WHILE having lunch in a fast food restaurant in Zurich last year, an Asian-looking waitress approached us to ask if we were Filipinos. When we said yes and that we were from Cebu, her eyes gleamed and she started talking in Bisaya. She was originally from northern Luzon, she said, but worked in Cebu for two years before moving to Mindoro to join her sister.
She has been in Zurich for more than five years and has not gone home even once. Why, I asked her. “I fear for my safety,” she replied. “There were many drug addicts where I came from.
“But I will go home, maybe next year. Now that Duterte is the president, our drug problem should finally be solved.”
At the train station in Vienna three days earlier, we met another Filipino who shared the same optimism. His father, who worked at the Philippine embassy in Vienna until he retired, was able to secure permanent Austrian residence for the entire family, except for the youngest son, who was a drug addict.
My new acquaintance was married to a Cebuana from Pardo and she was taking the same train to Zurich with their eight-year-old daughter while he stayed behind to spend more time together with his siblings and his mother. The couple had moved to Switzerland because “the pay was almost double.”
“I am very happy that Duterte is now the president,” he told me. “Now I can go home.”
“Home” was Pampanga. He has not been there, he said, for five years because of his addict brother, who did not only sell all their family’s properties to support his vice but was also violent and had threatened all of them because they refused to give to him the certificate of title to their ancestral home.
“I want my brother locked up in jail so we can have peace in the family,” he said. “I trust Duterte to make it happen.”
No presidency has started with so much promise and expectations than perhaps Duterte’s. His vow to stamp out criminality and illegal drugs in three to six months resonated with most Filipinos. Finally, here was a president who has balls.
I do not know if the waitress in the fast food restaurant in Zurich or the ex-diplomat’s son I met at the Vienna train station have finally come home to visit. But I’m almost certain that the addicts in Mindoro that she dreaded and the brother in Pampanga that he wanted jailed had either been a) persuaded to surrender b) “tokhanged” c) jailed d) executed by a vigilante d) died in a police encounter or met a combination of two or more of these fates.
Amnesty International claims that most of the deaths that occurred in the war on drugs were State-sponsored executions, an accusation that the government vehemently, sometimes angrily, denies.
I hope that one day, sooner than later, we will finally know the truth.