THIS week, I came across a story that was so heartbreaking it made me both cry and fear for our future.
It was about an 11-year-old girl from Navotas who chose to give up her dream of buying a pair of “Barbie” sneakers for Christmas with the money she had earned from caroling to buy a dress for her mother who will be buried on Sunday, December 23.
The girl’s 26-year-old mother was killed from a bullet shot at the back of her head early this week.
The girl’s father had also died. Her father was one of the victims of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs.” Her father’s head was wrapped in a sack and has strangulation marks around his neck. Her father’s body was found in July 2016 soon after he was last seen with “masked” police officers in a patrol car.
It wouldn’t be too farfetched either, given the many accounts on record, to guess who could be responsible for murdering the mother, who, incidentally, was also on a so-called police drug watchlist.
It was hard enough to try and wrap my head around what the world has to come when an orphaned child has to forego a Christmas treat to help bury her mother.
But then it struck me that, with the thousands of people who have fallen and those who are still to fall to the bloodbath, when – or probably more accurate, IF – the nightmare runs its course it will leave literally a whole generation who would have lost their parents to the bloodbath Duterte ordered and which he continues to inspire with his deranged “kill, kill, kill” mantra.
And many of these orphans actually witnessed how their parents were so violently snatched from them, some even threatened with the same violence.
Like the incident covered by friends earlier this month of an eight-year-old boy in Caloocan who watched as his father – who pleaded, “huwag mo akong iwan, parang awa mo na” – was dragged inside their small house by the police, one of whom warned him, “Lumayo ka dito, kung hindi papatayin ka rin namin,” and then pushed him away.
Less than a minute later, he heard successive gunshots.
“Now the boy dreams of his father at night, and wakes up crying,” wrote a friend.
It is already bad enough that children are actually among the victims of this orgy of deaths – at least 74 as of December last year, according to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center – either as what Duterte has dismissively called “collateral damage” in police operations and the many more vigilante-style murders, many of which are believed to committed by law enforcers anyway, or the actual targets of rubouts like Kian delos Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman.
In a research paper published on news.abs-cbn.com, University of the Philippines professor Clarissa David and Ateneo School of Government dean Ronal Mendoza, drawing from official data of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Philippine National Police, calculated that there are between 18,000 to 32,000 “war on drugs” orphans.
However, it is no secret that most official data are outdated – the DSWD figures they used dates back to December 2016 – and, as the academics noted, “are likely under-reported statistics.”
With no letup in the killings, we are looking at the prospect of a future with thousands upon thousands of traumatized, angry and, lest we forget many of the slain parents are most likely breadwinners, destitute orphans, many of whom will grow up looking for – nay, demanding – answers and accountability.
But it is unlikely that the cause of their anguish will be around by then to provide answers or pay for his crimes.
Without accountability, the likelihood of all that anger building up and exploding becomes more likely.
This is bound to be the frightening legacy President Duterte will bequeath the nation.
Unless we act now to end the madness and, collectively, as a people, work to heal the wounds and ease the pain of the evil that has descended on us.
Forgive me if I am unable, at this point, to even think of a Merry Christmas though I fervently hope for a Happy New Year.