By Marivir R. Montebon
Pres. Duterte’s war against illegal drugs will succeed if it seriously focuses on crashing the drug cartels on top and addressing poverty pervading at the bottom of society. The unabated murders of suspected drug pushers by vigilantes or cops have already become baffling. It is beginning to isolate Duterte’s young presidency.
Drug cartels in the Philippines are reportedly financed and operated by Chinese, Filipino, and Mexican mafia, doping both the young and the old, the curious and the desperate. This evil business of inflicting addiction and death thrives in a culture of corruption in government. Pres. Duterte’s iron hand may have made sense in cleaning up Davao City of crooks and criminals, pushing out drug cartels outside of his city of jurisdiction. Now the entire Philippines is a huge arena in the war against drugs. But the war against drugs is also fundamentally the war against poverty.
At the Senate hearing on extra-judicial killings recently, PNP chief Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa expressed exasperation on the depth and magnitude of the problem, that even in the National Bilibid Prisons, drug lords live like kings and are allegedly continuing illegal business despite their incarceration. He was alluding to institutional corruption that perpetuates the illegal drugs business.
So desperate perhaps is Dela Rosa that he was quoted as encouraging ‘drug surrenderees’ to burn down houses of drug lords or kill them, citing that the drug lords have become rich because of the drugs they once sold to them. The national police chief said this during a public engagement in Bacolod City on August 24.
As I write, there are 1900 people reported to be summarily killed for their involvement in illicit drugs, perpetrated either by police or unidentified gunmen. It all becomes convoluted, almost impenetrable.
Meantime, someone inquired as to the whereabouts of Peter Lim, an alleged big drug lord in Cebu and the continued office of Mayor Rolando Espinosa in Albuera, Leyte despite his arrest for possession of illegal drugs together with his son. No criminal charges are filed against him to this day.
Clearly, there is a gap and blatant weakness in between the apprehension of alleged criminals and their prosecution and actual filing of criminal charges pursuant to the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
After a buy-bust operation and the destruction of illicit drugs by burning, what happens to those who are arrested? Are they filed appropriate charges as an SOP? Are they allowed bail? Is there usually an out of court settlement to escape from the mills of justice?
There have been so many apprehensions of large-scale dealers and shabu laboratories in Quezon City, Tarlac, Subic, and Pampanga, according to reports by the Inquirer, Philippine Star, and Manila Bulletin.
I remember Mandaue City had been a quiet nest to the biggest shabu (Methamphetamine hydrochloride) factory in southeast Asia. It was busted in 2004 where a ton of shabu was recovered as well as cooking equipment and cameras.
But then, the public was lost as to what happened next – if the NBI and police submitted their opinion to the city prosecutor’s office and whether appropriate charges were subsequently filed against the owner of the warehouse and operator/business owner.
Unfortunately, the story ends in apprehension of big buy-bust operations. There is no prosecution. The perpetrators go on business as usual.
So all we see right now are the murders of small time pushers and users. These could be the handiwork of hired goons or of corrupt cops to cover their tracks.
The spate of extra judicial killings is a stamp to the hopelessness of poverty, that drug trafficking seems to be a poor man’s desperate way to live. All these are now going off-hand.
But we are better than this. Yes, Mr. President, we need to crash the drug cartels from the top, and we need to curb poverty from the bottom. People will veer away from drugs if given big chances for education and sustainable entrepreneurial endeavors.
Kudos to the brave men and women who covertly investigate and bust large-scale illegal drugs business of the devil. They need utmost government protection from the shady deals which drug lords are so capable of doing.