Who’s winning in Du30’s drug war?
Will the Duterte administration’s present approach to wipe out the drug menace succeed? With more than 7,000 dead (mostly from poor families), over a million surrenderees, some 5 million house “visits,” thousands of arrests, and tons of seized shabu, can we say, with conviction, that President Duterte’s “war on drugs” has made progress?
Let’s look at other countries’ experience with their own drug wars.
Billions of dollars have been spent on drug wars which have seen a record number of kills, raids and top drug lords getting their just deserts (e.g., Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar).
As for the casualties, in America, they mostly came from the ranks of disenfranchised, black Americans and Spanish migrants and their descendants who are living in poor communities. In Colombia, they were mostly urban poor and peasant migrants from remote villages.
The Philippine experience is no different. The above-mentioned statistics on the drug war should, therefore, not be treated as positive indicators of the war’s success but as distress warnings that we may be hurtling toward a catastrophe.
The number of drug addicts, just over a million at the start of the 2000s, has soared to 5 million in just 15 years. In fact, the drug trade has become a multibillion-peso business comparable to the biggest enterprises in the country. Worse, it is now, practically, a grand public-private partnership, albeit unfortunately with clear criminal intent.
Admittedly, no drug trade would flourish without the collaboration of people in authority. But it was only after the murder of a Korean national, by ranking police officers right inside the main headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, did the administration start looking into the “internal loopholes” of its antidrug campaign.
President Duterte, before launching his war on drugs, should have initiated an internal cleansing of the PNP. But so little is being done to address rampant corruption in the PNP and the collusion of law enforcers with criminal, let alone, drug syndicates. This is one key reason that past efforts to eliminate the drug menace failed.
But it’s the war’s defective strategy and poor execution that should concern us all. More so because of the shroud of secrecy that envelops the process of determining a target.
Reportedly, influential and powerful individuals from the public and private sectors, including foreigners, have been positively identified for their involvement—in one way or the other—in the drug trade. But up to now we have yet to see government bringing them to justice. Does this mean that the administration is targeting only the poor?
But being poor is not a crime. The majority of the poor strive hard to earn a decent wage. What is seriously lacking is the opportunity in an economic system that cares so little, if at all, for them. Facing urgent survival issues, a small number of our countrymen turn to crime.
Yes, the drug problem will not be solved unless its roots are properly removed.
BEVERLY L. LONGID, global coordinator, International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.