Think about it: if Oplan Tokhang had been launched several years earlier, Manny Pacquiao might have ended up dead on a sidewalk, and the Philippines would have been deprived of a world boxing superstar.
Pacquiao recently confessed that he had once been a heavy drug user. The senator likes to portray himself as a Bible-quoting pro-life advocate, although chiefly for the unborn; today under the administration of Dirty Rody, Pacman is staunchly pro-death penalty.
Having seen his fortunes change dramatically, Pacquiao surely understands the idea of giving people a second chance. Especially drug abusers. The Americans gave Nora Aunor a chance. Steve Jobs took LSD and gave the world the iPhone and iPad. Many of the world’s artists, entertainers and rock and pop music superstars did drugs.
Pacquiao may be able to save lives if he uses his star power to make the case for rehabilitating drug abusers instead of executing them. He can use his star wattage to help reverse this creeping culture of death that we fear might take root in our dysfunctional democracy.
The risk of institutionalizing killing to enforce the law is high because people see it as an alternative to a weak criminal justice system. If the Senate wants to stop extrajudicial killings, its probers should go beyond trying to pin down President Duterte for 1,000 “salvaging” cases believed perpetrated by death squads in Davao City when he was its mayor.
Instead the senators should craft legislation to make the criminal justice system work. This has to be possible without the legislature impinging on the independence of the judiciary. Congress can even seek the cooperation of the judiciary to draw up the necessary reforms.
Public approval is one of the biggest defenses of President Duterte in his vicious war on drugs. If the criminal justice system works, there will be little public tolerance for short cuts to justice.
Structural reforms are also indispensable in sustaining gains in this unprecedented drug war.
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You might ask: what gains? Let’s hand it to Dirty Rody: he’s got certain bad guys, including local political kingpins, running scared.
But with shock and awe already achieved through the killing of thousands of drug suspects, the President can now fine-tune his selection of targets.
Duterte can afford to give minor drug offenders – drug users, and the extremely poor who turn to penny-ante street pushing to survive from day to day – a second chance. He can instead vent his ire on the persons who recruit these pushers – usually barangay and police officials.
He can even use the effect of shock and awe to quickly and drastically cut red tape and curb corruption, which are just as destructive to the fabric of the nation as the drug menace.
Because of all the flak he is getting, plus the possibility that he might spend his twilight years facing trial before an international court for crimes against humanity, Duterte has been busy defending himself and assailing his critics. And his drug war has overshadowed all other aspects of his governance.
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Duterte is as relentless in his defense as in the actual drug campaign. Apart from his daily statements, his supporters have reportedly received copies of his favorite book, which provides a glimpse into how he regards his drug war: Ioan Grillo’s “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America.” The book was published on Jan. 19 this year by Bloomsbury Press, and Philippine bookstores are reportedly running out of stock.
Here’s the book blurb from Goodreads:
In a ranch south of Texas, the man known as The Executioner dumps five hundred body parts in metal barrels. In Brazil’s biggest city, a mysterious prisoner orders hit-men to gun down forty-one police officers and prison guards in two days. In southern Mexico, a meth maker is venerated as a saint while enforcing Old Testament justice on his enemies.
A new kind of criminal kingpin has arisen: part CEO, part terrorist, and part rock star, unleashing guerrilla attacks, strong-arming governments, and taking over much of the world’s trade in narcotics, guns, and humans. What they do affects you now – from the gas in your car, to the gold in your jewelry, to the tens of thousands of Latin Americans calling for refugee status in the U.S. Gangster Warlords is the first definitive account of the crime wars now wracking Central and South America and the Caribbean, regions largely abandoned by the U.S. after the Cold War. Author of the critically acclaimed El Narco, Ioan Grillo has covered Latin America since 2001 and gained access to every level of the cartel chain of command in what he calls the new battlefields of the Americas. Moving between militia-controlled ghettos and the halls of top policy-makers, Grillo provides a disturbing new understanding of a war that has spiraled out of control – one that people across the political spectrum need to confront now.
For additional insights (and chilling comparisons with what’s happening in our country), you can watch the Netflix series “Narcos” – about drug baron Pablo Escobar, believed responsible for at least 3,000 executions during his reign as leader of Colombia’s Medellin cartel.
Escobar’s son Sebastian has listed inaccuracies in the critically acclaimed Netflix series. But the producers have said anyway that certain facts or events in the hit web TV series have been changed or enhanced, to protect certain individuals and for dramatization purposes.
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Duterte’s first 100 days will be remembered mainly for the 3,000 killed in the drug war, his cussing and flip-flopping and apologies, his run-ins with world leaders, and the agony of Sen. Leila de Lima.
The drug war has eclipsed his positive initiatives such as the peace process with Islamic separatists and the communists, and improvements such as the end of bullet planting at the NAIA.
Duterte can expect more criticism after his first 100 days. After this so-called honeymoon period, people will increasingly grumble again about the chronic traffic jams, the still undelivered driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates, the continuing breakdowns in the light railway services. Filipinos working overseas will complain about the weaker peso.
Several of those 10 million migrant workers may also be mourning relatives or friends who have been exterminated in the brutal drug war.
After the first 100 days, public impatience usually starts setting in, and more people may begin asking what the nation has gained (and lost) from the bodies that keep piling up.
Who knows, Pinoys – generally seen as religious – may find their faith and humanity again and become more than passive observers in this war on drugs.
Survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan march during a religious procession in Tolosa on the eastern Philippine island of Leyte on November 18, 2013 over one week after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. The United Nations estimates that 13 million people were affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan with around 1.9 million losing their homes. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez
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