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Not a solution to the drug problem

05:02 AM August 29, 2017

There was chilling news recently. President Rodrigo Duterte said: “Thirty-two were killed in a massive raid in Bulacan. That is good. If we could kill 32 every day, then maybe we could reduce what ails this country.” (“25 dead in Manila anticrime sweep,” News, 8/18/17)

Killings after killings did not prove successful in addressing illegal drugs in the country, and yet, the President would want to kill more. His words on killing the poor spurred the mass-murder approach to the problem.

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“If you die, I’m sorry… I have to clean up until such time the drug lords are eliminated from the streets,” he had said. (“Duterte to poor: Sorry if you die”, News, 3/26/17).

The President uses this as justification for the deaths of drug users, pushers/peddlers, and errand runners who are poor. He may claim to be cleaning the streets, but he will never rid them of drug lords because these people were never on the streets to begin with. His logic is fatally flawed.

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Why is it easier for the poor to be killed? And why does it seem easier for the powerful to impose “murderous” attacks against the poor?

In August of last year, Mr. Duterte identified 150 officials from the judiciary, police, and local government who were allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade. He also named five generals.

They have had a chance to challenge this list. They could access legal remedies to defend themselves. Are they simply luckier than the poor or somewhat different?

The poor in the dark and smelly paths of Payatas, Navotas or Caloocan have been killed in front of their family members, massacred in their homes, and executed after being roused from sleep.

Sorry for the poor that they are poor — this seems to be all that the President can say. This is enough to make knees of the poor tremble, as they wonder what may be the present and the future of their families with such chilling words.

Poverty should not be seen as an excuse for selling illicit substances, but poverty has become a fertile ground for the sale of these drugs to prosper. How about big-time illegal distributors, traders, and manufacturers who hold the reins in this opportunistic business and take advantage of the widespread poverty? These big-time drug lords will not be found on the streets; they are in offices and luxurious houses with security and protection.

Poor families and kin that have seen their loved ones killed in the most brutal ways find it hard to get justice. They face bureaucratic intricacies and extensive legal procedures. Grinding poverty already grips their daily survival. So-called addicts and small-time runners as well as non-addicts struggling to survive as scavengers, batilyos, coconut vendors, vegetable peddlers, messengers, sales barkers, and scavengers who compete with dogs and cats for mounds of garbage to take what could be sold in order to eat, hope to earn at least P100 a day to feed themselves and their families. Theirs is not an option to be poor; theirs is a predicament bequeathed upon by the conspiracy of injustice and violence.

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Denied social justice, they are left with rags and filth and are looked down upon on the basis of their class status, address and lack of land security, smell, and the shade of their skin.

Drug addiction must be addressed from a human rights framework and social justice approach. It should not be so easy to murder the poor. We should be concerned with the children being orphaned and left without economic and social security. We should be gravely worried for the young who are the direct witnesses of the violent killings of their parent/s or neighbor/s. The traumatic experiences, the psychological and mental strains would surely impact their growing-up years; and if these are not addressed, it may result in a continuing cycle of suffering and violence.

We are alarmed that the poor are allowed to be used as easy targets and are rendered victims of extrajudicial killings. We are disturbed that poor communities are not safe from vigilantes and perpetrators. We recognize complexity in the issues and acknowledge limitations in our understanding of drug addiction and the drug trade. Still, stigma and seemingly “easy solutions” through killing the poor will not address the problem at all.

The pain of poverty, forced migration, hunger, inaccessible education, substandard housing, and inadequate health services must be addressed.

Killings and more killings of the poor will not solve our nation’s drug problem. They will not remove drug lords from the streets. The extrajudicial and drug-related killings, and human rights violations only succeed in further inflicting and even multiplying the suffering of the poor creating an even bigger mess.

NORMA P.DOLLAGA, Kapatirang Simbahan Para sa Bayan (Kasimbayan), Kasimbayan@yahoo.com.ph

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TAGS: drug killings, extrajudicial killings, Inquirer letters, Norma P. Dollaga, Rodrigo Duterte, war on drugs
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