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Can The Philippines’ War On Drugs Be Saved?

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his message to the Filipino community in Vietnam during a meeting on September 28. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his message to the Filipino community in Vietnam during a meeting on September 28. KING RODRIGUEZ/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO
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 Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs in the Philippines has claimed thousands of lives and shows no end in sight.

Since his inauguration as President of the Philippines in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has launched an aggressive and costly campaign on drugs with his drug policies. With the idea being an outright attack on drug activity and drug personalities, the consequences of the war have been massive fatalities of both criminals and innocents alike.

In a highly controversial style, police have carried out extrajudicial executions of people involved with the drug trade and followed them up with denial of any wrongdoing.

It is only since the beginning of 2018, when people called into question whether the behavior of the state-sponsored onslaught was actually contravening human rights codes that a formal investigation into the events and carryings on was launched.

With no sense that Duterte or his loyal followers and on the ground officers have any desire to give up, the 4,000 deaths that have come thus far looks set to keep increasing. So, what hope is there for the people of the Philippines and for something to address the injustices at play?

Duterte’s Obsession

Having assured the success of his plan inside six months of his presidency, Duterte has now changed that figure to six years, vowing to eliminate drugs. At this point, one can say that it has become Duterte’s obsession. The longer it goes on for, the more likely it is that he pours more resources into the project and allows more mindless violence.

There’s a fairly strong sense that Duterte is unlikely to renege on his stance unless human rights investigations were to somehow uproot him. Whilst his policy is so aggressive, and he relies on a fear campaign it seems unlikely that the ‘war on drugs’ can come to any good at all.

Drug War Breeds More Users

In a slightly confusing turn of events, not least from Duterte’s point of view, much of the work done by him and his team has seemed to increase drug usage. The strictness with which it is policed has driven it further underground and has exacerbated the problems to do with addiction, health and wellbeing.

No one is able to discuss drug use in a constructive way, so addiction goes untreated. This is a fairly simple piece of behavioral economics, though to Duterte and co. it would appear as a wildly unusual externality. Until this is stopped and the war is more tolerant, encouraging addicts to quit their drug use or seek help is impossible since fear of outright execution at the hands of an off the books drug officer is too high.

Investigation Is Needed Into Police

One of the most appalling suggestions to have come out of the war on drugs by Duterte, is that police, after executing someone involved with drugs in an illegal manner, will then mock up the crime scene to make it appear like a drug-related crime which the police happened to arrive upon.

Aside from how morally and logically repugnant this is, the other issue is that it creates motivation for Duterte to pour more efforts and encourage more violence against drug users and sellers. It would then become the drug force creating evidence for themselves which tells them to keep doing what they are already doing.

A proper review of the culture and behavior of drug force officers in the field would be absolutely vital in improving the war on drugs and ensuring no further atrocities are committed under Duterte’s purview. Independent review might perhaps come if there is a follow up on the accusations of violating human rights law.

Conclusion

Sadly, in conclusion, it is pretty evident that this particular brand of war on drugs can’t possibly be saved without some major, fundamental changes being made.

For one, Duterte is an enormous factor and until he is removed or sees sense, his obsession over drug problems will maintain the ‘war’ where it is or even make it worse. With a massive outside effort, there could perhaps be some hope for the Philippines and its people.

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