Opinion: Is the War on Illegal Drugs and Criminality a Siege on Filipinos?

As expected, President Rodrigo R. Duterte did not waste time and he proceeded with (depending on your biased opinion and views) working immediately on his warning or his advocacy; elimination of drug problems.  He was so confident that during the presidential campaign, he promised to himself and made it clear publicly that all he needed is just six months to get rid of drugs and criminality in the entire nation.  

While Filipinos have yet to see Manila Bay in red, the way Moses did during the Exodus story in the Bible, Duterte proceeded with his own bloodbath strategy which political opponents called Extra Judicial Killings (EJK) as part of quicker solutions for his war against the drug menace. 

from YouTube

Background on the War Against Drugs and Crime


You have to go back to the election campaign period where then presidential candidate Duterte proclaimed that the war on drugs is one of his flagship campaign promise along with crime reduction and peace and security.  He specifically stated during his campaign and frequently reiterated in various campaign sorties that the entire archipelago would become a narco-state if the drug problem will not be seriously dealt with.   His campaign pronouncement included killing not only of drug lords but also those who are suspected of pushing and using drugs; of course he defended his words with a safety clause reminding the electorates that killing is a necessity if these people will resist arrest. 


Background on the War Against Drugs and Crime
from YouTube

He came to this war prepared as he already had a template on how to do it which were implemented during his many terms as mayor of Davao City.  His strategies against drugs were perceived to be successful and can be implemented in other parts of the country as well.  Part of his war is the practice of EJK, to quickly eliminate suspected drug dealers, abusers, and pushers.

Many politicians and advocacy groups resisted his methods of dealing with the drug problem.  For them, it is not only a war on drugs but a war on Filipino people as a whole because the strategy uses fear and intimidation. It deprived suspects with human rights, a day in court, and chance to rehabilitate their lives.  In simple words, there is no mercy with Duterte.


from viralpenguin.com

Why the Draconian Measures?


Despite the huge criticism on Duterte’s war on drugs, he was still able to muster a 91 percent trust rating from a survey.  One of the possible reasons why people still support him is that citizens are disappointed with the human rights method.  Given the fact that our justice system is slow and the tentacles of drug problems penetrated important government officials and agencies, millions of Filipinos agree with the Duterte’s moves.


How Huge is the Crime and Drug Problem in the Philippines?


Drugs and criminality go together; thus, there is a perception that the drug menace in the country is really big.  Take note that Duterte’s method on dealing with drug problems is not unique as other Asian countries also implemented the same strategy.  Execution was also performed on drug related crimes in China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam.  Duterte was elected on the strength of his promised to be really tough with drugs and crime in the country.  But, are these two really a big problem? Here’s what an international report has stated on this matter.  The report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that:
  • In terms of owning firearms, the Philippines rank low; 105th place.  According to the same report, there are 4.7 guns per 100,000 Filipinos, as opposed to 30 in Canada, 45 in Finland, and 15 in Australia.
  • For 2015, the Philippines has at least 232,000 reported cases of crime against individuals that resulted into physical injury. However, compare this figure with United Kingdom which has lesser population than Philippines, this country has more than 375,000 cases of assault against persons in the same year; indicating that UK has more serious crime problems than Philippines.
Crime and Drug Problem in the Philippines
from nscb.gov.ph
  • For 2014, UK has more than 30,000 cases of rape, France reported more than 12,000, and Sweden with a population of less than 10 million reported more than 6,200 cases of rape.  The Philippines has 10,294 reported cases of rape.  Again, the statistics reveal that crime due to rape is graver in some European countries.
  • In the same year also, the Philippines registered more than 52,000 cases of robbery; almost the same figures with Costa Rica but this Latin America country has only less than 10 million people.  Compare this figure with a European country like Belgium which reported more than 171,000 robberies but with a population of below 12 million people; again, Philippine robbery figures is not huge in terms of ratio and proportion.
Those are figures for crime and what about the drug problem?  

The UNODC reported that the prevailing rate for use of amphetamine is at 2.35 per cent of the entire population. The figure is at par with the US at 2.20 and Australia with 2.90 percent.  When it comes to specifics, the report revealed that:
  • The prevalence rate of use of illicit drugs is so minuscule which is .05 compared with 3.30 in the land down under and 5.41 in Uncle Sam’s country. 
  • In terms of cocaine use, Australia has 2.10 prevalence rate, UK has 2.40, and the Philippines registered .03 percent.
Clearly, from this drug and crime statistics, the Philippine situation is not alarming.  This is the reason why there are people who objected against Duterte’s method as it is tantamount to histrionics.  The statistics have shown that there is no need for extra judicial means to settle and fulfill his campaign promise. 

The Number One Story on Duterte’s War on Drugs and Criminality


As of this writing, many things had happened; there is an on-going Senate Hearing on EJK, the Chair on Justice and Human Rights, Senator Leila De Lima was ousted already and the senate hearing is now under the hands of Senator Dick Gordon who was reported to have agreed for the suspension of writ of habeas corpus, and President Duterte has asked for an extension of another 6 months in order to 100 percent curb drugs and criminality in the country.  According to him, he did not realize that the problem was so deep that he needs additional time to fulfill his campaign promise. 

However, it seems that he is not satisfied yet with the figures with regard to his war on drugs and criminality.  According to Rappler, the number story are as follows:
  • There are already more than 3,300 individuals killed since July 1, 2016; the day after Duterte was sworn into office as President of the Philippines.
  • At least 1,185 drug personalities were already slaughtered during police operations as of September 20 of this year.
  • In terms of extra –judicial killings, the count has already breached the 2,100 mark.
  • As of September 18 this year, at least 2,100 individuals with suspected drug involvements were killed during police operations.



from Rappler

The Positive and Negative Effects on the War against Drugs and Criminality


Like every stories and situations, there are always positives and negatives.  The war on drugs has brought confidence among millions of citizens. Based on people's social network posts, they are no longer afraid to roam the streets as there are lesser incidence of criminality happening compared when Duterte wasn’t in power yet. For Duterte’s minions, they consider the president very successful in controlling drugs and crime. 
  1. “The Punisher” way of dealing with crime has resulted to a decrease of 13 percent in terms of petty criminal activity which includes snatching.
  2. According to a recent count, at least 700,000 drug users have surrendered because they believe that surrendering will spare them the brunt of the President.


    from Philippines Star

  3. High profile people involved in drugs are even prompting people to admire the guts of the president as many of these high profile individuals involved in drug dealing activities were already known in areas they peddle drugs with.  Unfortunately, Duterte's released lists of supposed drug personalities contain names of politicians, high ranking government and military officials, and members of the court of law.


    from CNN Philippines

  4. According to PNP Chief Ronald De La Rosa, drug availability and supply has been reduced by a staggering 90 percent.
  5. Duterte’s strong stance has revealed the existence of certain laws or ordinances that were not properly or strongly implemented such as curfew on minors and liquor bans in many local government units.
  6. The supply chain at the National Bilibid Prison was stopped.


    from dutertenews.com

According to the president, he will enforce the revival of death penalty (upon approval by the House of Congress). He stressed that his war on drugs will strictly enforce the rule of law.  He said that his campaign would be relentless and it encompasses suppression, prosecution, and rehabilitation.  

However, there are many of those who argued that his method is not humane.

1. According to Zena Bernardo, a social development advocate, she is alarmed by the fact that many of those who were killed were either innocent people or were just part of the lower strata on the drug hierarchy.  She further stressed that Duterte’s method only favors the lowly pusher and user and not on the leaders of the drug cartel.

from Business Insider

2. Senator Leila de Lima conducted a senate hearing on extra judicial killings as she believed that the spate of killing is already part of Pinoys’ breakfast fare. 

3. Instead of upholding the laws, it seems that Duterte’s action has violated many laws left and right and is alarming concerned private citizens as they are afraid that EJK will result into rule of the mob and anarchy.

4. Killings are intensified as war on drugs progress.  It is estimated that at least 5 persons are killed as an indirect or direct result of this “Duterte’s War.”


from philstar.com


The bloodshed on the war on drugs did not escape international attention and gained condemnation from several important global organizations like the United Nations and The European Union; their criticisms earned them curses and unsavory remarks from Duterte. The Philippines landed on international headlines. Duterte and company as well as his loyal supporters were quick to conclude that the news reports were concentrated efforts from his political enemies hoping to grab power.


international community comments on duterte drug war
from steemit.com

Even former allies like the Communist Party of The Philippines turned back their support as they found the summary killings totally inhuman and the war on drugs might be used as a weapon to eliminate members of their ranks.

Suggested Solutions or Alternatives to the War on Drugs


One of the most glaring aspects that truly matters with Duterte’s war on drugs is the absence of an Executive Order highlighting important details about it.  The absence of a framework will expose the war on drugs to undue exploitation; meaning, government militia will have more reasons to suppress, apprehend, and eliminate indiscriminately as there are no guiding rules.

Human rights advocates insisted that the president is using all means at his disposal to drugs but many of the means he is using are downright illegal.  To put it in the words of a Catholic bishop, the country is virtually a killing field. It must be pointed out that when rule of law is taken out of the equation when it comes to fighting drugs and criminality, the effect is indeed catastrophic especially in the long term. 

How can a government who is supposed to protect its citizens is actually killing them?

Here are suggested solutions and possible alternatives: 

Legalizing Drugs


There are people who were saying that in order to eliminate the drug problem, it should be legalized the way Portugal did. According to those who propose this method, drug crimes become violent because it is illegal and once it is no longer prohibited, drugs and criminality will be tamed.  The problem with the war on drugs is that once the government loses the war, the criminals will take over the government.  There is a state in waiting with the drug problem as one expert would put it.


from The Plaid Zebra
When drugs are legalized and regulated the way government does with tobacco and alcohol, the drug lord will lose control and eventually will be out of business. And when illegal drugs become legal, drug addicts are recognized per se and will be given the right treatment the way sick people are treated instead of treating addicts as criminals.

Drug Summit


Another solution that must be taken into serious consideration is for the government to hold a summit.  This way, the government will be able to consult different sectors of society and will work with corresponding government agencies and private organizations with regards to drug problems in the country.  There must be a certain degree of agreement between government and human rights organization, conformity to existing international treaties when it comes to sharing of information and extradition, the required infrastructures like rehabilitation centers and prison wards must be in place to accommodate a huge number of offenders and drug addicts.

The End of It All


from YouTube

The country is now wounded because of this war on drugs.  It has divided the country instead of being polarized.  It slowly destroys the image of the nation, be it locally or internationally.  The level of arguments is now down at emotional level instead of rational level; thus, there is an ongoing social media war right now arguing about the positive and negative effects of Duterte’s war on drugs.

People behind Duterte are acting like children blaming and castigating local and international media for intentionally reporting unfavorable news on his war against drugs and criminality. Duterte’s opponents on the other hand are moving heaven and earth to fight his illegal methods on dealing with drugs and criminality.  

Clearly, there are no winners here and Filipinos are the only losers at the end of this war as the extra-judicial methods will bring in short term solutions, and not long term. There is always that question, “what happens when Duterte is no longer around?” 
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