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Gov’t should rethink violent drug war

04:01 AM February 24, 2020

I am writing this letter about the ever-present drug problem in the Philippines, which President Duterte has vowed to eradicate.

More than three years have passed, and we are yet to see its end. The war on drugs was launched in hopes of finally getting rid of the drug menace, but instead it has left a bloody trail.

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According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, from July 2016 to March 2019, 127,379 antidrug operations were conducted, 182,061 personalities were arrested, and 5,375 drug abusers died in legitimate police operations. There are many more such deaths classified as “homicides under investigation.”

Many people were happy that the President was keeping his promise, but there were also those who complained because of it. People were rallying and condemning the actions of the government, saying that it was bloody and inhumane. Some said that the government violated the constitutional rights of the people such as the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, the right against illegal search, and self-incrimination.

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The underprivileged and those who lived in the slums were often the targets. The campaign was even called a “war against the poor.” People got scared for their lives; they didn’t know if one day it’d be their turn to suddenly get raided by the police claiming they were drug pushers, and if unlucky, they might even be killed for allegedly violently resisting arrest.

The war on drugs was easily abused in many ways. It was hard to know if those people arrested or killed were really drug pushers, as the policemen were severely lacking in equipment like body cameras to determine whether the arrest was lawful or the shooting was justified. They acted like judges of the court, determining who was guilty or not. The death penalty is currently not in effect in the country, but that is being circumvented in a way because a person may be killed if the policemen doing the arrest think he/she is violently resisting.

I think it is commendable that the President is tackling a problem that previous administrations did not. But the methods employed are wrong. The Philippines is not the first country to have a war on drugs; other countries have tried it, too, and were mostly unsuccessful. The President’s six-month promise to eradicate the drug problem has turned to years, and there looks to be no end in sight. Maybe it is time to try something else—something less bloody, something more humane, and something that won’t violate the rights of the people.

RYAN DANE MAGPANTAY
San Sebastian College of Law

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TAGS: drug war, extrajudicial killings, letter, Rodrigo Duterte, Ryan Dane Magpantay
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