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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Wenceslao: Black and white and Jaguar’s funeral

I AM amused by those who were shocked by the number of people that turned up for the funeral of Jeffrey “Jaguar” Diaz, the suspected drug lord who was killed by elements of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 in Las Piñas City in Metro Manila last June 17. Diaz is from Duljo-Fatima, so it is safe to assume that most of the around 2,500 people that brought Diaz to the Calamba Cemetery last Monday were from that place.

In an effort by some sectors, including the police, to ease their shock at the turnout, they came up with claims like the villagers were paid to show fake sympathy to Diaz. The others, they said, went there to show gratitude because Jaguar provided help to them financially when he was still alive. They did not consider the possibility that the villagers simply wanted to bury a neighbor.

I wasn't actually surprised by the turnout, in fact I expected it, as Duljo-Fatima is similarly situated as Sitio Kawayan in Barangay Sambag 2, the village where I grew up. Sitio Kawayan was also where another suspected drug lord, Cresistomo “Tata Negro” Llaguno resettled (or returned, as his parents and relatives were long-time residents of the place). Llaguno was killed while campaigning for Cebu City councilor in the 2010 elections.

Many people turned up for Llaguno's funeral. A few of them did went there out of gratitude for the financial help they got from him but most did so because they simply wanted to bury someone from the neighborhood. It's mainly a cultural thing. When my father died in 2002, hundreds from our sitio buried him at the Carreta Cemetery. My brother-in-law, who was not a leader but was well known in the sitio, also had a sizable number of villagers attending his funeral.

Diaz was a Duljo-Fatima resident and was either a relative, friend or acquaintance of the people there. While he was suspected of selling drugs, he wasn't known to have been abusive or violent. For people who are focused on their individual effort to survive the harshness of living, that was all that mattered. Thus, no matter how much Diaz is demonized by authorities, that wasn't enough to break the communal bond that linked him to the people in the neighborhood.

What I am saying is that those who were shocked by the turnout of people in Diaz's funeral most probably view things in simplistic terms, meaning in black and white with no shades of gray in between. They only see a person either as good or evil or as angel or demon. Thus they are surprised that someone like Diaz can also be considered by his neighbors as human.

When one is labeled evil, one is seen as either incapable of doing anything good or anything good in him no longer matters. Thus the saying that the only good criminal is a dead criminal.

This simplistic view underlines the thinking of the incoming administration of Rodrigo Duterte in the fight against criminality, specifically against illegal drugs. It underlines his call for the imposition of the death penalty. More than that, it underlines the resort to extra-judicial killings.

The result is that there is a failure to understand the complexity of the problem and the complexity of the solution required. It’s not just about killing. It is also about addressing the setup that allows drug lords to proliferate.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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