IT has been a year of Duterte’s presidency. One of the first things he did in his first week in office was to name government officials involved in the illegal drug trade in the Philippines as reflected in intelligence reports.
The first time he did that was during the 69th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force on July 5, 2016. Compelled by his “sacred duty” to our nation, Duterte did away with his prepared speech and mentioned the names of five police generals.
When I returned to the Philippines in February 2017, along with 12 other lucky folks, I had the opportunity to meet the President in Malacañang. He showed us the thick list of government officials benefiting from drug syndicates. It was mortifying to know that we are by all means a narco-state.
But where’s the outrage comparable to the one our country once unleashed against the illegal gambling called jueteng?
I was in EDSA 2. I was there for three consecutive days, shouting Erap Resign! How jueteng corrupted Philippine politics was the fuse of that mass uprising.
During that time, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) was very active in exposing and reporting on the network of jueteng operations. It had a report called “Jueteng Nation,” which was about the intimate “dynamics of clan politics and political patronage…” and the role of the police and politicians in protecting jueteng operations.
Jueteng isn’t just an illegal gambling game. In “Philippine Governance: Merging Politics and Crime,” Peter Kreuzz mentioned what a staff member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had told him about how jueteng operates:
“[V]iolence is part of the game… So you will see a lot of disappearances. The police will say ‘Yes, it was a personal quarrel. He had been liquidated.’ You just see somebody dumped somewhere. No, this is because of gambling . . . Another level of government sponsored violence—because of gambling. Gambling brings about violence in this country . . . The nut of violence, although it is not reported as such, is the fruit of gambling. Because down the line, to the village level, the moment you fail to pay even just P100, you’re dead.”
The message is simple: people get killed because of jueteng and its government protectors are enabling this violence. In March 2010, a jueteng whistleblower was killed in Pasay. In March 2013, violence erupted because of rivalry between jueteng groups. In September 2015, collectors of jueteng were killed. These are just the incidences of violence reported by media. Now, if gambling brings about violence in the Philippines, what more shabu?
The shabu trade is a more deadly and dangerous illegal trade than jueteng. It’s a trade that destroys individuals, families, communities—an entire nation. Just like in jueteng, people in the trade get liquidated, dumped somewhere, never to be heard from again. If you’re a user or a pusher who can’t remit, you’re surely dead, just like if you fail to pay even just 100 pesos in jueteng. To appropriate what the CBCP staff interviewed by Kreuzz said, the nut of violence, although it is not reported as such, is the fruit of shabu.
Just like jueteng, the shabu trade is a network composed of street-level dealers, police protectors, and politicians.
We launched a massive uprising against how jueteng corrupted Philippine politics. Duterte beckoned us to raise our fists against how the illegal drug trade did that to our country. The question that the opposition must help answer is how to dismantle the machinery of narco-politics in the country. They haven’t done that. They just want to criticize and, worse, unseat Duterte without giving the nation any practical and swift solution to this problem.
In EDSA 2, Sanlakas had this huge banner saying “Resign All.” The resignation of government officials implicated in the illegal drug trade must be the battlecry of billionaires like Loida Nicolas Lewis, civil society groups, the CBCP, and Filipino intellectuals, and not the resignation of the President who is willing to sacrifice his life, honor, and even the presidency to save the next generation from the hell of the Shabu Republic.