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What we have done to ourselves

12:18 AM July 22, 2016

The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. While Philippine society has been talking about the drug scourge, both from the massiveness of the illicit trade and the impact of drug abuse, the true focus was always on controlling and reducing illegal drug supply. By now, we know that this policy did not produce its desired results. Worse, the growing demand for illegal drugs simply put more supply into the market.

The news about illegal drugs that have hugged national attention for several weeks has been on two fronts: drug lords and their protectors, and the hordes of drug users and small time pushers who are surrendering to the authorities. In fact, outside of the Unclos ruling on the China issue versus the Philippines, nothing as significant as the drug situation has captured the people’s active interest.

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Actual statistics on the number who have surrendered are not available, or not current, because more surrender daily. But it is estimated that more than 70,000 have done so, and tens of thousands more can possibly follow suit. The surrenderees pose problems and opportunities.

What to do with them in the context of rehabilitation is alarming local government units. Even the cities with the most aggressively-funded programs have been shocked at the numbers they cannot physically accommodate. The surrenderees cannot even be housed, much less treated. And it appears that it has only begun.

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The bright side is that the tens of thousands and the hundreds of thousands who may surrender as well are now giving authorities information after information, lead after lead, about the structures of this illegal industry—and identities, too. It is now possible to get a larger picture of what the government and all of Philippine society face today. Surrenderees are not only from the bottom of the pyramid. Some are part of the hierarchy, and they will point to others higher than them.

Another bright side is that not only government is realizing just how bad things are but the general public as well. The volume of surrenderees is shocking everyone in all towns and cities affected. The Catholic Church and other religious are shocked. The academe is shocked. The business world is shocked. Civil society is shocked. And the shock is necessary because concerted action by different sectors of society is now possible, even sought after.

There are those who would like to focus on the extrajudicial killings. They have reason to be disturbed and object, of course. Society cannot respect the law and tolerate its open violation at the same time. But my personal understanding of the state of affairs is that the pressure being exerted by a determined President and the leadership of the PNP will necessarily result in extrajudicial killings. Even without higher authorities ordering policemen or death squads to actually kill drug pushers and users, killings will occur.

The PNP leadership has claimed that the drug lords are killing their own kind, mainly to protect themselves from being identified and hunted down. It is equally as true as far as dirty policemen and other public officials who have been part of the illegal drug trade. They, too, are motivated to kill those who can identify and testify against them. No one is admitting they are doing the killing so who will the President and General De la Rosa prosecute and punish?

But there will come a time when the killing will taper down, and those who killed in the shadow of the Duterte priority to rid Philippine society of the drug scourge will themselves be identified—or killed by the families and friends of those they executed. It is improbable that President Duterte will ease off, and the same is true of the PNP leadership. In the weeks to come, mayors and other public officials will be named as suspects or protectors of the drug trade. More extrajudicial killings will ensue before they ease up.

Illegal drugs are a cancer, joining the traditional monsters called poverty and corruption. The drug trade has made illegal gambling a small time issue, and a much gentler one. Society will not better understand how poverty breeds corruption, and how poverty and corruption breed the massive drug scourge we have today. There will be no shortcuts in its resolution either, as there have been none with poverty and corruption. And even long-term programs against illegal drugs cannot be successful without addressing both poverty and corruption.

As mentioned earlier, the general public is now more aware and will better understand how ordinary citizens have to bear some of the responsibility as well. Government enforcement agencies may mitigate the supply but only communities can mitigate the demand. Families and communities must urgently look for ways to provide especially our youth with an environment that makes both drug use and sale very difficult. It can be done as all we have to do is learn why some communities are drug-free. The answer to deterring demand is with them, not in concept but in actual reality. We must seek them out, and then adopt their ways as a national program mandated, and supported, by national and local governments.

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In the end, it will be about caring families and communities. It will be about morals and ethics, taught in ways easily understood and appreciated by our youth. It will be schools and businesses and the values they prioritize. It will be about governance and politics, the kind that will rediscover integrity, patriotism, and honor.

It will be about us, all of us. It will be about how much we love our children, our communities, our nation—and what are we willing to do for them, to keep them safe, to keep them well. It will be about how we live, how faithful we are to what we claim we believe and follow, and how brave we are to commit ourselves to do what is right—all the time. Because, so far, we have all failed. Because so far, we have offered to the slaughterhouse those who have come from our own loins.

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TAGS: drugs, Killings, Rodrigo Duterte
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