this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on August 9, 2016.

LIKE PLUCKING petals from a flower, we take lives as if they were our own to start with.

It seems we have forgotten how to be human. We feel less and think that we think more, and in those times that we feel, we get angry. It was, still is, hard for many people to accept men and women as equals, or blacks coexisting with whites, and to let the rainbow show its colors and let these fill the sky.

We show hate and degrade other people’s gender, color and “kind,” and we accept the killing of a fellow Filipino, a fellow human being with parents, a spouse and children, with ease. As long as there’s a piece of cardboard left beside the lifeless body, with a message saying here lies a drug user/pusher, and the public be warned.

This is just sad.

We have fought for freedom. We have fought for territorial claims. We have fought for equality. We have fought for our rights. And we have put up a system, we have passed laws, so that we won’t have to go to battle again. So that the mistakes of the past will no longer be committed. So that bodies will not pile up.

And yet we freely throw away all that was fought for, as if we never learned anything from them. It makes the sacrifices and hard work of our heroes, of the past and the present day, come to nothing.

We even cheer what is going on. We push and promote it, thinking that it is the only thing that will lick the drug problem and liberate our country from corruption and poverty.

And we fight all those who resist, who get in the way, labelling them drug users/pushers as well. We do not believe that these supposed users and pushers have, at the very least, the right to live. We quickly shoot them, literally with bullets, and figuratively with hate.

The way I see it, this war eradicates human life. It eradicates Filipinos. It eradicates their chance of being forgiven and their chance to prove that they can change. How ironic that “change” is exactly what our President campaigned, and won, for. Yet he does not allow his people to change their ways.

And has it not occurred to those cheering on this war that anyone could just be killed under the tag “user/pusher”? All the killer has to do is leave a cardboard sign tagging the corpse, and it will be called “justice.”

And no one will really know what happened, because every victim is just so stubborn and brave to fight it out and grab a cop’s gun.

Recall the motorcycle rider who was arrested and handcuffed even before being shoved into a police car. How could someone with his hands cuffed behind his back do battle with cops? And even if that person did so, does that mean he should be shot dead? (It’s said his money and possessions even disappeared.)

Did the world change in a split-second? Did it suddenly reverse its rotation? Or did it suddenly stop because in the blink of an eye killing people as the answer to everything is now acceptable?

Suddenly, everyone is a drug addict; suddenly, cops are killing on-site because suddenly, people are grabbing cops’ guns. What happened to the dictum that suspects are deemed innocent before being proven guilty?

Are we ending the battle? Or did we start a new one?

Before all of these happened, we were cheering and celebrating life. We shouted for human rights, but now we are against them. Why do we fight what is keeping us alive?

The body count continues to rise. There are constant reports about “shoot-outs.” No, not all of the reported incidents are about drugs, but all of them end up bloody, and someone ends up dead.

Since when did killing become something to cheer for? Are we cheering for the parents, partners and children that are weeping as well? If not, why is the public behaving numbly, as though the killings mean nothing, as though the victims, whether pushers or addicts, deserved to be killed?

I read the remarks on social media and it makes me sad because it seems that people have lost hope. But why would you let yourself go down to their level? If you kill a perceived criminal, then what makes you different from that person?

It’s scary to live in this world knowing that any second you could be labeled and killed. Arguments no longer have a place in society because people no longer understand, or even try to. You are either with them or against them.

What’s even scarier is that our leaders, who were elected to lead and guide us, approve of what’s going on.

Just last week I listened to two senators speaking on television, one thankfully upholding the value of human life and the other saying in effect that the killing spree is the correct solution.

Have some people become so blind that they can no longer see the consequences of this war? Even when we tell them stories and show them pictures, they refuse to see and quickly dismiss these as fake, or made up. Or “drama”: as in the woman weeping over the lifeless body of her husband that she was cradling in her arms.

They’d rather listen to and believe in certain blogs.

I remember when, in my final year in college, I was asked in a radio show, “In a country dubbed as one of the most dangerous for journalists, why do you still want to be one?”

I had been preparing for this question days before the interview. I wanted my answer to be as clear and on point as possible because it involves a delicate topic.

For a country to be dubbed such means that there are many things that are wrong and questionable. There is still so much that the public doesn’t know about.

Many people are misinformed; they are easily fooled and taken advantage of. There are people whose lives and stories are still untold; there are many crimes that remain hidden.

That is why I want to be a journalist. This is a crucial time: Our country is in need of credible information.

I am not a policeman, and I am not in power. But I care for human life and everyone’s chance to be forgiven, to change.

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