Bloody war on drugs
“It will be bloody.” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in light of his powerful campaign against illegal drugs.
Just a few weeks after the new administration stepped in, hundreds of suspected criminals have already been killed. Yes, it is bloody.
An average of 10 suspected criminals gets killed in police operations every day. Other suspected criminals become victims of vigilante killings. No wonder a lot of Filipinos are alarmed and is getting involved in the debate.
As a Filipino, I believe it is also my responsibility to be part of the discussion. So please allow me to put my two cents in.
Philippine National Police (PNP) anti-drug drive is succeeding
There is a lot of noise in social media. People are saying, “Only the poor are dying,” “Criminals deserve due process,” “The current administration is inviting everyone to take the law into their hands,” and much more.
The discussion has become confusing because of these snippet ideas.
So why don’t we begin with the problem?
Problem: Drugs in the Philippines
Goal: Suppress drugs in 3 to 6 months
After 3 to 6 months, how can we determine if the new administration succeeded or not?
We must have a baseline value.
According to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), there are an estimated 1.3 million drug users in the Philippines. That will serve as our baseline value. (Figure estimate is from 2012 data)
So after 3 to 6 months, we compare the number of drug users to our baseline value, which in this case is 1.3 million. We need to check if there is a significant decrease.
Now, let’s take a look at what the PNP anti-drug drive has achieved so far (data as of July 27):
- 120,038 have surrendered
- 3,213 were arrested
- 239 were killed in police operations
In total, that’s 123,490 people removed from the ‘demand-side’ of the drug scene. That’s a 9% reduction in only 22 days. If that remains consistent, then there will be at least 60% reduction after 6 months.
On top of that, there is also progress in the ‘supply-side’. The new administration is receiving a lot of valuable intelligence reports. They have information about drug lords, police generals and mayors linked to illegal drugs. The big players, if stopped, will definitely cause a huge decline in drug production.
Moreover, the New Bilibid Prison — where high-profile inmates and drug lords are behind bars — recently had a major revamp. Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) are now the ones manning New Bilibid Prison instead of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) personnel, who are set to have a retraining as part of their internal cleansing.
The intelligence reports and revamp of New Bilibid Prison has a high possibility of causing not only a linear but exponential decline in drugs in the following months.
If we assume an exponential factor of 10%, we’re looking at an astounding 74% decrease by the end of this year.
One more thing important to note is that because of the police efforts, we discovered a new problem: there is a huge need for rehabilitation facilities.
Because of that, we are starting to learn that drug addiction is a sickness and drug users are sick people who need proper treatment.
So by all those metrics I believe that so far the new administration is succeeding in its war against drugs.
(If you think otherwise, I’d love to know why. What is your metrics? Please walk me through your analysis and let’s have a healthy discussion.)
“Drug addiction is a sickness and drug users are sick people who need proper treatment.”
Debunk false dichotomies
Let me address the false dichotomy presented by many Filipinos.
False dichotomy # 1
“Who should die, the innocent people or the criminals?”
Answer: If possible, nobody should die. Innocent people shouldn’t die, that’s obvious. Criminals shouldn’t die either because they have the right to due process.
False dichotomy # 2
“Why is it that only the poor and small-time drug users and pushers are getting killed? Isn’t it that the high-profile ones, the drug lords, and their protectors, should be the ones getting killed?”
Answer: Whether they are small-time or high-profile criminals or protectors, they shouldn’t be killed because, again, they have the right to due process.
I wish all drug users and drug pushers just get arrested instead of killed. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Some of them are so deep in the rabbit hole that they can’t leave the drug scene anymore. They fight it out with the police. That’s why 239 were already killed in police operations.
To put it into perspective, for every 1,000 drug personalities who get arrested or voluntarily surrenders, 1 poses imminent danger and fights until death.
I think it is believable that for every 1,000 criminals there is 1 that will really show unlawful aggression. Some people are saying that the police are just killing all criminals. If that’s true, we’ll be looking at a pile of 100,000+ dead bodies by now.
(Do you see something wrong with my logic? Let me know and help me straighten it out. Thanks!)
“Some people are saying that the police are just killing all criminals. If that’s true, we’ll be looking at a pile of 100,000+ dead bodies by now.”
All police operations where suspects get killed must be investigated ASAP
Just because the new administration is succeeding in their efforts to suppress drugs in the Philippines doesn’t mean we have to be blind to the possibility that they may abuse their powers.
Though the statistics aren’t showing an exorbitant ratio (1 killed is to 1,000 arrests and/or criminal surrenders), police operations where suspects get killed must still be investigated.
The PNP must take the investigations seriously to:
1. Gain the trust of the public
The police must show us that they are not only “doing something” but they are also “doing it right.”
It’s a win-win scenario because they gain our trust and we become comfortable with how the police operate.
2. Ensure protocol adherence
We cannot discount the possibility that some police officers may abuse their powers or use it to clean their tracks. Every police operation must be checked to leave no room for corrupted officers to continue their wrongdoings. They must adhere to the guidelines stated in the PNP Operational Procedures Manual.
The results of the investigations must be available to the public. They must give us the numbers. How many of the 239 killed were killed because they really fought it to death with the police? How many of the 239 were killed because the police used excessive and unjustifiable force?
Shella Castillo, the spokesperson of Philippine National Police Internal Affairs Service (PNP-IAS), said that the investigation of each of the cases could last about two weeks. There must be results by now for some of the investigations. We, the Filipino people, deserve to know the results.
(Disagree? Sure, let’s discuss.)
How many of the 239 killed were killed because they really fought it to death with the police? How many of the 239 were killed because the police used excessive and unjustifiable force? We, the Filipino people, deserve to know.
Vigilante killings must stop
What I’ve noticed is that most Filipinos put all the killings happening recently in just one basket. It is important to differentiate killings that occurred under police operations and killings perpetrated by vigilante groups.
The police officers are the official law enforcers. They have a set of rules to follow. They must adhere to the law. They can be regulated and checked. So though the number of suspects getting killed in police operations is increasing, what we should be more alarmed with is the proliferating killings carried out by vigilante groups.
I don’t have the numbers specifically for vigilante killings so I can’t dive into the trend of what’s happening. All I know is that these vigilante groups cannot take the law into their hands. That’s why we have the police.
To those saying that these vigilante killings are okay because most of the victims are criminals, please wake up. I know you’re tired of the bad elements in the society but we must uplift our humanity as well. Let’s pressure the police to enforce the law but let us not tolerate other groups in passing judgment to anyone they wish.
“To those saying that these vigilante killings are okay because most of the victims are criminals, please wake up.”
Vigilante killings must stop.
We have different opinions about this matter. Despite that, we Filipinos need to learn to respect each others opinion. This is a great time for us to unite.
Unity does not mean we should have the same opinion every time. Unity means we have to be complementary to each other.
Don’t hate, help.
Don’t shame, educate.
“Change must start with us and in us.”
— President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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