STATEMENT | Lawyers vow to challenge system that allows Tokhang

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The sign left behind by the killers of construction worker Rolando Almujela after he was gunned down in Tramo, Pasay City. (Gary de Leon, News5)

This is the statement of Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings, or MANLABAN sa EJK, lawyers who have banded together against the continued killings associated with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs.

Nineteen months into Duterte’s term, there is still no let up in the bloody drug war. Even under the revived tokhang, allegedly conducted with better safeguards and during “office hours,” 65 were killed over 15 days as of Valentine’s Day — a rate of at least four people per day.

Oplan Tokhang may have claimed far too many lives to desensitize the general public, but there are still far more pressing public consequences and social repercussions. It’s not the dead who have to contend with the next day, it’s the survivors — the widows, children, parents — who need to claw their way our of bereavement, anger, marginalization, and poverty.

The terrible toll of Tokhang on the living is a permeating reality in the swirling circus of politics under Duterte. Like a raw and gaping wound, the issues of daily survival, fear-mongering, truth-seeking, and attaining justice, fester in an swath of other fractures and injuries on the national psyche. And it’s a burden mostly borne by the women, because it’s the men who are being targeted on the streets.

For every tokhang victim, there is a woman wailing beside. Out there are ten thousand mothers who have borne the personal brunt of the loss of a husband and/or a child. How more heartbreaking their stories are, when 60 of those killed and 38,000 “drug surrenderees” are reported to be minors. It’s the women who will be picking up the breadwinner mantle and teaching the children how to cope with grief and anger, with dignity and honor. It will take feisty and consistent female courage to take this administration, and all perpetrators and enablers, to account.

The Manananggol Laban sa Extrajudicial Killings (MANLABAN sa EJK) stands with the women and all men who fight for the healing of the country torn apart by ignorance of the many and the tyranny of the few. Committed to justice for the people, we as lawyers will challenge not only those who kill mercilessly, but also the system that allows them to.