Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, men have barged into your bedroom. Their faces are hidden behind masks, but their guns are displayed on their hips or their hands. The men drag your father outside the house, while pushing your terrified and screaming mother and siblings out of the way. The masked men disappear with your father into an awaiting vehicle. The next morning you hear that his lifeless body had been left on a street, riddled with bullets. Now imagine you are 11 years old. This happened to John Ryan and his 9 siblings, all of them younger than 17 years old. Their father, Joaquin, had been found dead the next morning on Kanduli Street in Manila.
We have heard about the children killed in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, but we have not heard about the other ways this so-called “drug war” has changed the lives and futures of thousands of other children. Children who have witnessed acts of violence, children who are orphaned and traumatized, those at constant risk of direct physical harm due to their presence in areas where police conduct violent anti-drug operations, and those who experience discrimination from their communities because their fathers or mothers had been accused of drug use. The anti-illegal drugs campaign places children at immense risk. This is ironic given the presumed objective of the anti-illegal drugs campaign is to ostensibly protect the next generation from the scourge of illegal drug use.
We cannot continue to ignore the immeasurable long-term and potentially cross-generational impacts of this government’s violent and relentless campaign. If the government fails to protect children and their families from harm resulting directly from the anti-illegal drugs campaign, then it has already failed in its principal objective.
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