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[Not] An Absolute Value, an event to be held this Friday, aims to raise funds for the families of those slain via extrajudicial means.

WORDS BY KENDRICK GO

He may have discussed his desire to roam the streets in one of his songs, but local rapper kiyo admitted that he is actually afraid to leave his house.

He lives in Navotas City, after all, and ever since President Rodrigo Duterte came into power, his neighborhood has been turned into something of a battlefield. “The killings [were] so constant in our place,” he said. “Dead bodies [were] everywhere.”

It’s all because of the war on drugs, he shared. Launched shortly after the president assumed office, the policy has supposedly compelled the local police force to aggressively hunt down people involved with narcotics in the Philippines. Since it was enacted, the police have claimed that they have put down more than 5,000 people while enforcing it. According to them, however, these deaths only happened because most of the suspects they tried to apprehend resisted arrest. Meanwhile, Mr. Duterte’s supporters have lauded the initiative. Online, people have claimed that it has made their streets feel safer. His critics, however, disagree.

“I have friends that live in the remote areas of Navotas,” kiyo said. “They are connected somehow and [they know] what is really happening in this so called war on drugs.” And they’re not the only ones who don’t speak favorably of it. Come January 18, some of those who share a similar sentiment—including kiyo himself—will gather to express their disagreement.

At Mow’s, a venue in Quezon City, several artists will be holding a gig entitled “[Not] An Absolute Value.” Organized by local music blog The Flying Lugaw (in partnership with Sandata and Teka,) this event will seek to put Mr. Duterte’s anti-drug campaign on blast and bring to focus a number of accusations that have been hounding it since its enactment. Among these, according to the event’s Facebook page, include allegations of abuse aired by those who have been directly affected by the killings: the people who say that a number of the deaths in this “war” were unjustified if not downright unlawful. Another word to describe them: extrajudicial.

“The Flying Lugaw along with Sandata and Teka are putting up a show that will help those who are in dire need due to the war on drugs,” the event’s  page said. “By providing a platform for their voices to be heard, everyone in attendance will be made aware through their stories.” According to the page, the event—which will charge an entrance fee of 200 php—will also serve as a fundraiser for families affected by the “war on drugs.” It will also feature various artists representing different genres.

“I will perform my hit songs,” kiyo said. “Most of them are about love and life.” He will also be joined by Alisson Shore, an artist he collaborated with for “urong;sulong” (which The Flying Lugaw declared as one of the best tracks to come from the Philippines last year.) Also joining the fray are rappers BLKD and Calix, Makati hip-hop group Kartell’em, hardcore group STILLLIFE, the hard rock five-piece Imelda and noise pop band The Buildings. Gates, according to the page, will open at 7 pm.

“The current political climate has the [government] oppressing the life of the everyman,” the event’s page says. And this has now become an old song as far as the Philippines is concerned.

Ever since it started, the war on drugs has been confronted with criticisms from various non-government agencies, public figures, and private individuals. In 2017, for example, Amnesty International declared that the “war on drugs” is actually “a war on the poor.” In a report published by the organization, it featured an anonymous source with intimate knowledge of local police work who alleged that officers successfully killing suspected drug users or pushers actually get financially rewarded somewhere between 8,000 php to 15,000 php. This, according to the group, has created an “economy of murder,” one that has allegedly seen police officers hiring killers, fabricating cases and planting items their reports consider as “evidence.” Meanwhile, local politicians also had some choice words for the initiative. In a report published by the Philippine Star, for example, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, one of Mr. Duterte’s most vocal critics, was quoted saying that the “war on drugs” is a sham meant to “strike fear in the hearts of people to establish a dictatorship.” The government has denied these allegations including the last one, but fear, was nevertheless, instilled in the hearts of some.

“I think that the current regime doesn’t really care about lives,” kiyo said. “Natatakot na din kami lumabas, [We’re now afraid to go out of our homes,]”

This, however, is exactly what he’ll be doing come the 18th. He’ll leave his house, head for Mow’s and share his voice.

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