot Jan-Jan but didn't harm Boga initially. When they returned, my brother was still in shock, frozen in place, and they shot him once in the head."

Patria added, "We later found out that 'Jan-Jan' was the brother of my high school classmate. He had been an academic awardee but became addicted to drugs. After Boga's death, men in civilian clothes claiming to be police came to our house looking for Jan-Jan."

The People Deserves Justice

Patria wants justice for the merciless killing of her brother. "We want Duterte and the entire administration held accountable. Even though it won't bring back those we've lost, the murdered family members deserve justice. 'Kung walang usok, walang apoy!' (There is no smoke without fire). If no one initiates, nothing happens," Patria said.

She believes that if Duterte didn't have the mandate, her brother's death wouldn't have happened. "We know there are vigilantes, but killing people is serious. In other countries, drug users or pushers are rehabilitated. The problem is, that they don't go after the main cartel. Their victims are also victims of unemployment, poor housing, and food insecurity," Patria reiterated.

Patria added, "Hindi natin sinasabi na sisihin lahat sa gobyerno, pero kung na-provide lamang ng gobyerno ang pangangailangan nila hindi sila matutulak sa mga ganyang gawain” (We’re not blaming everything on the government, but if it provided for people's needs, they wouldn't be pushed into such activities), referring to smaller drug users and pushers.  According to her, people are unable to access basic services, and the budget for basic services is being reduced in the Philippines because of the widespread corruption and tax pocketing.

In Patria's view, when people are not given enough support, their attachment to wrongdoing strengthens, even if it is against the law. She added that the drug cartels always must outsource to sell to the communities and exploit the poor. "The wholistic mandate of the War on Drugs is to target the poor and not to eradicate the cartels (those who supply drugs)," Patria insisted.

Patria’s Message to the Duterte Administration

"He didn't solve the social problems people face. Proper communication with institutions and a system that provides for people's needs is essential so they don't turn to drug-related activities. Instead of being a good role model, the administration has given minors the idea that it's okay to kill people. There have been too many casualties, and often the accused aren't even the targets," Patria said.

Filipinos across the globe must unite to seek justice for Boga and Jan-Jan, including their loved ones—friends, family, and community members who were innocent but implicated. Let us urgently support the War on Drugs victims and their families in their quest for truth, justice, accountability, and an end to the culture of impunity. Through solidarity statements, social media campaigns, donations, and other forms of support, we can aid the victims in their ongoing battle for justice.

Support the groups and advocates helping the victims of the War on Drugs and their families. Communities implicated need services, such as documentation, legal and psychosocial services, and support for accountability and justice. Rise Up for Life and for Rights is an organization that provides these efforts. You can support and follow their work directly via their Facebook page.

The Battle for Justice Has Taken a Pivotal Turn

Duterte and Dela Rosa have been summoned to the House hearing on the War on Drugs deaths.

The invitation of former President Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Ronald dela Rosa to testify before the House Committee on Human Rights marks a crucial step in confronting the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during Duterte's War on Drugs. This move aims to scrutinize the implementation of his brutal campaign, which has been condemned for prioritizing violent crackdowns and summary executions over due process and human rights.

We must stay mindful, tracking the unfolding news and hearings on the War on Drugs to demand justice and accountability from those responsible. This process could lead to tangible solutions for supporting victims of this ruthless campaign.

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