There are few places which are as cluttered as message boards, comments sections and wall-posts when it comes to political discussions. Fueled by personal attachment to the debated issue, every discussion quickly becomes an exercise in futility as each participant simply draws farther lines from each other with every impasse. It would seem that social media — the largest stage in the internet — provides every person a means to be heard at the price of diminishing the humanity of the person speaking.
Rarely does an argument posted in these forums become contextualized through the lens of a relatable living person. Even rarer do opportunities arise to personally encounter the source of these opinions in order to test the foundation of the world-view every person so defiantly espouses.
A rare opportunity to do so occurred on September 7, 2017, when the Palladium, the Ateneo Human Rights Center, the Ateneo Student Council, and the Ateneo Law Debate and Advocacy Society held the Kapihan Session regarding Extra-Judicial Killings. It served as an avenue for members of the student body, the faculty, and the community to shed the anonymity of online discussions and peer into the person delivering the opinion. In this Kapihan Session, the participants sat face-to-face with other people who have encountered the emotional and ethical difficulties of the War on Drugs.
Drawing the Lines
The event did not only act as a venue for the expression of individual thought but also as a means to find out the stance of the Ateneo Law School Community. A survey was conducted a day prior to the Kapihan Session which sought to determine whether the student body was for or against the manner which the war on drugs was conducted.
The survey reflected a large portion of the students being against the war on drugs. This, however, does not discount the fact that there are members of the student population that are still in favor of the current administration’s program. An even smaller number of students declared their neutrality on the issue and claimed that they are neither for nor against what is being promoted and conducted by the government. This then reflects that there are members of the community which represent every end of the spectrum. Although small in number, those differing from the majority were still given the opportunity to be heard as the Kapihan Session opened its doors to all who are willing to present their side.
Advocates of Ethics
This opportunity considered, the discourse in the Kapihan Session itself reflected the majority opinion. Personal accounts were set forth regarding the changing times and the increased hostility experienced by the participants in their day to day lives. Accounts were told of first hand exposure to the deaths and cases of missing persons upon the slightest insinuation of criminal action. It was with unanimity that the participants declared their condemnation of this culture of impunity that was said to have arisen from the encouragement of the President towards his Police Force. Although the students of the Ateneo Law School are usually seen by outsiders as aloof and separated from the rigors of the real world, the conversations brought about an undeniable fact: That the current war on drugs has an effect – positive or negative – no matter what social class one belongs to and immediate action must be taken before the situation gets out of control.
Nary was there a dissenting voice in the table as the momentum of the Kapihan Session led to calls to action and concrete solutions to the perceived problem of increased extra-judicial killings. Apathy is a vice not seen in the event as spirited debates to the possible recourses of the community, led by the students, were proposed and challenged. Professors and members of the community expressed their consent as to the need for action but there were vastly different ends which each participant wants to achieve. One will be left questioning whether a spirited opposition would have served as a productive guide.
An Open Invitation
The end of the Kapihan Session does not spell the end of opportunities for students and members of the community to share their opinions on the matter of Extra Judicial Killings and the War on Drugs. The previous Kapihan Session only serves as a starting point for a series of talks to be conducted by the Palladium and the Human Rights Center that will focus on similar relevant issues.
It is a unique time to be a law-student as each and every member of the student body has the chance to sway the upcoming events which will determine the policy and political environment for the coming years. It is up to the students to raise their voice in sessions like these to either influence where the discussion will sway. The fact of majority does not foreclose the willingness of the student population to listen to a heartfelt dissent. At the same time, the existence of neutrality provides an opportunity to usher others into action no matter towards what goal you seek to accomplish. The clock is ticking and the fuse is lit. The time to act is now and the venue to do so may begin with participation in the Kapihan Sessions. P