(image from philippine star)

Duterte’s War On Drugs : Whose Side Are You On

Judging by their articles, mainstream media seems to be on the side of the narcos.

Duterte’s Anti-Drug Policy

Since before the election, President Duterte has expressed his most important advocacy is to eradicate the proliferation of drugs in the Philippines. He even resorted to threats against drug addicts, pushers, and drug lords that they will be killed. He initially promised to eradicate the problem in 3 to 6 months, but after getting ahold of police intelligence on suspected drug personalities amounting to thousands including prominent personalities such as politicians, judges, celebrities, and businessmen, he expressed his dismay to the public that the problem is bigger than he initially thought. He is not backing down in this war, and will continue to do so until the end of his term.

The main police operation against illegal drugs is called “Oplan Tokhang” coined from a portmanteau of Cebuano words for “knock” and “persuade”. Police will visit the residences of suspected drug criminals according the police intelligence, and persuade the pushers to stop their drug dealing, and for users/addicts to surrender for rehabilitation. The official tally from the police as of January 25, 2017 from July 01, 2016 (start of Duterte administration) is :

  • 42,798 police operations conducted
  • 2,512 drug personalities killed
  • 51,882 drug personalities arrested
  • 6,808,821 houses visited
  • 1,173,212 surrendered of which 79,251 are pushers
  • 35 police killed in operation and 84 wounded
  • 3 armed forces killed in action and 8 wounded

The statistics are startling, but no mainstream media ever gave importance to these numbers. Instead, they focused on the deaths in this administration. Mainstream media maintains a tally of deaths they call a “kill list” which includes all kinds of deaths. Currently, mainstream media are saying that there are 6000 dead in the wake of Duterte’s drug war. The opposing parties likes to use this bloated number to condemn Duterte and paint him as a cold-blooded killer.

His seeming obsession against drugs is that he has seen the atrocities that crazed drug addicts have done. Murder. Rape. Destruction of property. Theft. Duterte always expresses that his vision for the drug war is to have a safe society for the future generations; that the people will feel safer in the streets and that they will not fall victim of crime by drug addicts.

Human Rights Violations : Government vs Narcos

The opposing parties of Duterte’s anti-drug policy has two major concerns :

  1. Human rights violations as suspected criminals are killed in anti-drug operations
  2. Culture of impunity as vigilantes arise in killing drug suspects

There are some 2,500 killed during police operations, and some 4,000 murders committed by unknown suspects. The opposition, with the help of the media, likes to attribute the unknown murders as a result of a culture of impunity. They are accusing the police, backed by Duterte, of indiscriminately killing off the persons in the narco list.

But is that the only possibility?

In a “war” there is always at least two sides. In this war, it is the government against the narcotic trade. Mainstream media, and even foreign media, have published various human interest stories of the families of slain suspected drug criminals, but they have not taken interest in the families of the victims of drug addicts. They like to portray that the Duterte administration is violating human rights by killing outside of due process.

But the mainstream media have published in their stories that the drug pushers and users have not stopped in the drug trade not just because of the need of money, but because they are afraid that they will be liquidated by their higher ups. It is highly probable that the drug cartels don’t like snitches among their ranks, and are protecting their trade by killing. There are even high profile drug lords who are killed when they have expressed their intent to talk with the President and divulge what they know of the drug trade.

Why hasn’t mainstream media looked into this angle? Why has there been no investigative report on the narco trade? What about investigative reports on the narco-politicians? The mediamen today could be afraid, seeing that recently, a local journalist in the Bicol region was killed when he published a story detailing the narco trade in the region. Or could they be beneficiaries of these narco-politicians?

Meth as the Main Problem

The main illegal substance abuse in the Philippines is meth, locally known as “shabu”. It is a stimulant drug that elicits aggression and violent behaviour. Human rights organizations are calling out against Duterte’s drug war because they maintain that drug abuse should not be considered a security problem, but a health problem. They are calling for the decriminalization of drugs and often cites Portugal as a model example of how a country stabilized its drug problem by decriminalizing drugs.

However, they conveniently left out the part that Portugal’s main problem is heroin and other opiods which inhibits violent behavior. The violence and crime associated is only when the heroin addict is desperate to get their fix that they are willing to kill and steal. For the Philippines’ meth problem, the addicts become violent when high, in addition to being violent during desperate times.

In Japan, they curtailed the illegal drug trade through a strict implementation of the control of drugs. They have curtailed it to a minimum by making sure that supply cannot get in (prices gets high) and penalties are harsh (the risks are not worth it).

End Game

The Philippines seems aim to follow the Japan path, but first, it has to get rid of the narcos seeping into politics. By ruffling the feathers of the drug cartels that have rooted in our society, the Duterte administration may have led these cartels to act defensively by killing their snitches. The opposition and the drug cartels are riding in tandem with the advocacy of the human rights groups and of the Catholic Church for the government to stop killing. Have there been calls for the drug cartels to stop the killing? Then there’s mainstream media who are negatively portraying not just his anti-drug policy, but everything Duterte.

The Duterte administration intends to stop the drug trade not just because of its negative effects on the people, but also because of its corruption on politics and business. Maybe future leaders will have a different stance, but in the present, I am supporting President Duterte in his war against drugs.

So, whose side are you on?