Book review: Some People Need Killing

By Teodoro Alcuitas

Some People Need Killing

After four decades as an expatriate in Canada, I returned to the Philippines in 2006 as part of a Canadian Human Rights Fact-Finding Mission.

What I saw and experienced in that fact-finding mission terrified me and left me bewildered and confused. After hearing the stories of killings I kept asking myself what happened to my homeland – the country I left behind 40 years ago. I kept asking myself who were the people who did the killings and why?

But reading Patricia Evangelista’’s book reminds me that the killers are still very much around – this time aided and abetted by no less than the President of the Republic, Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

The people that were killed at the time were the so-called ‘terrorists’ – Communists who were demonized as the enemy of the people and therefore deserved to die.

This time, in the reign of Rodrigo Duterte, it is the drug addict that is the bogeyman, albeit Communists and other activists are still targets for killings.

In this searing narration of Duterte’s War on Drugs, the former Rappler trauma reporter Patricia Evangelista parlayed seven years of covering the war into a telling indictment of Duterte through the witness of the survivors.

Unlike other books on the Duterte drug war, ‘Some People Need Killing’ is unique in that it is written from the ground where the smell of blood is still fresh. Evangelista was part of the so-called ‘nightcrawlers’ a group of photojournalists and reporters who hang out in police headquarters and rushed out to crime scenes – in this case, shootings of so-called drug addicts by police usually at night.

A journalist true to her calling, she kept meticulous notes of her interviews which became the nucleus of the book. She writes with precision making sure she is using correct quotes and attributions.

“I understood early on that any book published globally about the Philippines would inevitably have to be an explainer about the Philippines… I would hope, also, that in the future, when Filipinos read it from a different generation, a different context—if the book still exists in 20 or 30 years—then there would be nuances of where we come from and what we were writing for,” she siad in an interview with Nolisoli.

She dives deeply into how words play a role in the violent spree writing that Duterte said the word “kill” at least 1,254 times in the first six months of his presidency.

To one of Nobel Prize winner and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s questions at the launch, Evangelista responds that she doesn’t believe journalism will save the world.  Evangelista doesn’t believe that journalism will save the world saying that  there is no “magical phalanx of humanity standing in between the addicts and the gun.” The value of the story, she believes, is perhaps the record itself, and the hope that it will be part of some reckoning. “My expectation is to keep a record. A good one, I hope. A compelling one, I hope. I hope to honor the people, who trusted me with their stories, who took the risks that are far beyond the risks I ever took. ”

The book  is Times No. One  Book of the Year and Top Ten Best Book of the Year.

Evangelista was the 2019 Marshall McLuhan awardee presented annually by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines . She toured several cities in Canada as part of the award.

According to MindaNews , there are  at least 30 books published between June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2022 on Duterte as a populist leader, his bloody war on drugs, his human rights record, even his jokes.

Carolyn O. Arguillas of MindaNews hands over a copy of Patricia Evangelista’s book, “Some People Need Killing,” to former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Davao City after a press conference on Saturday, January 6, 2024. MINDANEWS PHOTO
Former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte flips through the pages of Patricia Evangelista’s book, “Some People Need Killing” in Davao City on Saturday, 06 January 2024. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO


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