For nearly two hours now since we left Aleco, Nevada en route to Utah, there's these endless panorama of arid desert lands. Bare earth and rocks as far as my eyes can see. All I can see now and then is the face of a grieving father of Kian, the 17-year-old boy who just hardly became a man.
But then he grew up in an environment where even before becoming a toddler he could hardly muster the first step from infancy as the harsh realities during his childhood cursed him to a hellish life. Kian's environment in Caloocan is duplicated many times over in the country.
But this Sodom and Gomorrah condition is not exclusive to the Philippines. In Thailand and Mexico, the scourge is even worse. The multi-billion-dollar drug industry is run by the Mexican underworld and they spend billions in arms that make them even better equipped than government forces.
Thaksin Shinawatra waged his own war against drugs and the cartel quickly swept every link that could lead to their identity. The government's campaign nevertheless had its own collateral damage. The United States, early in the Presidency of Barack Obama, sent Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to Mexico bringing with her billions of dollars and arms to eradicate the drug cartel. The mafia fought it out with the law and in retaliation kidnapped a whole bus full of school children and torched them alive.
Closer to home, when the New People's Army's control of Davao City finally ended in 1985, a number of crime syndicates, including the vicious tentacles of drug syndicates, crept into the ghettos where they recruited their retailers and pushers.
This was prior to Rodrigo R. Duterte's era but as an assistant city fiscal then, he saw them all. Pushers were peddling drugs even right inside school campuses. There were few arrests made and for sometime the military and police, debilitated by the protracted insurgency conflict, were not paying much attention to the growing menace of drugs that had stealthily entered into the doorsteps of the homes of the rich and the poor. It was not until Duterte became mayor that the narcotic problem was addressed.
The police, likewise, had a new director for its drug enforcement agency, Col. Efren Alquizar. By that time, I was President of the Rotary Club of Davao (RCD) and Efren was recruited into the club.
Making use of his knowledge, RCD held forums in schools about the dangers of drug addiction. Alquizar did not lose time in touching base with Mayor Duterte and in one of their meetings with the press, the anti-drug cop came out with the list of suspects who were involved in drug syndicates.
What followed after the disclosure were a series of executions and the police authorities themselves were in limbo as to who were behind the killings. Months later, Colonel Alquizar himself was shot dead by a sniper in the outskirts of the city while stopping over a fruit stand on his way back to the city.
The rounding up of pushers was to be the first case of a systematic clearing operations carried out by drug lords. Many of the victims had cardboard placed over their bodies with a warning which purported that the murder was carried out by DDS (Davao Death Squad). (DDS was a phantom force organized sometime in 1983 by then INP Regional Director Dionisio Tan-gatue Jr. to scare the NPA hit squads at the height of the communist insurgency.
It was spooky as it was popular but it had no warm bodies at all. The audacious claims of perjured witnesses Matobato and Laranas are therefore merely figments of their imagination or of their handlers. What these witnesses failed to point out was that Mayor Duterte led police raids against drug lords and most popular among these was the assault on a drug laboratory where a number of Chinese chemists were killed. In another dragnet, an ambulance from a town adjacent to Lanao del Sur was intercepted loaded with drug contraband.
An angry Duterte warned the town officials not to do their thing in Davao City or else suffer the consequences.
Duterte's police operations have always been covered by media. Kian's death was unfortunate but it was a cause of celebration by the political opposition. The sad faces are actually as farcical as their concern for Kian. The young boy could have been alive today had the tentacles of the drug menace been curbed early on. When Duterte took over the helm of government the war on drugs was imminent.
Today, over 3,000 people involved in drugs have been neutralized while many, including ranking government officials, are behind bars. Over a million, however, have been saved and rehabilitated.
Is the nation mourning the fate of those who refused to give up their trade and fought it out with the law? The independent surveys done by the Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia have the answer. Obviously the people had gotten tired of weak and corrupt leadership of the previous regime and the hellish environment where Kian grew up.
Some quarters say that because the young boy was suspected to be a courier then it would have been better if Kian was kept alive for he could have spilled the beans on his provider. Recent probes and observations moreover indicated that at the height of police operations in Caloocan there seemed to be another mysterious force carrying out its own "clearing" agenda.
The video clips showing Kian first in long pants and then in short pants strongly suggest this.
Too many questions to ask and issues to be resolved. The opposition has capped the emotional propaganda with street demonstrations that ended with a whimper. Whatever and whoever Kian was, his death was unfortunate and an irreplaceable loss to his parents.
But this misfortune should not end the war on drugs. Otherwise, there will be more parents who will grieve over the silence of the lambs. (Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)