I pose the question above, because it is another intriguing indicator of derangement in the war on drugs.
If you are involved in the illegal drug trade in any manner (as drug lord, pusher, protector or user), and you become a person of interest (suspect) by being named or shamed in the Duterte list or Duterte talk, you have a fair chance of survival.
Conversely, if you remain incognito, unshamed and unsung, you are in grave peril of losing your life, by being rubbed out by the police (in a fictitious gun struggle or outright execution), or gunned down by a vigilante.
If after being named in the list, you turn yourself in to the police, especially to PNP Director General Rolando “Bato” Dela Rosa, your survival chances will appreciate, you may even get police protection, insurance companies will clear you for life insurance.
Peter Lim and police generals
When President Duterte, in his initial exposé, named Peter Lim as the biggest drug lord in the country (he was abroad at the time), the President sternly warned Lim he would be shot on sight if and when he returned. Peter Lim did return, he was not shot, and he immediately handed himself over to the authorities. He was granted an audience with the President and even got a front-page photo opportunity. We have not heard about Lim since then, other than his protestations of innocence and claims that he must have been mistaken for someone else.
It is the same with the police generals, active or retired, who were named by the President in that first list and exposé of the drug war. All the generals protested their innocence. Not one has been charged or arrested.
852 killed in anonymity
In stark contrast, those who have been anonymous have been eliminated in various acts of violence by the police and vigilantes. At last count, there are already hundreds of such killings.
Duterte’s crackdown on drug suspects has killed some 852 individuals from May 10 up to 3 p.m. of August 5, according to an independent tally made by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group.
Sixty-two percent were killed in police operations, 29 percent were killed by unidentified assailants, while nine percent were dead bodies found away from the crime scene.
The recent Duterte list has turned up one dead person, and it was a judge who died eight years ago, but is accused posthumously.
Scolding for my criticism
I have received a ton of letters and reactions to my column last Tuesday (“The war on drugs is flawed and deranged,” Manila Times, August 9, 2016), and I will strive to address and answer those that were not just hysterical or righteous, but thoughtful about the issues that I raised.
The hysterical berated me for daring to criticize the war on drugs and President Duterte’s drug policy. Some said I should just wait till after DU30 has won the drug war; and then there were those who said that at least President Duterte is doing something about the drug menace.
Most missed entirely my point that the government has not given us facts and figures about the real drug situation in the country. No one, not the drug enforcement agency and not the Dangerous Drugs Board has bothered to brief the nation about the situation.
All we have to look at is a rising body count of killed drug suspects as compiled by the media, and vague statements that as many as 3 million of our people may be drug-addicted.
Some readers also scolded me for not providing a solution as an alternative to the President’s drug policy and program. I cannot claim competence to do that. But I have some idea about what would be a sensible drug policy for our country to adopt, instead of the indiscriminate killings and the heedless accusations now taking place.
Incise and positive online article
As a positive suggestion, I want to call the attention of readers to an article written by Mr. Hector Gamboa on the Get Real Philippines website.
The article is entitled, “Forcing a western-style liberal approach in solving the Philippine drug menace may not work for us’: http://www.getrealphilippines.com/blog/2016/08/forcing-western-style-liberal-approach-solving-philippine-drug-menace-may-not-work-us.
The article is well researched and persuasively argued. He cites some countries that have had some success in fighting the drug menace.
Two of the most notable are Portugtal and Singapore.
Mr. Gamboa suggests that just gunning down all drug addicts and drug dealers is not a solution to our drug problem. We should take a pause for a moment and re-think our approach to the drug menace.
He writes: “Like many problems in life, there is no one silver bullet that can wipe them all out. Singapore seems to have figured this out when it adopted a combination of approaches. It employs “a comprehensive national strategy to combat the scourge of drugs, comprising a high-profile public education campaign, treatment and rehabilitation of drug offenders, as well as strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade.”
So basically it pursues prevention through educational campaign and rehabilitation programs while still applying strict punitive measures (including the death penalty) to drug traffickers and unmanageable drug addicts.
He quotes Michael Teo, Singapore’s High Commissioner to the Court, who explains Singapore’s experience as follows:
“Public education against drug abuse starts in schools. For abusers, our approach is to try hard to wean them off drugs and deter them from relapsing. They are given two chances in a drug rehabilitation centre. If they go through counselling, kick their drug habit and return to society with useful skills, they will not have any criminal record. Those who are still addicted go to prison, where they are put on general rehabilitation programmes to help them reintegrate into the community.
“Strong community support against drug abuse has been critical to our fight against drugs. Singapore society resolutely rejects drug abuse. Several voluntary welfare organizations run halfway houses to help recovering addicts adjust back into society. Many employers also come forward to offer reformed drug addicts employment opportunities.
“Drug traffickers are a major part of the problem on the supply side. They make drugs available in our communities and profit from the human misery they help create. This is why tough laws and penalties are needed, including capital punishment for trafficking in significant amounts of the most harmful drugs… “Singapore has one of the lowest prevalence of drug abuse worldwide, even though the problem has not been entirely eliminated. Over two decades, the number of drug abusers arrested each year has declined by two-thirds, from over 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,000 last year. Fewer than two in 10 abusers released from prison or drug rehabilitation centres relapse within two years…
“Because of our strict laws, Singapore does not have to contend with major drug syndicates linked to organised crime, unlike some other countries.’
We are one of these other countries. And we have a lot to learn, in spite of all the dead bodies strewn around us.