The global drug wars have failed, how can DU30’s ‘war’ succeed?


Although President Duterte’s police methods have drawn concern in various parts of the world, even those who deplore his methods at home are praying that his ‘war on drugs’ would somehow succeed. However, international experts who have done extensive studies on the global drug wars are deeply pessimistic; they describe the “war on drugs” as a failed strategy, and are calling for a major policy “rethink.”

These experts have not condemned the extrajudicial killings, the shoot-on-sight and “surrender or else” orders in the present drug war, as some UN officials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and certain international publications have. Their studies precede DU30’s war by at least a couple of years. But their scientific findings lead us to conclude that if the global war on drugs has failed, there is very little chance it would succeed anywhere else.

In all these other places, the prohibitionist state has gone hammer and tongs after the producers, manufacturers, financiers and distributors of illegal drugs, not simply after everyday users and pushers who DU30’s war is killing or incarcerating en masse. The war on drugs is usually a war against cartels, with their own armies fighting the government armed forces; not simply against barefoot drug runners in the ghettoes or the streets. In certain cases, foreign governments have engaged the active cooperation of other governments in their fight; for instance Colombia and the US were said to be spending at least $1.2 billion a year in their joint effort to combat cocaine production and trafficking in that Latin American narcotic state.

The LSE IDEAS report
But despite $100 billion being spent yearly on counter-narcotics, efforts to stop the growing of coca crops and the production, manufacture and distribution of heroin and opium in these countries have generally failed. Illicit trade continues to spiral from $300 billion to $500 billion each year. Worldwide, “the militarized and enforcement-led war on drugs has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage,” says the May 2014 Report of the LSE Group on the Economics of Drug Policy, an LSE IDEAS International Drug Policy Project of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

These include “mass incarceration in the United States, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.”

All these countries have experienced increased violations of human rights, violence, corruption, direct economic costs, economic divestment from certain regions affected by violence, mass displacement of populations, increased risk and harm of consumption, massive allocations to security forces. Global enforcement spending has risen at the cost of proven health policies, as governments tended to treat drug addiction primarily, if not purely, as a crime rather than as a disease.

The loss of distinction between criminal offense and illness is probably one of the biggest costs the war on drugs has had to reckon with. The production, manufacture, financing and distribution of illegal drugs is certainly a crime, and must be dealt with as such, but personal consumption, often arising from addiction, in the opinion of many, is primarily an illness that needs to be addressed as such. Simply shooting down or jailing suspects will not solve the disease.

Drug prices and profits
The thirst for profit drives the whole illicit trade. There is so much money to be made. Drug prices rise whenever the supply slumps, and the rise in prices encourages producers and manufacturers to supply more. The recent decline in output in the Golden Triangle—Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, which were the production leaders in the seventies to the eighties—partly explains the current dominant role of Afghanistan, where production and distribution are said to be controlled by the official death merchants.

While gold sells at $43.03 per gram ($1,338.25 per ounce), cocaine prices are reported to rise by more than $100 per gram. With the precarious situation of the dollar, prompting continued speculation about its impending demise as the world’s prime currency, more and more international banks are reported to have intensified the buildup of their gold and, yes, heroin and opium reserves. This is what we glean from a growing number of financial analysts, beginning with the redoubtable Jim Willie, editor of Hat Trick Letter, whose analyses on gold and silver activities can be accessed on his site,

This means that if heroin has become as precious a commodity as gold, and the international monetary system is slowly shifting toward gold, any war on drugs will have to contend with powerful governments and the international banking cartel, which have begun stacking up not only on gold but also on heroin and opium reserves. Afghanistan alone produces 90 percent of these, according to the World Drug Report (2008). Afghan heroin and opium production has reportedly risen from 200 metric tons a year in 1980 to 6,900 metric tons in 2009, after peaking at 8,200 metric tons in 2007.

No drug war, therefore, will ever be won by simply jailing users and killing suspected pushers. Whether the Philippines is a producer or manufacturer of heroin or opium or simply a transshipment point, the country’s drug problem – and the money laundering and other problems associated with it – will remain for as long as the production, manufacture, financing and large-scale distribution of these drugs remain unchecked, even if every pusher were killed and every user jailed in the current war.

A failed project
As the current issue of The Economist puts it: “The lesson of drug wars in Latin America, and of previous dirty wars, is that extrajudicial violence resolves nothing and makes everything worse. Innocent people will be killed, and denunciations will also be used to settle scores and exploited by gangs to wipe out rivals. Filipinos’ desire for instant retribution will, surely, turn to horror, hatred and revenge. The rule of law will erode. Investors, who have made the Philippines one of globalization’s winners in recent years, will flee. The only winners will be the still-lurking insurgents. Mr. Duterte’s ill-conceived war on drugs will make the Philippines poorer and more violent.”

Indeed, the extrajudicial killings, backed by promises of impunity from a populist President, could create a climate of fear to silence any and all opposition to questionable government policies even on matters having nothing to do with the narcotics war. If drug suspects could be summarily executed while allegedly resisting arrest, any public dissenter on any important issue could be similarly executed and merely labeled as a drug suspect who had resisted arrest. The designated vigilante could just hang the usual cardboard sign around the victim’s neck saying, “I am a drug pusher.” This could be one of the high moral and constitutional costs of the ‘war’ – also the shortest route to becoming a narcotic state.

Advise to DU30
I would urge DU30 to read the LSE IDEAS report. It is signed by 21 eminent scholars and statesmen (although none from Asia or Africa), including five Nobel Prize winners for economics — Prof. Kenneth Arrow, 1972; Prof. Vernon Smith, 2002; Prof. Thomas Schelling, 2005; Prof. Oliver Williamson, 2009; and Prof. Sir Christopher Pissadires, 2010; President of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, 1995-2005; former British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg; former US Secretary of State George Shultz; Guatemala Foreign Minister Luis Fernando Carrera Castro; Colombia’s Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria Uribe; EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy (1999-2009) Dr. Javier Solana; Baroness Molly Meacher, UK House of Lords; Baroness Vivien Stern, UK House of Lords; Prof. Paul Collier, CBE, Oxford; Prof. Michael Cox, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Connor Gearty, LSE; Prof. Margot Light, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Danny Quah, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Anne Westad, LSE IDEAS; Prof. Danny Rodnik, Princeton; and Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia.

Global history of drug policy
It minces no words and declares that the UN-governed global strategy for a “drug-free world” has failed. A new paradigm and a new set of agreements are needed. The failed strategy had its earliest beginnings in 1909 when the world powers first met in Shanghai to devise an international response to the abuse of opium, particularly in Europe’s Asian colonies. In 1912, the Hague Opium Convention tried to focus action on supply minimization and police enforcement. The League of Nations and subsequently the United Nations called for the eradication of non-medical and non-scientific use of drugs. In 1931, the UN adopted the Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs. The distinction then was clearly established between licit and illicit drug markets, between states that grew drug crops and states that manufactured narcotics, and states that were allowed to grow opium poppy for the licit global market.

The licit drugs were traded through a set of international conduits administered by UN-affiliated technocrats, which eventually became the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). In 1961, 73 UN member-states, the Philippines included, adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs to combat drug abuse by coordinated international action. In 1970, the US under President Nixon, backed by the INCB, launched its first war on drugs. In 1988, the UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs renewed its call for a “drug-free world,” saying, “We can do it!” By 2000, however, the prospect of reducing illicit supply to zero looked dim. The report has now pronounced the “drug-free world” idea dead.

Licit drugs diverted to illicit market?
A 2013 situation analysis provided by the Global Drug Policy Observatory (GDPO) at Swansea University in Swansea, Wales indicates that more than 5.5 billion people (83 percent of the world’s population) in 150 countries have low to non-existent access to morphine and other controlled medicine for pain relief, palliative care or opioid dependency, while, according to the World Drug Report, 15 million illegal drug users in 2008 consumed 340 metric tons of heroin and 1,075 metric tons of opium. Does this mean that licit drugs are being diverted to the illicit market to meet demand? This must be ascertained.

The report calls for a new international cooperative network for governments based on principles of public health, harm reduction, illicit market impact reduction, expanded access to essential medicines, minimization of problematic consumption, vigorously monitored regulatory experimentation and unwavering commitment to the principles of human rights. Many were apparently looking forward to something like this at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drug Policy last April; but the UNGASS failed to produce anything remotely responsive to the clamor for more effective approaches.

Some 195 civil society groups attending the special session complained about the conference process itself—the 23-page outcome document was prepared by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna one month before the conference, and after inviting so many groups, the conference turned out everyone who could not be accommodated beyond the meeting room’s130 seats. They are now hoping the 2019 UN review would produce better results.

For those of us who would like to see PDU30 succeed, but believe very strongly that he needs to modify his methods in trying to rid the country of drug users and traffickers, we have to do our level best to convince our President to listen a little bit more to what the rest of the world is saying about his efforts to single-handedly recreate the Philippines and its concept of law, human rights and justice.


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  1. PH illegal drugs will suppressed if not eliminated.

    other countries don’t have PNP like us…especially the buy-bye errr….buy-bust operation in addition to our vigilantes.

  2. Leodegardo Pruna on

    What will make things different for DU30 from those cited by Kit is CULTURE. The Filipinos are made of a different stuff compared to their foreign counterparts. Take note that so many have been coming out to report, if not surrender, about their status with drugs.God bless the Philippines. Give time for the President to work on his strategy. God bless PDU30.

  3. There is no such things of fighting the drugs anywhere in the world by the US and Nato, in fact they are promoting it as the make profits from drug trade to fuel their disasterous wars on weak countries. Duterte will win this war and he does not need any help from the US.

  4. Did this writer remember that during Marcos time there was this Chinese(national) pusher (no drug lord those days in PHL), only “big time pusher”; that was convicted of “death” and so was executed by firing squad in Luneta. That sends “shock” waves and “fear” that for sometime supply if not totally remove was reduce considerably. Then here comes “a lull” in the program of “fight against drugs”, because again of enterprising nature of Filipinos(in wrong side,because of greed) with connivance from the Chinese and the government neglect of drug (sad to say after Marcos or the ninjas cogon attitude). Did (this writer) you noticed, what states failed or usually fail in this–Latin Americans state–who by ‘cultural orientation is very close or almost the same as PHL. So then, we Filipinos are fond of using books and ideology base on “western culture” (too Americanized). Why find a solution–our own solution uniquely applicable to the PHL situation or perhaps from Asian perspective. Did you know, in one of this Asian countries (i will not name it) by merely being caught holding an illegal drugs container, even if somebody just ask you (unknowingly, it contain illegal) it is already punishable and you are guilty by “death”-Now, in PHL; CHR and some other “righteous” will cry “no due process”. Oh by the way, this country until now is considered “drug free”. Why, one because they are not “dysfunctional corrupt” like us, they have strong “justice system”, and they have “stiff” and even harsh (to some), but it is “effective”. Also, it seems (and it is) it is a “total effort” no one publish anything “negative” or seems “favoring” the other sides. All forms of media (for me is so vital), and the citizenry will determine if Pres. or anybody for that matter are as important as the political will and iron hand approach. It is your choice–writing and analyzing the negative sides or rather talk the “positive” it will have to the Filipinos life including you own sons and daughter–or see them growing like a “zombie” utak biya”


    If Duterte is sincere in his concern about drugs, his methods make no sense.
    Attacking the symptoms of a problem will never get anywhere. If there is a demand for drugs, someone will provide it. Duterte seems, like most other failed efforts, to focus on reducing supply. This, if successful, increases the cost of the drugs which, in turn results in
    1. increased prostitution by users
    2. increased crime by users looking to get money to pay for their drugs
    3. increased power for the drug lords
    4. reduced drug purity (and thus more deaths from bad quality drugs)
    Who, in their right mind, would want to conduct a killing spree in order to increase the crime and prostitution rates?

  6. All previous President for the last thirty years is either queer or liberal, This right and tough guy Duterte is not soft touch with regards on crimes…In his entry to Philippine Politics to solve crimes will work……Relax just wait…..Too early to say,Six year is not yet over …….

  7. it’s too early to know the result – failed or not. let prez digong do what he promised us he would do.
    a year from now we will see if something could be said that he failed. this common law abiding folk, which considers himself just a dust in the wind, can only wish and pray that something good will come out…
    the reality on the ground tells us that this planet isn’t yet at the level for which it’s occupants can live the way it should be. that reality is reinforced by the study and data you mentioned in this article.

    one word that GIVES LIFE to all of these….GREED!

    who knows the perfect method to get rid all of these is the imperfect one….

    by the way, is there any cure for GREED? perhaps humankind should start looking for its cure, anyway, we have plenty of experts based on what i learned from this article…

  8. The world is faced with the widespread scourge of Prohibition.

    Dear people of the Philippines:

    Nowhere on this planet has any nation ever had success with the policy of drug prohibition. Many thousands of you will die. Many of your villages, towns and cities will be turned into killing fields. The drugs will still be there; the corruption will still be there. But this time it will be far worse than any of you could ever have imagined and the world will finally realize how dangerous and utterly pointless prohibition really is.

    You are endangering your own families. This will not end until tens of thousands of you are dead. Your most precious institutions and possessions will be destroyed. Nothing can change your fate; you are about to destroy your own society.

    Thank you for teaching us this hard but necessary lesson!

  9. Country first on

    Yes you are right other country has failed terribly in fighting a non ending drug wars. because even though they have bigger budget to fight the menace they fail for one simple reason. the person in charge do not have teeth to pursue this fight precisely in there country drug has penetrated so deep into the fiber of there society even politician , police, military are part of the system. and their leader probably is also a part of the drug cartels. now we got a decisive president Duterte, who has strong resolved to make this happen. He is no on the payroll of the drug cartels. he have proven in his territory Davao, so Im very positive he can make thing happen not 100% but a very large margin.

  10. Communist China might be an interesting model to study. The country had been turned into a hopeless mess of addicts by the West. Did they or did they not find a solution? I don’t think their solution was to their backs on the people and let legalized cartels grow wealthy off drug addiction.

    I think it may be useful to look at how current policy really deals with the drug problem for the masses. I think Duterte might be more on the mark (by emphasizing rehabilitation) than the popular media and the west gives him credit for.

  11. Only the Philippines has a Duterte. The rest of the world doesn’t. We will succeed! Or are you hoping we will fail?

  12. So what’s your suggestion? do you have the solution? UN officials, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and certain international publications do not care about the Philippines because they are not affected and live here. ALL they do is talk, criticize and sensationalize. they themselves don’t have the solution.

  13. so, KIT, you mean that we are doomed? no hope, at the mercy of druglords. so now we have a religion to keep and lords to worship. sorry but we fight. if you are not with us then with who are you with?

    • Correct, we rather hope for du30′ s fight on drugs-succeeded ..than to let drugs selling like hot cake and people get addicted the poor who are addicted turn criminals…raping, snatching bags, hold up , a big sorry to the innocent victims killed during these crime committed….while 600,000 more are surrendering only 0.1% who are killed during police operation and vigilante killing….so much disparity on the statistics…why don’t you report Mr Kit how many victims of DRUG RELATED Crime since year 2000….Maybe this statistics will be more intersting topic so that the PUBLIC may know how this menace really created havoc to the innocent public.

  14. Danny Cascolan on

    XLol mga Pilipino, ni,hindi naisip na noytards at duterte tards are same tards who destroys our one nation. Basta tards e perverted ang sense of right from wrong, tsamba lang kung makaisip ng tama at puro mali na.

    Ciempre i think pwede iminimize ang addicted to drugs, not kill them as criminals.

  15. Just don’t Forget Singapore on their war on drugs. so long as nation have different language to say and it will make them thrive…there is always a different approach in dealing with such problems. Cartels really are organizations that they pay best writer to brainwash the idea of cleansing. All the authors involve seem a shattered pieces of a cartels too. Let Pres. Duterte implements what according to his disposition is a solution itself.

  16. WE are only reading books, findings of the international expert. All of these are study but in that study did the authors, expert susgest of what will be the succesfull solution to combat this drug menace. I havent seen any solution they suggested. They are writing how drugs proleferate, how much the volume of money out of drugs, the history of drugs. All are negative issues how to solve this drugs problem ans yet one guy “The President” have will and trying to solve this menace and need our support to erradicate this did we answer his call. So instead of writing negative belief how to solve this problem then shift your gear to a positive way and give him support and answer his call to stop this menace once and for all.

  17. “even if every pusher were killed and every user jailed in the current war.”
    if they are ALL killed or jailed (w/o access to drugs) who will the suppliers sell to?
    The drug problem may have no solution but, at least think PD30 is trying to limit the market side UNTIL, at least, until the problem becomes manageable.

  18. I watched a movie of Michael Douglas namely the Traffic many years ago and the story centered about the war of US government with regards to drug. The US has so much resources to fight on drugs but in the end they still loosing the war. The most intriguing part of the story is that the daughter of Michael in the movie become drug addict. In the end he was able to rehab his daughter back by providing “Love,Care and Understanding”. The war on drug start in the family which is the foundation and core of our society. You already WIN the War when your family centered on moral values, love and faith on God.

  19. if it will fails or succeed it doesn’t matter. At least it was tried at least once upon a time drug business in the Phils was reduced to controllable and once upon a time drug related crime goes down in percentage never happen in Phil history.

  20. The Digong method has just been launched and from all indications it has been making headway as it really sends shock waves to the affected involved groups. Why not give Digong the latitude to do his own way as it appears to be sitting well with majority of Filipinos including those who did not vote for him. A friend of mine, named Dr. Paez, told me that she could not help stand in awe in Digong’s wits and smartness although she did not vote for him, something she now regrets.

  21. With all the reading materials listed as source for enlightenment about how the world is faced with the widespread scourge of illicit drug trade, and without it seems that there is no hope in sight to eradicate this awful menace in our society – how then can any government and well educated authors of books claim to make headway in ridding our modern society if every measure used has failed to achieve its goal?

    Fighting illicit drug trade had been too politicized for its own good, and only the drug cartels are reaping in the profit, human rights for what it should stand for, only see blood when its of those who die in high profile crime that brings with it a greater political consequence, and never those who die daily due to the result of crime done through the use of illicit drugs.

    Would it not be something to ponder on if Philippines will be a nation that broke through the odds and would be able to bring down the drug trade and keep the country moving forward these next six years? These economists, scholars and statesmen, may write as much about human rights violations, corruption, and such, but what have they to offer the people of the world except words. Had all these words the have written been kept to heart by the nations from which they come from? They experience the same plight as we do simply because their bright ideas did not bring about jobs or employment, needless to say we are on the same boat as they are because ordinary citizens have all been exploited. Just take a look around us, Europe for its part being a bastion of a free thinking society, is now fighting a new war, a war financed and arms the Daesh (ISIS) through the illicit drug trade. We must get out of the western world’s hegemony and fight out own war against the illicit drug trade, and if it happens to be the lives of those who would not come into the fold of the law – then so be it, they have chosen their own poison.

  22. I beg to disagree. Case in point- When Afghanistan was taken over by the Talibans in the 1980s, the production of heroin almost dropped to nothing. This was due to the harsh (read executions) punishments imposed to the growers of poppy/opium.. During the invasion/occupation of Afghanistan by the US forces later, the production of opium skyrocketed and made Afghanistan the leading producer of this drug in the world today. More on this matter if you care to read Veterans Today and other online publications relating to this phenomenon. This event is a known fact. So it seems that President Dutertes actions are very effective after all.

    • It seems to suggest that it takes a Taliban-type of government to stop drugs. How successful is Duterte’s campaign, it is too early to say.


      Your error is that you confuse supply with demand. Supply can be reduced dramatically where drugs rely on crop plantations. Demand is not reduced in this way. The Philippines is not a supplier of opium. Thus the Afghanistan example has no relevance.

  23. The Great Defiant on

    you didn’t change a bit…
    you’re still the same old dog who barks even to his boss.
    you’re in the government service before but you didn’t make a difference.
    what do you think the Filipino would listen to you now?

  24. Trevor Howard on

    The answer is quite simple: Because they didn’t have a Digong to do the battle against drugs, one who has guts, ability and balls, and who has proven his success with clear evidence, i.e. Davao City today.

  25. The gaping hole that sinks the LSE IDEAS report is that it failed to measure the political will of Latin American leaders in their respective wars against drugs. The great funds spent? The international support parlayed? Superficial measures. Political will that is ready to lose title, power and even one’s life in the war against drugs is what sets Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apart. Such will, inspiring and infectious, is the intangible that may just disrupt the science of even Nobel Prize winners.

    • What makes you think that what du30 DID to Davao with a population of 1.2 milion Over a 20 year period he can do to a country of over 100 million in 6 yrs let Alone 6 mos.

      Your dreaming.