THE column that I was writing on the murder of Mayor RolandoEspinosa while in police custody, was overtaken by the political tsunami that occurred in America yesterday– the surprise electoral victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US presidential election.
This development is so seismic and far-reaching in impact, I had to quickly redesign my column into a split-level structure:
1. One level discussing the shocking murder of Mayor Rolando Espinosa inside his jail cell in Baybay, Leyte; and
2. A second level discussing the significance of Trump’s ascent to the presidency of the most powerful nation and biggest economy in the planet.
These two developments, in their respective ways, will impact deeply and profoundly the presidency of President Duterte–his domestic and foreign policies, and the way he governs this nation.
They force a review of policies that were adopted without thorough study and review, during the first four months of Duterte rule.
If DU30 is thoughtful and receptive of expert analysis and counsel, he will view these events not only as challenges to the wisdom of his policy decisions, but as opportunities to review and, if necessary, alter course.
Drug war not worth one more life
The war on illegal drugs that PresidentDuterte launched immediately after taking his oath, has already claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 victims. If the Filipino nation is true to its values and its Constitution, Espinosa’s extra-judicial killing should be the last. The people must call for an end to the drug war.
Filipinos should look up expert reports and analyses of the entire history on record of the War on Drugs, which was initiated by Richard Nixon in 1971.
“The War on Drugs” is an American term commonly applied to a campaign of prohibition of drugs, military aid, and military intervention, with the stated aim being to reduce the illegal drug trade.
This initiative includes a set of drug policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs that the participating governments and the United Nations have made illegal.
Today, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates an end to the War on Drugs, estimates that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives.
In May 2009, the Obama administration declared that it would not use the term “War on Drugs”, because the term is “counter-productive,” and “drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated…”
In June 2011, a self-appointed Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring: “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.”
These developments in the global war on drugs suggest that President Duterteshould review from top to bottom his ongoing war on drugs.
The basic premise and stated aim of the drug war is to eliminate down to the last drug dealer or suspect the illegal drug trade in the country.
This policy evolved from a picture or belief of the president that illegal drugs is the biggest problem in the Philippines, the root, if you wish, of all evils and all problems.
Like George Bush who could not find Saddam Hussein’s “weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)” to justify his war on Iraq, Duterte is hard put to find credible justification for his drug war, and the thousands of killings that it has caused.
If he means to continue the drug war, President Duterte should address the nation and report frankly and boldly how the government has fared in the drug war.
He should acknowledge the many tragedies and humiliations inflicted on the nation by the drug war—and apologize for them.
The drug war has cost our people many lives. It is time for our people to tell their government that this war is not worth one more life. If Espinosa proves to be the last casualty ofthe drug war, his death would at least gain some meaning.
The meaning of Trump’s victory
Donald Trump has wrought “fear and change” into the fabric of American life, in a parody of Barack Obama’s message of hope and change. He is riding the crest of the tidal wave he unleashed with his promise to make America great again.
Trump is the change agent in a realignment of American political forces.
With his election, America joins the global populist movement that has swept into power political leaders who speak for and working people.
Perhaps the finest analysis of Trump‘s significance was that of Patrick Buchanan, which was published a day before the election.
Buchanan wrote: “Whatever happens Tuesday, Trump has made history and has forever changed American politics.
“Though a novice in politics, he captured the party of Lincoln with the largest turnout of primary voters ever, and he has inflicted wounds on the nation’s ruling class from which it may not soon recover….
“Not only did he rout the Republican elites, he ash-canned their agenda and repudiated the wars into which they plunged the country.
“Trump did not create the forces that propelled his candidacy, but he recognized them, tapped into them and unleashed a gusher of nationalism and populism that will not soon dissipate.
Do mainstream Republicans think that should Trump lose, a Bush Restoration lies ahead? The dynasty is as dead as the Romanovs.
The media, whose reputation has sunk to congressional depths, has also suffered a blow to their credibility….
But it is the national establishment that has suffered most.
The Trump candidacy exposed what seems an unbridgeable gulf between this political class and the nation in whose name it purports to speak….
“Middle America believes the establishment is not looking out for the nation but for retention of its power….
“Trump’s followers believe Trump alone will secure the borders and rid them of a trade regime that has led to the loss of 70,000 factories and 5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. They believe Trump is the best hope for keeping us out of the wars the Beltway think tanks are already planning for the sons of the “deplorables” to fight.”
Duterte and Trump
Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte are products of the same populist revolt sweeping the world today, the same wave that produced Brexit in the United Kingdom.
Duterte should recognize a kindred spirit in the new US president. He should think twice about testing his expletives on Trump when they finally meet.
He should wait and see how Trump and the Republicans will deal with China and Russia. Then will be the time for Duterte to speak about separation, divorce, or perhaps reconciliation.