The killing of Espinosa and the Philippines as an incipient narco-state

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ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

(Part 1 of a series on drugs in the Philippines)

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IF there is one thing that the killing of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. has revealed, it is the undeniable fact that we now have an incipient narco-state. Not yet a full-blown narco-state perhaps, but already on the way to becoming one, if we do not do something about it.

Mayor Espinosa, a local government official, has already been implicated in the drug trade, and was in police custody when he was killed.His death has become evidence of how the drug problem has inserted itself not only in slum areas where ordinary people end up dead, but inside a provincial jail where a mayor ended up lying in a pool of his own blood.

The imagery of this is so compelling for anyone to ignore. And it cannot easily be simplified either by just conveniently labeling it as an extra-judicial killing.

An alleged page from the mayor’s sworn affidavit became viral in social media, and if we assume that it is a faithful reproduction, it contains an explosive list that gives us a glimpse of the depth and the breadth of the drug problem in the country. The list allegedly starts with the name of the former justice secretary, who is now a senator, Leila de Lima, and from there it goes down to almost all levels of governance in the Eastern Visayas. What is damning is that the list does not end with scions of political dynasties that occupy seats of power in local government, from the provincial to the barangay level. It also contains the names of police officials, from top generals already mentioned by the President as involved in the drug trade, to mere SPOs and POs.It even includes names of people from the media.

Mayor Espinosa was already in police custody when he was killed. And the story behind the killing lends further evidence to the incipient narcotization of the Philippine state. It is the incredible narrative that raises some questions.

Why would agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), a branch of the Philippine National Police (PNP), still serve a search warrant on someone who is already in custody?

These questions only dramatize the suspicion that a brazen violation of procedures was committed by people who obviously appropriated the authority provided by the state to perform a highly irregular act.

And here, you are confronted by a shocking reality, one that someone who defends human rights, and who is against the President’s drug war, should take to heart and reflect on.

The drug problem in the country exists because there is a political nexus within which it thrives. The drug trade is the lifeblood of patronage politics that flows to the lowest barangay from the halls of power in the executive and legislative branches of government. It provides money to finance political careers, serving as the oil that makes political machineries run. To exist, it must be sustained by the patronage of collaborators from the very agencies of law, the police and the judiciary, so that they can escape, or undermine, its reach. In this context, the drug trade has infected politics and has nested comfortably in the inaction, even complicity, of previous governments.

It is in this context that those who oppose the President’s drug war have to recalibrate and rethink their confrontational stance against the President. Raising the specter of Espinosa’s death as a case of extra-judicial killing for which the President is blamed is just too convenient. This ignores the fact that the state could also become a victim of people who have nothing but contempt for the rule of law. In fact, they even corrupt it by operating under its ambit while exceeding its power.

How can the state go after the rogue elements that appropriate and corrupt its authority if you always automatically accuse it of complicity?

As it appears, the President is not the enemy here. He may have used a questionable strategy, aggravated by his colorful violent language, in his fight against the forces behind the incipient narco-state, but what choice does he have? These forces have already penetrated the whole arsenal of governance, at all levels and all branches.

The state is under attack from within. Espinosa’s death will not be the last.

Human rights advocacy, therefore, should negotiate the difficult challenge of protecting rights without becoming the unwilling pawn that enables an incipient narco-state.

Next: The challenge to recalibrate human rights advocacy in the face of an incipient narco-state

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19 Comments

  1. But then, how do you see the bigger view out of the big picture if you also keep on defending the president without also giving him the benefit of the doubt? How sure are you where the buck stops and where it should not?

  2. Professor Contreras, for one who is a professor, you certainly do have a very one-sided approach to the issue. In your eagerness to abide by your declared pro-Duterte stance, you will interpret every incident and issue in favor of your idol.. Whilst we may applaud Duterte on issues such as his promise to end “endo” , certainly his use of swear words or his stand on extra-judicial killings are actions that should not be condoned. Hopefully you will take a more balanced approach in the future.

  3. who are flooding the philippine with illegal drug? it has been known foreign drug cartel is responsible yet the whole world are not lifting a finger for helping the philippine fight against their number problem.

  4. Thank you Antonio Contreras! The beginnings of a narco-state must be stopped now, and at all cost, before the nation regrets! Evil triumphs if good men do nothing!

  5. Someone said it is pure and simple EJK. Dont want to argue, but it is very elementary, someone succeeded in silencing somebody. It is not a simple EJK to me.

  6. Bunch of narrow minded hypocrites, Murder is ok as long as they are labeled as drug users.

    What about alcohol ? Should be ok to shoot drunks now right ?

    Alcohol does the most damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs and crime, but it is legal and widely available.
    Alcohol is worse than drugs when alcoholics try to get clean.

    Is alcohol a drug ? yes
    Can you become addicted to alcohol ? yes
    Do drunk people commit crimes such as murder and rape and robbery ? yes

    Seems to me that alcoholic’s should be treated the same.

    Why is alcohol legal and drugs are not ?
    The government does not decide the legal status of drugs based on scientific assessment of potential for harm.

    Short answer
    The politicians like to drink alcohol.

    Stop being hypocrites Dutertards.

  7. Duterte needs Espinosa alive than dead. The latter’s affidavit had to be testified into and he had to be cross examined to prove his statements worth. With him dead, his affidavit has becomes a useless piece of paper. So under the given circumstances, the most probable culprits are those who had crimes to hide and suppress.

  8. It seems Martial Law is warranted now, perhaps DU30 can consider it. The problem with Filipino Politicians is Talagang WALANG Hiya! In other countries, once a politician’s name is implicated in wrong doing, they will resign rather than have their names carried in press mud daily. They also have to prepare for the consequences like trials ad imprisonment. Here in the Philippines, LALABAN KAHIT MALI! They have no shame and no fear.???

  9. What is the latest on the narco generals, just on floating status? Nevertheless free like the narco-senator and the narco-ex president, why the hesitation to jail them?

    See what happened, hesitation killed Espinosa Sr.

  10. This the best by so far piece of explanation well thought of. Luckily you are not one of those bleeding hurt/self righteous opinion writers of different Metro Manila papers. This writers are making a big deal of espinosas` death for what to sell newspapers or their opinion to be read by people, wrong. According to Tatad I quote not the exact words’ their are less readers of papes now’ may be because I think of their critical opinion to Duterte” people that vote for him are not happy and this are by the millions and thousands abroad.

  11. FYI. Can’t you just see the obvious? Why do some people refuse to see the big picture and insist to see only a detail with extremely limited tube lense? One wonders if they are into this drug business.

    This analysis by Contreras is nothing but apt.

  12. How many murders are you willing to justify Contreras ?

    This is not about the drug problem it’s about police executing 2 people in a jail cell.

    Maybe you haven’t heard but the digital video recorder disappeared after the murder. Funny how the police and prison officials lost the evidence of the incident.

    “Dictators must have enemies. They must have internal enemies to justify their secret police and external enemies to justify their military forces.”
    Richard Perle

    • What? So you are clearing those involved in the drug trade (which include rogue police) of involvement just because the CCTV footage is missing? With their extensive network which has crept in all aspects of society, including the police, getting rid of the recorder is the easiest thing to do.

    • FYI. Can’t you just see the obvious? Why do some people refuse to see the big picture and insist to see only a detail with extremely limited tube lense? One wonders if they are into this drug business.

      This analysis by Contreras is nothing but apt.

    • No, this is about drug dealers and drug lords silencing one of their own to avoid further exposure at all cost.

      The recording is just one more detail lost into the bottomless pit of anti narcotic evidence no one will see again.

      And just because you and your employer are set to declare Duterte as a dictator, doesnt mean that he is one.

    • The prison keeper did jot allow the warrant to be served at first also did not open the cells. According to one of the witnesses, the CIDG men who were “serving the warrant” saw the CCTV cameras in the prison, so they left the mayors cell hall, when they came back the CCTV light was off, and CCTV capability was already incapacitated….after the gunshots, the hard drive is missing already and CIDG said they have no knowledge of what happened to it.more had bee said by the witness including the gun found in the mayors hand, including the pleading of the mayor questioning the warrant and that there is no gun, ammos and drugs in the cell. Mayors voice sound scared and even asked to use the toilet but the CIDG did not allow him and shots were fired. The prison guards and the OIC even the CIDG what happened to hard drive. He got no answer from the CIDG. Desperate moves by the narco people. Now they are blaming The Duterte’s Govt. Yes in some aspect but how stupid can you be in believing that the warrant issued was a legit one and that is a state sponsored killing?common! Now the Duterte and PNP chief BATO, you are being treated as morons by whoever is behind the issuance of that warrant

  13. Professor Contreras, as always, this analytical article is well-written. Looking forward to the next one.

    More power,

    Josefina