Do the members of the Philippine Liberal Party and their supporters who are against President Rodrigo Duterte’s “drug war” have a better alternative to solving the drug problem in the country? It doesn’t look like they do. They make a lot of noise and rabidly criticise the government’s efforts to stamp out the illegal drug trade, but they haven’t presented an alternative solution that can apply to the Philippine setting.
Current Vice President Leni Robredo was quoted suggesting the government study how the Portuguese government addressed the drug problem in Portugal, but she never proactively pursued the idea herself. This is something her office could have done – conduct an in-depth study of Portugal’s policies on illegal drugs and see if it can actually apply to or work in the Philippines. She’s part of the government, after all. One wonders why she keeps criticising the government she is part of.
Filipinos cannot simply copy another country’s policy just because it is perceived to have worked in their society. Portugal’s policy may not work in the Philippines. Every society is different. The country is not rich enough to treat the drug problem as a health problem. Who is going to fund the rehabilitation of the millions of drug addicts in the country? Besides, the Philippines is run like a mafia operation. Patronage politics is very strong. In fact, the reason why the drug problem worsened is because a lot of the drug lords were allegedly allied with the Liberal Party. For six years, the drug lords operated without any hitch. They even ran a drug laboratory inside the national penitentiary. Former Department of Justice Secretary and now Senator Leila De Lima was aware of this, but couldn’t do much about it.
Yes, the Liberal Party had an opportunity to address the drug epidemic, but ignored it instead. Former Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary and losing Presidential candidate Mar Roxas apparently knew where the source of illegal drugs were, even bragging at one time about the exact location where he can get some, but it seems he did not do anything to stop the dealers from engaging in their trade with impunity.
But now members of the Liberal Party are acting like they are the experts when it comes to solving the drug problem. Yet they can’t even present a detailed solution on how to fix it. They should do themselves a favour by either shutting up since they had their chance but blew it, or by presenting concrete plans on how to go about dealing with the drug lords. Would they finally go after friends and allies who are in the business? Would they be willing to risk losing campaign donors when they clamp down on suspected drug lords who are supporting their party? How would they address the shortage of drug rehabilitation facilities in the country? How will they deal with the crimes committed by drug addicts? Will they give the drug addicts a pass since they think drug addiction is a mental issue and not a criminal issue? If they do that, then the victims of drug addicts should be entitled to compensation, which tax payers won’t support. These are the kinds of questions Liberal Party members and their supporters need to ask themselves before they criticise Duterte’s war on drugs.
Members of the Liberal Party in the House and the Senate aren’t even coming up with any legislation to change the laws on illegal drugs. At present possessing and dealing are both illegal, which means the government agencies are simply doing their jobs enforcing the law. This just proves that the Liberal Party, in acting so outraged, are not genuine in their concern for human rights.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Duterte’s war on drugs is perfect either. He should have mounted an aggressive cleaning of the ranks of law enforcement agencies before he embarked on his crusade. He should have avoided attracting the attention of the international community by not making unnecessary remarks against those who criticised his policies. He should have allowed the result of his efforts to speak for him. The last survey showed that more Filipinos feel safer with his drug policy. But now the bleeding hearts are after him for feeling slighted by his words.
Speaking of bleeding hearts, Dr. Agnes Callamard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution is in the country as a special guest at a drug policy forum at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Callamard took Malacanang by surprise by not telling the Duterte administration of her arrival. Her lack of diplomacy was evident when she snubbed an invitation from the office of the President for her to come late last year. She probably wanted to catch the Philippine law enforcement agency off guard. A planned meeting would not have satisfied her.
In the forum, Callamard emphasised that “the war on drugs does not work”. She added that “many harms associated with drugs are not caused by drugs, but by the negative impacts of badly thought-out drug policies.”
Callamard must have in mind drug wars in countries like Mexico and Columbia, which were backed by the US. They were very violent, indeed. But, ironically, they were not condemned by the UN as much as they now condemn the Philippines’ drug war. It is quite baffling why the UN, seemingly represented Callamard, is meddling in Philippine affairs. She didn’t even bother gathering correct data from the Philippine National Police before she concluding that the Philippine drug war will not work.
Callamard will be in the Philippines for just a few days and will not even get a chance to investigate the alleged extra-judicial killings relating to the war on drugs. She’ll only have time to meet with like-minded people – people who will tell her what she wants to hear. She will leave with the same impression she had before coming to the Philippines. It will be a visit that had been well planned by her sponsors. They made sure she avoided meeting members of the government who can address her concerns. That just goes to show Callamard doesn’t respect the current government and couldn’t be bothered clarifying her concerns. Instead, she’d rather talk to the media about her one-sided view. She could be the ticket back to power the Liberal Party has been desperately looking out for.