MY 15-year-old son Michael was walking home one late afternoon when a stranger hassled him about the receipt of a snack he had purchased. This man then coerced my son to “see the manager,” then proceeded to take his phone “as payment” for the supposedly “unpaid snacks.” This conman was unarmed, yet my son was so shaken by the experience that he had difficulty sleeping the next few days. As a father, I felt lucky that most of these con artists steal, but do not kill, and my son was unharmed. But at the same time, as a law-abiding citizen, I am outraged. I was once a victim of an armed holdup. So were my sister, a cousin, and several friends. And I’m sure we all know someone who’s been a victim of robbery, rape, or murder. This was a crime by a sober man with intent to steal, but not to kill.
Criminal acts have been reduced under President Duterte’s watch because of the fear of being killed while committing crimes under the influence of drugs. If we read the papers, while criminals are also innovating with their new scams, drug-related heinous crimes have decreased.
Why is the President’s all-out war against drugs and criminality so important? The President said it in Davao, during his election campaign and when he became President. He aims to protect the present and the next generation against criminality. Past Presidents never made the war against drugs personal, but President Duterte did. Not only did the President threaten drug users, he warned, arrested and killed drug users and drug distributors in the first weeks and months of his presidency.
I agree with Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao when he said: “I’ve reviewed all of [President Benigno 3rd] Aquino’s six state of the nation addresses (Sonas), and it is shocking that in all of these, he had not even mentioned that we have a serious illegal drug problem, as if he were deliberately concealing its existence.” Indeed, the past administration did very little to fight illegal drugs.
When President-elect Duterte vowed May 16, 2016, to implement a nationwide curfew, smoking and liquor ban to protect the populace, Binondo, Manila was a different place. The streets had fewer people drinking on the streets and the use of karaoke stopped at 10 p.m. Never had I seen Binondo rid of street children.
On January 21, 2017, President Duterte said: “No progress or development can come to a country or city without peace and order. If there is crime, violence against the law-abiding, and corruption, there will be no progress.”
According to a report from the Seacliff Recovery Center, drug abuse often causes poverty. People addicted to drugs quickly lose or have a hard time holding down jobs. When someone is so controlled by drug addiction, nothing else matters, and the person can easily slip into poverty and a life of crime. President Duterte has repeatedly said this in almost all his speeches before and after he became President. The result, as reported by ABS-CBN, cited a 13 percent drop in crime.
As a national security practitioner and researcher, I can say that the most heinous crime committed by a sober individual is theft. However, it is when these thieves are under the influence of illegal drugs that heinous crimes, such as murder and the rape of children and the elderly, are committed. We see, read, hear, and experience it every day. But these incidents have been reduced in my community. I feel it. And hopefully, you can feel that change too.
We all know that Davao City has been ranked as the fourth safest city in the world and the only city in the Philippines with a fully operational 911 emergency response unit. As the longtime mayor of Davao City, Duterte must have been doing something right. I wonder what it would be like to walk down the streets of Davao compared to Manila. I am a Manileño, who grew up, and studied in Manila. I have always lived in fear, always looking behind my back, cautious of the shirtless drivers of pedicabs and tricycles openly drinking along the streets.
Come to think of it, it is the non-voting teenagers that are the beneficiaries of the President’s war against drugs, corruption and criminality. How many non-voting teenagers feel safer on the streets? In five years, these teenagers would see how the President has made their barangay, city, region, and country a little safer and better. Not too long from now, in the near future, I will join the ranks of senior citizens. But I am sure, my children and grandchildren would sleep better knowing the President has laid the foundation for making the country a safer place. I hope you do, too.
The author took “Essentials of Policy Development” at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; “Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies” at the Harvard Kennedy School; and “Leadership and Management for Integrity” at the Central European University.