Renato Reyes, Jr. (left) fields questions from the audience as Vandu head, Aiyanas Osmond listens. (Photo: Ted Alcuitas)
2nd update: January 11, 2018, 11:13 AM
“Crimes against humanity but not ‘genocide’
By Ted Alcuitas
It was a different scene in a Vancouver drug users’ centre that Renato Reyes, Jr. saw when he spoke at the VANDU headquarters on Tuesday, January 8.
People were milling around as he spoke, occasionally interrupting him as he spoke, some just sitting on the floor in a crowded space in the downtown eastside, ground zero for the drug problem in Canada.
Outside the office, others were huddled on the streets in the mild Vancouver winter trying to protect themselves with blankets.
But all of them were alive – a stark contrast to the dead bodies of alleged drug users in Reyes’ home country, the Philippines.
Reyes, head of the left-wing mass organization Bayan, introduced his talk with a video presentation showing the victims of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war.
The war has claimed more than 28,000 victims, mostly from police operations encouraged by the president himself. Duterte vowed to eliminate the drug problem in six months after he was elected in 2016.
Critics like Bayan says it is a war on the poor as the majority of the victims are poor whose only crime was to be suspected of drug use. Critics claim the real drug lords are are still free to supply the drugs that are causing havoc in a country of 105,000 million people.
Reyes says it is a difficult issue to fight against, where impunity reigns – the police act as “judge, jury and executioner”.
“The police are corrupt, the whole system is corrupt, so it is impossible to get justice for the people,” he claims.
The indiscriminate killings of alleged drug addicts has earned the monicker EJKs, (extra judicial killings) because there is no due process.
“The police have a ‘kill list’ of people suspected of doing drugs. Once you are on the list, you are a target of drug busts which usually end up with the suspect dead.”
The audience was quite shocked to hear and saw the graphic images of the Philippines’ deadly drug war.
“Is it not genocide?” one asks Reyes who says it is considered “crimes against humanity”. It is now the subject of an investigation by the International Court of Justice (ICC) he says, although Duterte has unilaterally cancelled the Philippines’ membership in the body.
MP Jenny Kwan (left) responds to Reyes’ talk on the Philippine’s ‘drug war’. (Photo: Ted Alcuitas)
“In Canada, the drug problem is a health issue, not a criminal justice issue,” responds Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament, whose riding includes the downtown eastside.
“Why is it that the federal government does not call a national emergency to deal with problem? A lot of people are dying of drug overdoses throughout the country, yet the government is not acting,” she adds.
More than 9,000 people lost their lives in Canada between January 2016 and June 2018 related to opioids according to a Government if Canada report as of December 12, 2018.
Reyes will travel to Toronto to address Bayan’s 2019 Congress on January 19-20.
Bayan “celebrates peoples’ resistance by reaffirming its commitment to arouse, organize and mobilize Filipinos in Canada in the fight against state-sponsored repression, and struggle towards genuine peace based on justice in the Philippines, “ says a Facebook post announcing the event.
According to the post, “BAYAN Canada was launched on September 21, 2008 to mark the 36th anniversary of the martial law imposed by the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. At the time, the organizers of BAYAN Canada wanted to make the link between the US-Marcos fascist regime and the US backed Arroyo regime scheming to stay in power while perpetrating some of the worst human rights violations in Philippine history.”
“BAYAN Canada is to formally group together all progressive, anti-imperialist and democratic organizations of Filipinos living in Canada into a strong multisectoral alliance. The goal is to become an official overseas chapter of BAYAN in the Philippines – only the second of its kind.”