Now that both President Duterte and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have commendably suspended the war on illegal drugs, the government should take the time to review carefully the national drug policy, assess its errors and shortcomings, and determine whether the drug war should be resumed or permanently sidelined.
In a rare show of unanimity, all three branches of the government have expressed concern about the deleterious consequences of the drug policy.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court prohibited a group of police officers from entering a slum community to prevent them from threatening villagers who had accused them of ruthlessly killing four residents in an anti-drug raid. The temporary order sought to protect villagers from anti-drug raids in the Payatas community and help them obtain police records on the four slain drug suspects.
SC justices asked a lower appeals court to handle the petition but issued a temporary protection order barring four officers, who carried out the deadly raid in August, and their superiors from entering an area in Payatas, a garbage dump community in Quezon City.
It was the Congress, through the Senate and the House of Representatives, that called on the PNP to suspend its anti-illegal drug campaign, and shift its focus to cleansing its ranks of “bad eggs” or scalawags. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto led the way with the suspension-cum-cleansing proposal. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez even went so far as to suggest that PNP chief Roland de la Rosa should consider resigning from the police organization.
It is in this light that we in The Manila Times propose that the government seize the opportunity to undertake a sweeping review of the drug policy and drug campaign. With government speaking with one voice, a fruitful review can be carried out.
To have nearly 7,000 of our citizens killed after six months of the drug campaign is a saddening reality. It is as if the country were in a wartime situation, where the Republic is in conflict with another nation or a hostile invader.
The drug hostilities are only a war metaphorically. There is no external enemy to repel or vanquish. The real enemy is ourselves – the enslavery of some citizens to drug addiction, the predations of drug lords and pushers on the society, and the corruption by the drug trade of the police, the criminal justice system and government on many levels.
To meet the situation sensibly and calmly requires that the nation should possess clear and factual information on the extent of the drug menace and the nature of the threat to the people.
Sadly, the administration has not provided the public and the media a credible and comprehensive picture of the drug problem facing the country. We’re told by the President repeatedly that there are four million Filipino addicts, but the government agencies most in the know do not confirm the figure–and even contradict it.
There’s also much confusion about the casualties in the drug war. Some estimates now place the number of dead at 7,000 or more. The PNP places the count much lower.
During this period that the anti-drug campaign is suspended, it is imperative that we secure reliable data and statistics on the drug policy and drug campaign. Congress and the media should join together in ferreting out the facts.
This is vital because the nation will have no peace, until it knows the truth about “the war” in its midst.