Five months and nearly 5,000 deaths later, has Oplan Tokhang put the fear of God into the hearts of drug personalities? With the onset of Advent, into the sixth month of the most brutal administration Filipinos have seen, is the drug menace much weakened? Even more important, is the nation safer?
Despite extensive news coverage of the war on drugs, foreign drug traffickers seem undeterred. We’ve seen a stream of travelers from Latin America and Russia arriving at the NAIA, many of them passing through Brazil, with kilos of cocaine stuffed in their suitcases. Obviously, someone told them they could get away with it in the Philippines.
Tokhang’s outcome seems mixed. I’ve heard of notorious drug dealers and heavy abusers in high social circles who are now making a public show of being drug-free and engaging in wholesome, healthy activities. Among those who have little to lose, however, it seems people are still willing to take the risk. The huge profit margins must be irresistible.
We are presuming that the drug dealers operating from the New Bilibid Prison are now under close watch. But we don’t know for sure if their operations have been shut down. As long as the inmates enjoy unregulated access to mobile phones or other communication devices, the NBP can continue serving as the command or call center for the illegal drug trade.
Do people feel safer? There may be less shabu in the streets, but guns are proliferating, and they are used with impunity.
The war on drugs must be complemented by a war on loose firearms. It’s no coincidence that the nation in East and Southeast Asia with the highest homicide rate is also the most awash with guns.
* * *
The demand for illegal drugs appears to remain strong, as it has been in this country since even before martial law was declared, when the hippies and the Age of Aquarius glamorized drug abuse.
The persistent demand is one aspect of the drug problem that isn’t being sufficiently addressed. Strong demand makes cocaine and its cheaper cousin shabu among the easiest products to sell, whether in the exclusive gated villages of billionaires in Makati (yes, Juana, there are drug personalities there) or in the slums of Caloocan. There’s a drug for every income level in this country. For the suppliers, it’s easy money and the profit margins are enormous.
So there is no shortage of targets for execution. Yesterday in Metro Manila alone, there were 10 drug-related killings, as usual involving mostly persons from low-income communities.
You’d think that with daily reports of such killings, people would be sensible enough to at least suspend pushing sachets of shabu or abusing drugs. Yet the business continues – or at least that’s what we’re told by anti-narcotics cops, whose jobs, it seems, depend these days on their Tokhang body count.
President Duterte has said the killing is far from over, with his shock troops now shifting from the hampas-lupa to higher-value targets. The second phase of the extermination has in fact started, with scores of barangay captains and low-ranking cops among those killed.
Du30 has said his so-called narco list contains about 5,000 names, most of them barangay officials, with a smattering of local government executives, cops and even prosecutors and judges. The persons know who they are and they should stop, Du30 has said.
The first phase of Tokhang has amply shown the capability of this administration for mass killings. The fate that befell Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa also serves as a strong warning to those who think their positions in government protect them from capital punishment in the time of Du30.
Even if those persons in the new narco list decide to lie low, however, it looks like their fate is sealed. About 600,000 drug suspects and abusers have so far surrendered under Tokhang, and a number of them were shot dead shortly after they presented themselves to authorities. He can’t kill them all, Du30 has said, but he can surely have another 5,000 exterminated.
So many more to kill, so little time!
* * *
For sure, Du30 has managed to instill fear among certain lawbreakers. I know people who are cheering the permanent elimination of barangay captains accused of drug trafficking. Du30 might as well make full use of this fear factor to implement difficult reforms.
The fear factor can come in handy in his dealings with the princelings in local government, who are among the biggest hindrances to doing business in this country. The fear factor can also be useful in a campaign against corruption at all levels of government.
Du30’s avowed commitment to clean, transparent governance has been tainted by his unabashed admiration for Ferdinand Marcos and the dictator’s heirs. Duterte must understand that the protests against the Marcoses aren’t only over human rights violations – which are starting to pale in comparison with those committed under Tokhang – but also against world-class corruption.
Still, if bureaucrats understand that their boss has no compunction about applying the ultimate punishment for graft, perhaps even the Bureau of Customs and other revenue-generating agencies can finally be cleaned up.
At a great cost of thousands of lives, Dirty Rody has managed to instill fear among certain sectors. He should not let the fear factor go to waste.
Philippine President Duterte rules out martial law, calls it a ‘stupid’ policy
Philippines: Top Cop Reinstated “As A Favor” After The Killing of Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. In His Jail Cell
Philippine military denies it orchestrated botched ambush of presidential security team — “I am afraid the incident could cause President Duterte to declare martial law.”