“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”
—from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
NEVER mind graft and corruption, everyone knows that the culture of graft and corruption is beyond possible solution in our time. This is the popular wisdom in this country. Why? It is a culture dictated by the oligarchs, the economic giants, the politicians and the privileged classes who fatten up on the gravy of the land. These are the culprits. They have been propagating that culture since time immemorial because it is to their undying benefit. It seems to be the natural course of things in this country.
The dream of the poor and the middle-class is to live like the oligarchs, the economic giants, the politicians and the privileged classes. In the nature of their dreams, there is no qualitative difference it is only quantitative—meaning in degrees, not in the quality of their dreams. Considering the gnawing poverty sweeping the country and the dreams of the lower classes to have a better life comparable to the rich in their immediate surroundings, it is not difficult to imagine why the illegal drug problem has reached epidemic proportions in the country. To compare it with the waves of the sea, it is not the ordinary giant waves; they are like tsunamis sweeping the whole country and leaving in their wake unimaginable devastation, which takes generations after generations to repair.
Illegal drugs in almost all villages
Almost all barangay (village) chairmen, municipal and city mayors, provincial governors and congressmen know who are the drug users, drug pushers and drug lords in their respective jurisdictions. The only ones who do not know who they are must be so dense they cannot recognize what is good or evil.
The same is true with station commanders in the cities and the municipal and city police chiefs, the regional PNP commanders—they also know who are the drug users, drug pushers and drug lords in their respective areas of responsibility. The reason why no reports and raids are being made is due to the fact that many of them are involved in the illegal drug trade. The other reason of those who are not involved in the illegal drug trade not reporting is that they are afraid to become enemies of their friends and their brother in arms. The other reason for the non-reporting kind is due to their fear that they will be killed by those who are involved in the trade, and that members of their families may be harmed or killed.
So the problem is a hard nut to crack. It is not only hard; it is difficult. It is not only difficult; it appears insoluble.
What needs to be done? It needs a lot of serious thinking; it needs re-examination of our institutions, including government.
Extreme problem needs extreme solutions
The illegal drug problem is an extreme problem. It is ruining the lives of millions of Filipinos. Unless extreme solutions are adopted by government with the cooperation of the people, chances of getting it solved in six months as defined by the new President are nil. Why? Our current institutions are incapable of solving the problem in six month or even six years with President Duterte or anyone in the saddle.
The United States of America has been waging a war against illegal drugs for the last 20 years. It has not significantly solved the problem. America is one of the richest countries on earth. It has all possible technological advances to curb the problem but it has failed. Why? The reasons are visibly obvious—rule of law, due process and human rights. These are the constitutional impediments to the illegal drug campaign. In this country, you have more reasons that will torpedo attempts of solving the problem—power and influence, friendship, debt of gratitude, fear of reporting the drug criminals, fear of being harmed, and indifference of the populace to help solve the problem.
What are the extreme solutions adopted by the Duterte administration? One is the indiscriminate killing of suspected drug criminals as envisioned by Duterte and his government. Another is arming the tanods and civilians to help solve the problem. Still another is shaming the drug criminals.
These are extreme solutions, which do not solve the problem but instead create more problems. In indiscriminate killings, it is almost obvious that the killings are mostly extrajudicial. The excuses of the police who do these are so ridiculous—the suspects attempting to grab their weapons, the suspects were firing their guns at them even as they were on the run for their lives, the suspects were firing their guns at the police even as they were raising their hands in surrender.
Examine a few of them. One case is the son was arrested and the father accompanied him to the station. While they were in the station, they were both shot in the head for trying to grab the weapons of the policemen, according to the police. Isn’t this ridiculous? Why are the policemen so untrained that they could not subdue anyone who attempts to grab their weapon? Besides, this story is old hat. It is the same standard story of policemen who kill suspects probably because they hate the suspects or they are silencing the suspects, who are likely to pinpoint the policemen as the ones distributing recycled drugs.
Another example is the case of a suspect who was dragged by the policemen very much alive when loaded into their patrol vehicle. He was very much alive when arrested but suffered a mortal wound while en route to their destination and he died upon arrival. Still another recent case is the person suspected of being a drug pusher, who the policemen killed because he fired back at the policemen, according to the policemen. But the wife and other relatives who were entertaining the TV audience with a Niagara of tears claimed that the suspect never hand a gun. Well, this is also standard procedure for the police to plant a gun on the hands of the suspect to justify extrajudicial killing.
Nothing has changed with police methods. They are as old as the PNP and other police forces. So where is the promised change? Yes, it is here with killings and more killings. It seems the police, with the backing of the new President, want to compete with the records of Pol Pot, who had made Cambodia a killing field.
Arming the tanods and civilians
What is the new President trying to do? Many tanods are bad enough without arms, how much more if they are armed. Normally, the tanods are the private arms of the barangay chairmen who appoint them. If this plan goes through, you will have more killings of suspected drug users and pushers. The next ones to be killed are their personal and political enemies. This is an invitation to spreading wars contributing to instability and disorder. This is extreme but this is no solution, as it will give birth to more problems. It is bad enough that we have undisciplined and criminal policemen. Think of arming the untrained and undisciplined tanods and civilians. We will have a “Wild, Wild West” situation in the Philippines. It is good for Duterte, who is an expert gunslinger, but what about the rest of us helpless citizens who have yet to learn how to fire a gun?
Unmasking the generals and an anti-poor solution
Well, PNP Chief Bato de la Rosa, with all his Dirty Harry rhetoric, is human after all, moved to tears while in conference with his subordinated upperclassmen in the PMA. They must have become sentimental recalling those PMA days from way back when.
What does this demonstrate? That powerful men like generals and drug lords from here and other countries are treated differently from the poor drug users and drug pushers. What a glaring illustration of an anti-poor policy. I have not read of any drug lord being killed during the 11 days of the Duterte administration or any general or high-ranking police officer—and there are many of them involved in the anti-drug trade.
This is not only a violation of our criminal laws but, more specifically, of the due process and equal protection provision of our Constitution, which is Section 1 of Article III of the said document.
So you see, you create more problems than solutions by unmasking the generals and treating them differently from the citizen drug user and drug pusher. So the Duterte law is one for the mighty and privileged and another for the poor and underprivileged? Something has to be done here with such glaring inequality. Because based on the parameters of the system, the Duterte enforcement stinks. He claims in his inaugural speech that he is uncompromisingly committed to the rule of law and due process. Where are due process and the rule of law in these cases, Mr. President?
Fixing a timeline is a disaster
No individual can solve the illegal drug problem in six months within the system; it cannot be done. It can be done beyond the system. Make your boys think, Mr. President, if as you claim they are the best and the brightest. Because if they cannot evolve that formula in due time, they will end up as the beasts and lightest. It is too soon to be subjected to that kind of judgment. But if you, Mr. President, and your boys cannot do it within your timeline, what will your critics and the people think? You will seek refuge in your normal line that you were only joking when you fixed the timeline? You know, Mr. President, one joke is bad enough—and nobody is laughing—while several will be a disaster.