For the past few months, since President Rodrigo Roa Duterte assumes the position as the president of the republic of the Philippines in July 2016 and declares an all-out war against illegal drugs (Giyera kontra droga) or most popularly known as “Oplan Double Barrel Alpha” which refers to the drug policy of President Duterte. The term “Extrajudicial Killings” or also known as “EJK” becomes the talk of the town. Basically, in layman’s term, it is commonly defined as an illegal killing committed by the armed law enforcers of the government without the sanction of a judicial proceeding.
To begin with, for us to fully understand the context of this issue, here in the Philippines, let’s ask first, do we really have such thing as “judicial killing?” Legally speaking, based on the facts and records of Philippine Laws and Jurisprudence Databank – The Lawphil Project, the last law that was passed imposing the death penalty was the Republic Act 8177 also known as an “act designating death by lethal injection as the method of carrying out capital punishment” in 1996. However, this particular law was repealed and enacted exactly after a decade through the Republic Act 9346 or “n act prohibiting the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.” In a nutshell, there is no such thing as death penalty in the Philippines. Now, how could we have such a thing as EJK?
I fact, the members of the House committee on public order and safety have decided to drop the use of the phrase “extrajudicial killings” in all its future hearings, investigations and reports, and will instead refer to them as “death under investigation,” to be politically correct as being used by the Philippine National Police.
But for the sake of the argument, let’s discuss this issue in the world of the internet.
The topic about extrajudicial killings is always “trending” in social media. Online users or the netizens through “participatory civics” are very much involved and active in this particular issue. As defined by Ethan Zuckerman, this refer to “forms of civic engagement that use digital media as a core component and embrace a post-“informed citizen” model of civic participation.”
This issue is always part of the news because of the continuous killings of the alleged drug pushers and users across the country.
In numbers, based from the website of Rappler, since July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths linked to the “war on drugs” from both legitimate police operations and / or vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including the deaths under investigation).
The PNP also recorded various reports of vigilante-style or unexplained killings. These are the cases that are currentlybeing investigated by the police.
Netizens, eitrher supporters or critics of Oplan Double Barrel Alpha are very much active and aggressive in voicing out their points and arguments:
Facebook pages of the critics and against “extra-judicial killings.”
Upon checking the comment box and tweets of these online users, most of them are millennials. This is just to prove the point of Zuckerman that the ““Millennial generation have strong participation.” However, whether it is good or bad, we cannot say as of the moment.
Politics.” The level also of participation compared to other generation. Based on the study conducted by Harvard University, Millennials engage in voting less than other generations, but are at least as likely to boycott, or sign online or paper petitions.
To stop this so-called “extrajudicial killings,” online critics of the “Oplan Double Barrel Alpha” launched an online petition.
Based on the website of Change (www.change.org), they are urgently calling the help of the international communities and organizations to make a firm stand against the on-going illegal and inhumane “purging” of alleged drug addicts happening in the Philippines today.
The petitioners cite also that there is an apparent inequalities with the “Opaln tokhang“ because only the poor, legally-defenseless suspects living in slums or villages were visited. Well-to-do personalities living in posh areas are untouched or given due process. There are also those who died who were victims of false accusations or mistaken identity, and those other innocent children, minors, women, and elderly people who were killed by stray bullets.
And the main concern of the petitioners is the the growing fear among innocents, law-abiding Filipino citizens of being falsely accused, be murdered by vigilantes anytime, be dumped anywhere, and be labelled as a “drug user/pusher”.
As of February 20, 2017, based on the website, 3,334 supporters already signed the petition. 1,666 more signatures are needed to reach 5,000.
Characteristics of Participatory Civics are present in the abovementioned situations:  Interest or need to see their impact on the issues they’re trying to influence.  Social media campaign or civic crowdfunding,  Driven by specific passion not as a broader adherence to political movement.
SEPARATION CHURCH AND STATE
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (or CBCP) is also one the strong and loud advocate to fight extrajudicial killings and the revival of death penalty. In fact, the CBCP call the participation of the Catholics and their followers to support the “Walk for Life” which was conducted last Saturday morning, February 18 to stand for the value and dignity of human life at the Quirino Parade Grounds.
As reported by the Manila Bulletin, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that “Instead of restoring the death penalty, cleanse the ranks of the police, reform the judiciary and strictly enforce rules in our penitentiaries,” The participants started the walk while praying the Rosary and ended the event with a short program which featured a doxology by the members of the Don Bosco Youth Center in Tondo and musical presentation by Glee Nette Gaddi and Ooberfuse.
Although I am catholic, I cannot buy the idea that church is trying to be involved and interfere in running the government. Under the 1987 constitution or the declaration of principles and state policies, The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable. In short, the church shall not interfere with the affairs of the state and vice-versa. However, the based on the article published by the CBCP, they argue that the “separation of church and state is a legal principle misunderstood and wrongly invoked to discredit the pro-life agenda” the CBCP added that “Church and State relations should not be interpreted along the divisive spirit of contradiction and separation but by the harmonization and the reconciliation of the material and spiritual demands of man’s well being. Church and State are both needed to promote the well-being of man.”
RELEVANCE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF MEDIA
Is the media responsible in sustaining its longevity in peoples’ minds? It still depends. Maybe yes, maybe no. But one thing is for sure, if not the main responsible, media is one of the responsible for the longevity of an issue or new. In addition, although we cannot categorically say that media is the only entity to blame for the friction and misunderstanding between parties, we cannot deny the fact media is actually indeed very powerful and influential because it can somehow shape, control and manipulate the perception of the public. Media can also dictate what is relevant and what is not. This is the one of the reasons why there are a lot of obligations and responsibilities involved with the media because of the big impact that they have on the minds of different individuals.
But how do media, especially the “online media” influence the opinions and perception of the public? In watching the news programs or reading news articles online, you will get a lot of information and updates. The media has the power to present or even control all of the reports regarding a specific event, which is the main source of information for millions of people from around the world. Furthermore, as described by Catherine Happer and Greg Philoa in their journal entitled The Role of the Media in the Construction of Public Belief and Social Change, “media play a central role in communicating to the public what happens in the world. In those cases in which audiences do not possess direct knowledge or experience of what is happening, they become particularly reliant upon the media to inform them. That is not to say that the media simply tell us what to think – people do not absorb media messages uncritically. But they are key to the setting of agendas and focusing public interest on particular subjects, which operates to limit the range of arguments and perspectives that inform public debate.”
There is an ongoing debate between the differences, power and influence of bloggers and journalists. Basically, there is no difference between these two except for the the medium which defines one key aspect of difference between bloggers and journalists: Bloggers are of the Internet by definition. Journalists may work online but their role is not defined by any particular medium, whether it’s digital or traditional (TV, radio, magazine, newspaper).
Can a blogger be a journalist or the other way around? Is blogging more popular compared to journalism these days? The debate on journalists vs bloggers is not new. Some people think that as far as writing is concerned in both cases, bloggers and journalists are just the varieties of the same writing profession.
Philippines is a nation well known to the world for the ability to stay happy. In fact, based on the article published by Rappler, even the international survey made by Gallup.com, in time for the celebration of the UN International Day of Happiness, showed that Filipinos ranked 5th among the happiest people on earth, with a score of 80 (Paraguay ranked 1 with a score of 84).
Filipinos are skilled at shrugging off different issues. This has become a part of our culture of finding a convenient distraction from the overwhelming, recurrent, and unsolved issues of corruption, poverty, calamities and even the issue of the extrajudicial killings. Filipinos escape the gravity of these matters by laughing at them.
Yes, Social media is a powerful communication tool in the hands of almost everyone However, as Kelsey Clark writes in HuffPost Politics, “the use of social media in politics may return power not to the people, but to the few that knows how to manipulate it best.” “More and more, it’s the blunt, confrontational and provocative candidates who get noticed and rewarded…leaving the mild-mannered and politically correct candidates out to dry.”
As argued by Ethan Zuckerman, Although, the Internet has changed politics and activism because of the ability to find like-minded people online and to mobilize networks for friends makes rapid group formation incredibly easy, the real or physical activism is still different with online activism.
Maybe the power and characteristics of the internet are primary reasons why this topic about extrajudicial killings is very prevalent. As discussed by John C. Tedesco in his journal, use of the internet for communicating about politics, “the internet, dubbed as the “master medium” is revolutionary because it is a hybrid of the largely one-directional print, audio and video media while offering the opportunity for a two-way communication feedback loop.”