PAGDARO SA KALINAW: Killing Mary Jane Veloso

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 August) — Friday, August 12 August 12, 2016, marked the 1,000th victim of extra judicial killing since the May 10 election, 598 at the hands of the police, according to ABS-CBN online. In almost exactly three months, it is probably safe to say, more Filipinos have died at the hands of the Philippine National Police than in the past three years in the fields of combined battle with the MILF, MNLF, and NPA.

While President Duterte advances an aggressive peace agenda with rebel groups, he wages war on his own people – targeting almost entirely unarmed petty criminals – instructing his police to draw up kill lists and take no prisoners. These commands, if given in battle, would contravene the Geneva Convention and Philippine military guidelines on lawful orders.

In 1995, former U.S. Army Ranger and West-Point Military Academy Instructor David Grossman published a book called, “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society.” In the book, he traces the evolution of modern military training, which uses intentional psycho-social conditioning to teach soldiers to kill. One of Grossman’s assertions is that human nature has built-in defense mechanisms that resist the taking of human life, and modern military training was developed precisely to break down these natural, psychological checks and balances. These training techniques include the use of computer killing simulation “games” and other media tools, many of which have been adopted for commercial use and circulation.

As a former U.S. Marine, I experienced this brainwashing during boot camp, which included a psychosocial process de-constructing natural human instincts. This occurred alongside a process of social re-construction, re-patterning and re-orientation to a new command-structure. There was a historical rooting, and enforcement of communication patterns and social rituals (Marine Corps history and traditions), and articulation of radical familial-communal expectations (“Always Faithful” to our “band of brothers”) – all of which provided the rationale and conditions for a community committed to killing, for the good of society.

Thus, we should ask ourselves, are the actions in social media, the public statements of political leaders, and constant barrage of violent images, in alignment with our understanding of the value and intent God/Allah intended for individuals and communities. Or are they nothing more than a concerted, large scale, attempt to diminish our natural resistance to the taking of life, as identified by Grossman?

How quickly we rose to the defense of Mary Jane Veloso, just a year ago, sentenced to death by the Indonesian judiciary, allegedly for transporting drugs into the country. Her cause garnered 250,000 signatures from 125 countries, the fastest recorded growth of a petition on Change.org. Even our national icon, Manny Pacquio appealed to the Indonesian government on her behalf. And here we are, 1,000 drug-deaths later, and barely a whimper for mercy on the kilobytes of social media to defend those who succumb to the bullets of PNP and PDEA invading urban slums searching for the many Mary Jane Velosos of the Philippine archipelago.

Have we allowed this socio-political experiment of vigilante executions to re-write the “source-codes” of justice in our community in order to allow those who are powerful define who is “in” (Duterte supporters) and who is “out” (anyone labeled anti-Duterte or drug user)? Are we allowing ourselves to undergo a process of psycho-social conditioning and social brainwashing that is erasing the spiritual values and cultural ties to our isigkatawo, the collective kalooban, and social capital that binds us – even the least among us – as a Filipino community? And if we are to question such a process of psycho-socio-cultural re-conditioning, what alternative sources of justice will we propose, beyond the bakal kamay of death squads and state sponsored terror?

What David Grossman figured out in his modern research on killing, has already been passed on to us in the wisdom of our elders and faith traditions. As people who breathe the breath of God/Allah/Magbabaya the Creator, we are sustained by a life giving force that energizes all of life, as St. Paul says, “in him we live and move and have our being.” Thus, we are at our best individually, culturally and socially when we live in alignment with this life force to affirm the divine order created and entrusted to us – we are stewards and caretakers of our social reality and physical surroundings.

On the other hand, the destruction of the environment and ecology; the taking of life and the support of communal acts of structural injustice, extra-judicial killings, and political violence; cultural genocide and the perpetuation of all forms of oligarchy and class division – all these violate the socio-economic-ecological equality and flourishing that is affirmed in the best of our cultural history and spiritual traditions. To participate, endorse or support the Spirit of Death that stalks our streets fundamentally goes against the integrated human-divine nature in us, as well as the natural inclinations of human psychology.

Let us, therefore, pray, organize, protest, boycott, march, and struggle by all non-violent means at our disposal to reclaim our humanity, our culture, and our soul – to restore our drug-affected friends and relatives through transformative Bayanihan justice – and to rescue the hundreds of Mary Jane Velosos soon to be slaughtered in this senseless, self-destructive war on the Filipino people.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Jeremy Simons was born and raised in the Philippines and has been a resident of Davao City since 2008 working as a peace and reconciliation advocate. He is a Roman Catholic teaching conflict transformation at an Evangelical seminary, along with other institutions and NGOs. He spends the majority of time in restorative justice and peace accompaniment with Lumad First Nations and Muslim communities in Mindanao. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of any institution, church, denomination or group. He blogs at https://plowingpeacesowingjustice.blogspot.com)