February 2018
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For me, they aren’t human

Kosovo War Memorial, Pristinasaid the Kosovar: “I shall go home to kill Serbs”. This was in the late 1990s, and the Kosovar was an old friend I ran into then. Did he really go back to Kosovo, after the Serbs he said had burnt the house he and his brother had built by working in Germany for years? Did he hurt innocents himself, this strong and simple man, or did he look for the perpetrators? To take personal vengeance like what is the reputation of Albanians, which Kosovars are? Not the imagined Albanians of Balagtas’ Florante at Laura. Was his rage just in passing? Hopefully I will never find out, inspite of curiosity.

There is an old story I heard, of a young Cebuano boy who went to visit his relatives in Davao. His mother and aunts died in an ambush, he survived because he was under his mother’s corpse, presumed dead. He grew up, became a soldier, found the Moros who had done it – and killed them.

Revenge is one of the oldest parts of human nature, and in many societies a part of the culture. Rido is the Filipino Muslim vendetta, yet the Christian too may know venganza or paghihiganti.

Who isn’t human for us? Those who have harmed or destroyed something we love or worked hard for – or who threaten to do so in reality or in our minds, like the fear of some Filipinos in areas not as protected as subdivisions that a drug addict may kill and/or rape him or her for a bit of cash or a watch bought with hard-earned money from abroad. For many Kosovars, Serbs were not human, yet I ALSO know Serbs – in my IT profession – who experienced the bombs of NATO while young. One of them told me – around five years ago – that the tension upon passing Croatia had eased.

A Bosnian Croat – a Catholic – whom I chanced to talk to a decade ago once told me how the civil war had changed him, especially when he remembered how Muslim Bosnians had died next to him there. “People are people, politics divides us, religion doesn’t matter” he said. The bald and muscular man then turned and closed his eyes. He moved his arms to the music in the place we were drinking in, one could see the pain he tried to hide. From at least a decade before, in Bosnia.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, Germany, 27 April 2017

9 comments to For me, they aren’t human


    We build communities to serve basic human needs like security, food, shelter and clothing. Working together allows us to survive and protect ourselves. And once we attain enough security that assure us security and sustainability, the doors open to human aspirations, to dreams and visions that are powerful motivators for increased human productivity and creativity.

    All easy to understand., yet difficult to attain. It requires enough intelligence and objectivity to sustain community life, and it requires enough community life for societies to exist and grow. And, most demanding of all, it requires enough effective management to administer societal life to serve the common good and move towards common aspirations. In other words, there is great need for governance, as good a governance possible.

    The cause for intelligence and objectivity cannot be understated or undervalued. Our very lives and quality of life depend on them. It is the respect for the needs and aspiration of others as we ask for respect from them for our own needs and aspirations. This is the basis for the common good. Prejudice and partisanship are the worst enemies of the solidarity of communities. They undermine our capacity to help ourselves survive and grow. They are worse than wild animals or external threats because they make us the wild animals and external threats that weaken and kill us.
    I thought that the sustained partisanship that has plagued Philippine society needs to soften so our capacity for solidarity can find room to grow. That is why I have tried to be less issue-oriented and more value-based in my recent articles. Issues are concerns that we can tackle only if we are intelligent and objective enough. Otherwise, they simply feed our divisive patterns and habits. Our society is not perfect, but it can be better. It is the combination of good governance and good citizenship that propels common benefits, the common good. We cannot ask of government what we cannot ask of ourselves, just as government cannot ask from us what it cannot do for itself.

    There are many threats that beset us. Many of our people languish in poverty, many hungry, many sick, and all afraid they cannot survive in decency. Many of our families are separated, mothers and fathers not able to see their children grow up and enjoy the best years of their lives with them. Drugs have penetrated our communities, afflicting both children and adults, a scourge that deserves to be confronted and eliminated. Economic security and freedom remain elusive for many and must be a national focus. And, somehow, we have to recover time-honored values of bayanihan and kabayanhan. We must rebuild our sense of community.

    • sonny

      Thank you for setting this universally humane sentiment to such clear verbal rendition, Irineo. Now any one can refer to it for as many times as we need and be reminded of that nobility that can be coaxed out from each of us on demand.


    The people of the villages know the killer by name.

    Rex’s mother knows. She remembers the night he came looking for her son, when the killer shoved her so hard the baby she held nearly fell out of her arms.

    Joshua’s mother knows. She knows because he had a gun to her mouth. She knows who the killer is, knows enough that on the day her son was buried, she took a jeep and howled his name when it trundled past the police precinct.

    You son of a bitch, she screamed. You killer, you killed my son.

    Mario’s brother knows. His friends saw the killer drag Mario into the precinct and watched as he was beaten bloody. Mario’s brother counted the bullet wounds himself. There were 7 in all.

    Danilo’s aunt knows for sure. She says it was the killer who gave her his name.

    The man who killed Joshua and Rex and Mario and Danilo was not in uniform. Neither were the armed men who were with him. But the mothers are certain the killer was a cop. The neighbors are certain the killer was a cop. Every witness to the 4 deaths is certain the killer was a cop.

    There is no doubt on that one point. The cops also say the killer was a cop.


    Manila’s certainly been in the crime news lately following President Rodrigo Duterte’s unleashing of a government-sanctioned vigilante war on the city’s drug dealers. Perhaps as many as 7,000 people—many drug dealers, but many sadly not—have been extra-judicially murdered, executed without any form of trial, according to Human Rights Watch. A stream of books from journalists, NGO workers, and others are in the works about this unprecedented period of slaughter on the streets of Manila. Perhaps this horror right in front of people’s front doors has meant that fictional crime has not developed as a major genre in the Philippines?

    Indeed, the crime novel as a distinct oeuvre is relatively small in the Philippines. However, crimes certainly feature in much Manila-based general fiction. Indeed it is compulsory for every single Filipino High School student to read their national hero José Rizal’s 1887 novel Noli me Tángere (Touch Me Not in Latin). In that novel, a sacristan is falsely accused of stealing from a church and beaten to death. The real culprit, a priest, is never caught. The book had a positive influence on Filipino national identity but was attacked by the Catholic Church, who banned it in Catholic-run schools for decades.

  • By Miguel Syjuco

    MANILA — In one jail here, 91 men share a cell so small they take turns sitting down. It’s dizzyingly hot, and there are only two buckets for personal hygiene. And not one of the detainees has been convicted of a crime.

    The 93 men packed into the cell next door are also not guilty — at least not yet. Nobody in this city jail has been tried. Each awaits his time in court. One inmate tells me his case has already stretched nearly five years. Many others have been here several months, since President Rodrigo Duterte began his war on drugs a little less than a year ago. The jails continue to overflow. “For every one person processed out,” an inmate told me, “five new ones arrive.”

    All Filipinos know that there’s little justice to be had from our criminal justice system. It is toothless and glacial. And its longtime failure is at the root of broad acceptance of Mr. Duterte’s draconian drug war, which has led to more than 4,000 confirmed deaths, with nearly 3,800 more awaiting investigation. Like most institutions in this country, the systems of law and order are thoroughly dysfunctional. The abuses can only ever be rectified by addressing each in turn. But what if the mechanisms to do that are so broken they’re nearly useless?

    According to Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, the judiciary has a backlog of 600,000 cases, with at least a fifth of all trial courts lacking judges. Each year, overworked prosecutors individually handle some 500 cases, while every public defender is responsible for roughly 5,000 clients. The police are also understaffed by 50,000, and officers are assessed not by the number of successful convictions but on the number of suspects charged by prosecutors, whose cozy relationships with cops make them hesitant to reject cases as lacking merit.

    Many accused, after being pressed for bribes and languishing in jail for years, end up simply released after the police do not attend trials to testify, or the prosecution is absent or the evidence proves flimsy. Under Mr. Duterte’s predecessor, roughly one in four cases led to conviction — a pittance, but an improvement from the administration before that. Our criminal justice system has never been able to properly exonerate the innocent and punish the guilty.

  • karlgarcia

    Our common reaction to ASG or other rebel groups and AFP wars is sige pulbuson at ubusin ang mga yan.

    yet pag me strike ang mga union o mambubukid, me karatulang “Military 50 meters away”

  • karlgarcia

    One terrible consequence is economic sanctions ala Iran and Nokor.
    But this has to stop, kahit matagalan ang proseso basta nasimulan na.

    “MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is “a man who must be stopped,” US based-publication The New York Times said Wednesday as it urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to look into the alleged mass killings linked to the firebrand leader.

    Lawyer Jude Sabio on Monday filed a complaint before the ICC, alleging that Duterte ordered the killings of thousands of people through a death squad when he was still mayor of Davao City and until now that he waged a brutal crackdown on narcotics.

    In a scathing editorial titled “Let The World Condemn Duterte,” New York Times said the ICC should “promptly open a preliminary investigation” into the allegations.

    The publication said although the ICC may be reluctant to start the investigation because of its role as a court of last resort and Duterte’s popularity among Filipinos, there was “more than enough evidence” against the President.”

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico

      Duterte is way more popular among Filipino voters than Donald Trump among American voters. Filipino voters know Philippines need an iron hand to whack Filipinos in line. It appears Duterte failed like Donald Trump fail big time. One thing different about America and Philippines is in America they have checks and balances. When Donald said no to Middle-East immigration he was blocked … blocked …. and blocked again and again. In the Philippines, checks-and-balances is just a phrase. When Duterte says kill! kill! kill! Nobody is stopping him. The more he is not stopped the more his popularity grows. Those who don’t like Duterte are the pseudo-U.P.-graduate-intellectuals who are naturally crooks. These pseudo-intellectuals just wanted to show to Filipinos they know about the law.

      All Filipinos know what Duterte is doing is wrong but it takes wrong to make things right because this is the Philippines.

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