A Killer or a Savior?
It is said that President Duterte's War on Drugs has already led more than seven thousand people to be killed by police or some sort of vigilantes, according to lots of mainstream media reports. However, Duterte has also enjoyed a very high approval rating among the Philipino people since then, which got me wondering whether the human right violation should be the only concern here.
Thanks to a Philipino English tutor, Albert, I got to dig deeper and have a more comprehensive idea about the whole War on Drugs campaign through his solid explanation. Then, it also got me thinking how interesting it would be if my students from the International Cultural Exchange Class could also hear what Albert has to say about Duterte. Will my students agree with him? More importantly, will my students learn to look at it from a different perspective and come to their own conclusions?
So I did. I showed my students an article, Human Rights and Duterte’s War on Drugs, with key phrases like extrajudicial deaths, alleged drug dealers, vigilante attacks, drug trafficking, and so on underlined and explained prior to our Skype session. Those words are particularly difficult and yet important to offer a general idea of why it has been a highly controversial issue.
The First Skype Session
Albert kindly prepared a PPT presentation for my students to better understand why the president's "bloody" crackdown on drugs has been widely supported by the people. First of all, he already claimed his determination to solve this deeply-rooted problem that has caused a very high criminal rate and other ordeals to the people, such as murder, robbery, kidnapping, rape, corruption, etc., by taking lives during his presidential campaign. He won a landslide victory over his opponents, which meant people already made their choice with their votes. Then, the judicial system is too slow to protect the innocent general public so that killing without due process is even advocated by the president himself. Finally, statistics has shown the effectiveness of War on Drugs. For example, drug activities have risen by 20% during the suspension of the campaign.
Students' Lack of Vocabulary
Well, it is such a complicated issue that I wouldn't intend to cover every detail in just one class or two. The idea is always that my students can bolster critical thinking skills through this Skype session experience while also practicing their English listening comprehension. Even though Albert spoke rather slowly, I still had to translate from time to time. Of course, I know the topic is quite unrelated to their real life and the vocabulary involved is very difficult, which made my students had even more difficulty understanding the presentation.
Interest of Learning Aroused
However, some students kept asking me questions that are very hard for me to answer after class. So, as a preparation for the second Skype meeting with Albert, I asked my students to write down their feedback by answering the following three questions: What part of the presentation didn't I get/agree? Can I take a totally different perspective other than that in the mainstream media into consideration? What other questions would I like to ask Albert/What arguments would I propose to challenge Albert?
Students’ Follow-up Questions
1. If the judicial system is corrupt and slow, why not fix it first before killing suspects?
2. If innocent people get killed, how the government is going to face those victims’ families? Why can those vigilantes just do what they want without paying a price?
3. If vigilantes get to own guns, isn’t that a threat to public safety?
4. Since the police have killed so many suspects, why not kill those happy triggers?
5. How can you feel safe when there are people being killed on the streets?
6. Why don’t you cure drug addicts instead of killing them?
7. What if one of your families was wrongfully accused and got killed?
8. Wouldn’t you be scared to get killed accidently on the streets?
9. If you were the president, how would you solve this drug problem?
The Second Skype Session
Albert was so kind and willing as to answer those very difficult and challenging questions in person in our second meeting. He quickly went over all the slides and picked the first question regarding fixing the judicial system to tackle. As my guest explained with anecdotes and statistics why it would be such a long process that lots of families and innocent children can't afford to wait, my students kept asking me for help to translate their doubts about what just had been said. In the end, they still had great difficulty picturing themselves being in that real and yet cruel situation.
The Golden NuggetI would never intend to ask my students to take sides whatsoever. It WAS also very hard for me to fathom the complexity of the whole War on Drugs, not to mention offering constructive solutions. In fact, my students are still young and inexperienced in many ways, and they tend to begin their suggestions recklessly with "Why not just ....?". Still, the golden nugget for them to grasp is that you really don't justify killings without due process, but you can always try to be more empathetic to it.