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COMMENTARY

Drugs are not PH’s only problem

12:06 AM October 17, 2016

From Day One of his assumption to office, President Duterte has set his sights on the eradication of the Philippines’ drug problem.

Whenever the opportunity presents itself in public functions, he talks about the proliferation of illegal drugs and the need to put an end to it through all possible means.

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His speeches are often peppered with expletives that, under normal circumstances, would have been ordered deleted or blipped by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board for violation of the rules on appropriate “on air” language.

There is no question that the drug menace has reached alarming proportions and represents a serious threat to peace and order. Left unchecked, it can lead to narcopolitics or drug money influencing local and national elections.

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But grave as it is, it is only one of many social and economic ills that the Duterte administration has to attend to with equal urgency. Poverty, lack of employment opportunities, crumbling infrastructure, poor school facilities, and inadequate medical services, among others, continue to make life difficult for the majority of our people.

Except for his inaugural State of the Nation Address, Mr. Duterte has hardly been heard on his plans or program of action to solve those problems.

Although he admitted during the election campaign that he has no expertise on matters outside of prosecuting criminals and running a city, and for which reason he is giving his Cabinet members a free hand in running their departments, he cannot adopt a nonchalant or arm’s-length attitude on significant matters of national governance.

The people look to him as the symbol of government. His pronouncements carry weight and are often taken as marching orders to whoever they are addressed.

True, Cabinet members are alter egos of the President and their statements are considered as if his own or given upon his instructions, but their impact on the public is not as strong or effective unless he says them himself.

Solving the drug problem (assuming it can be accomplished in the manner it is presently being done) will not automatically translate to the solution of the country’s other pressing concerns.

Having less drug addicts roaming the streets or drug pushers plying their trade will not result in, for example, the easing of the unemployment problem, higher food production, lower prices of basic commodities, or quality education for our youth.

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The solution to these problems is not inextricably linked to getting rid of drug pushers or exterminating with extreme prejudice the drug lords inside or outside the national penitentiary.

These matters have to be separately and specifically addressed by Mr. Duterte with the same degree of importance that he has been giving the drug problem.

The Duterte administration cannot be a “single platform” government that considers ending the drug menace as the principal purpose for its existence for the next six years.

The President should disabuse himself of the idea that the 61 million or so Filipinos who voted him to office want him to solely devote his time and the resources of the government in ridding the country of drug lords and their cohorts.

Since he has already made clear the direction he wants law enforcers to take on his antidrug campaign, it’s time he took an active role in the solution of the country’s other social and economic problems.

It’s been said that war is too important to be left to the generals. But so are the problems of poverty, economic inequality and social imbalance: Their solution cannot be solely entrusted to the experts or technocrats.

The mandate that President Duterte received from the people behooves him to get more involved in other significant aspects of national governance besides leading the war on drugs.

Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: Commentary, drugs, opinion, PH, President Rodrigo Duterte
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