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There's a narrative that the police have constantly used to justify the mounting number of victims in the so-called war on drugs in the Philippines. 'Nanlaban'—a single word that the police rely on to exonerate themselves from culpability for thousands of deaths.

'Nanlaban' in police parlance means that a suspect resisted arrest and fought back and thus deserved to be shot dead. The public bought this excuse initially, never mind that the victims were unarmed and witnesses said they begged for their lives before they were killed. It's easier to buy into the lie than to think that you could be next.

How can 'nanlaban' then be used to justify the death of a four-year-old?

This is Bladen Skyler, a beloved child who had just learned to write his name—a brilliant feat considering how long it is. Bladen was hit by a stray bullet when a group of four policemen allegedly caught a number of men smoking pot next door. The police chief said the suspects fired at the policemen. 'Nanlaban'.

Bladen's neighbours insisted that there was only one shot fired, and that they only saw the policemen with guns. Later on, a nasty rumour went round, alleging that Bladen's dad was one of the suspects. The grieving young man wasn't home when his son was killed, and was haunted by his decision not to take the boy with him because it was too hot. He felt enough guilt without having to be burdened with a lie. No one believed the rumour though.

'Justice,' Bladen's family and neighbours demanded as they wept. The earth swallowed their tears, and the wind carried their voices.

Someday, they will be heard and justice will be served.




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