“PATAYAN sa magdamag... Panaghoy at hikbi sa madaling araw galing sa mga ulila... Ito na ba ang bagong tama? Bakit kakarampot na lamang ang kababayang naaawa sa mga ulila?...”
-- Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, in an Aug. 20, 2017 statement on the spate of drug-related killings
Last March 6, the day the police activated after a month’s rest its war on drugs, PNP Director General Ronald de la Rosa said “Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded” would be “less bloody if not bloodless.”
The campaign hadn’t made much noise since then until last week when a day’s work, spanning parts of Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 14 and 15), 62 police raids in Bulacan province gunned down 32 suspected drug dealers and/or users. As of last week, a total of 81 drug suspects were killed in police raids in Bulacan, Manila and Camanava area, highlighted by the alleged execution of 17-year-old student Kian Lloyd de los Santos in Caloocan City who police said was a drug courier.
If police wanted to make a big splash, that was it. Large numbers drew the attention that an occasional one or two fallen bodies had failed to do.
Not just the Catholic bishops noticed. Senators acted up, promising an investigation. House leaders, in contrast, were unimpressed, their silence imposed, one may guess, by their political alliance with the drug campaign’s chief, President Duterte.
Duterte, told about the mass killings in Bulacan, said, “Maganda yun (it’s good). If we could only kill 32 every day, the problems in this country would be reduced.” House lawmakers couldn’t say that but neither would they publicly disagree with him.
Has the meaning of “double barrel reloaded” changed: from “less bloody if not bloodless” to to sheer bloody?
“Double barrel” means two barrels mounted side by side, as in a shotgun, or, in a non-firearm sense, double purpose.
In his March press briefing, Bato said the police “oplan” uses both force and persuasion involving the church and the barangay unit (a mandatory coordination, he said). Police, station, and precinct commanders would lead the raids and raiders would all be in uniform.
Apparently, not much of the agreed measures were used in the operations that resulted in the mass killings. Obviously, the priests were absent.
Locked, reloaded and fired were actual guns with double firepower. And it was praised: good, kill “pa more.”
Chief Bato said the killing of the student would be “investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted.”
Apt statement, the right words. Like Liesl in the Markus Zusak 2005 novel “The Book Thief,” “when the words arrived,” Bato “would hold them in (his) hands like the clouds” and “would wring them out like the rain.”
Some people (fewer and fewer, say the bishops) are pleased by the words, just as they were in March when he told them the “oplan” would spill much less blood.
And these few might be dismayed again when the police inquiry wouldn’t amount to anything, just as they must have been when the bodies started piling up anew.