SPOILER alert! Season 2 of Netflix’s “Daredevil” is filled with graphic violence. The bad men must die, especially those who deal drugs. Those within proximity of bad people are equally guilty; they must be shot dead, too. No questions asked.
This is the Punisher’s brand of justice.
In season 1, it was just Daredevil — a devout Catholic masked man who beats up the bad elements of society to teach them a lesson. He doesn’t believe in killing; he beats them up until they are unconscious and throws them in jail, hoping they’ll reflect on their transgressions and become reformed citizens.
Against the backdrop of Hell’s Kitchen’s corrupt prison system, the Netflix series seems to find a moral justification for vigilantism without apologies.
The verbal exchange between Daredevil and the Punisher in the third episode is a philosophical discussion that blurs the line between right and wrong.
Punisher: I think that the people I kill need killing.
Daredevil: You left men hanging from meat hooks!
Punisher: They got off easy, in my opinion.
Daredevil: You shot up a hospital!
Punisher: Yeah, nobody got hurt that didn’t deserve it.
Daredevil: You run around this city like it’s your damn shooting gallery.
Punisher: Yeah? What do you do? You act like it’s a playground. You beat up the bullies with your fists. They throw them in jail. Everybody calls you a hero, right? And then a month, a week, a day later, they’re back on the streets doing the same goddamn thing.
Daredevil: Yeah, so you just put them in the morgue?
Punisher: You’re goddamn right I do.
The world, according to the Punisher, needs men who are willing to make the hard call to break the revolving door of crime.
The episode on the Punisher’s court trial reveals a polarized society, confronted by a moral dilemma. The God-fearing faction condemns the Punisher’s thirst for blood; his supporters hail him as a hero, convinced that the only moral thing to do is to kill criminals in a world where the justice system is the epitome of failure and government authorities are crooked.
The Philippines has its own version of Hell’s Kitchen, a country mired in crime, where drug lords are in bed with cops and court officials.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte – the real-life “Punisher” – repeatedly warned them during the campaign. His war on drugs involves a flood of gore. He sanctioned – even endorsed – vigilantism, giving everyone blanket authority to act as judge and executioner. “If (a criminal) fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him,” he said in his post-election speech.
“Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support.”
Rising death toll
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s death list of suspected drug dealers places the estimate at 465 between June 30 – the day Duterte assumed office – and Aug. 1.
And he is not about to stop. In Filipino expression, “walang sinasanto” (doesn’t believe in saints). “If you don’t want to die and get hurt, don’t pin your hopes on priests and human rights (groups). They can’t stop death,” Duterte said.
Duterte’s main appeal to the electorate has always been his toughness. For a population that is tired of nonperforming politicians, Duterte is a novelty. For the generation that is ignorant of what happened during the martial law regime, he is a hero. His supporters would continue to applaud, until the next dead person is somebody they know to be innocent.
In the realm of the TV series adapted from Marvel comic books, one can judge the Punisher kindly without any guilt. But in real life, where a real-world Punisher actually exists, one can’t have blurry moral judgment.
No matter how farcical the Philippine justice system may be, the rule of law must still reign and one must hope for true justice.
* The opinion of this author is his/hers alone. It is not necessarily the views of Beyond Deadlines.