Costumed man hangingwhen one reads of Filipinos cheering about killings, like in Singapore recently (link). Executions in 19th century England were public spectacles (link) even if there was due process involved. Justice originally developed out of a need to sate the very human need for retribution – the dark but very real side of human nature of course – in a manner controlled to avoid law of the jungle. Rewriting Oliver Twist to make Fagin a drug lord and Oliver a drug pusher in Manila would not be hard, I think. Punishment in 18th/19th century England also affected the poorest people:

During the 18th century, the number of crimes that were punished by hanging rose to about 200. Some, such as treason or murder, were serious crimes, but others were what we would call minor offences. For example, the death sentence could be passed for picking pockets or stealing food.

These were the kinds of crime likely to be committed by people in most need, at a time when many families lived in poverty. Towards the end of the 1700’s, the number of people hanged for petty crimes was causing public unrest.

Of course in the Philippines, things don’t happen institutionally but in a personality-based way. Let’s face it, institutions are often just a rubber stamp for what personalities in power want. This includes the Supreme Court of the Philippines, which seems to go by what the President wants, or the Congress, which is for sale via pork barrel. A non-commissioned Filipino officer who experienced the coup attempts of the late 1980s told me that for enlisted men and non-comms, the choice was simple – one followed the orders of one’s higher ups and fought on their side.

It is allegedly barangay officials who help draw up drug lists in the Philippines (link). Setting aside the matter of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) right or wrong, how does one guarantee that these officials do not abuse their power to harrass people they don’t like? Power in the Philippines is often narcissistic, abusive and petty. Not ordering, nurturing and constructive. Can that change?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 17. December 2016