TURNING POINT; Over-Zealous but Ill-Prepared

NAWAAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 21 August) — The Philippine war on illegal drugs employed a mix of purposive and unintended strategies, to wit:

  1. Project TokHang- the house to house visit by the police and barangay officials of suspected drug personalities inducing them to surrender
  2. Oplan Double Barrel – Anti-illegal drug operations on suspected drug dens, production or distribution centers and high value targets involved in the commerce of illegal drugs.
  3. Vigilantism apparently tolerated by the authorities for being inspired no less than by the President himself when he encouraged citizens to arm themselves and kill suspected drug criminals in their respective communities, or vigilantism pursued alongside government campaigns by drug lords or protectors of those in the illegal drug trade to silence and preclude the exposure of the former.
  4. The President’s naming–shaming approach to suspected drug personalities in government service.

Notwithstanding the issue on human rights violations, the super-zealous Duterte’s war on drugs is picking tempo and is evidently succeeding if reckoned from the piling of bodies of those killed in drug-related incidents; great number of surrenderees and those publicly named and shamed by the President of the Republic for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.

But from the look of things, the government appears pitifully ill-prepared for the consequences of the campaign. The volume of those involved one way or another in the illegal drugs transcended the imagination and the expectation of everyone.

Those who surrendered under Project TokHang are reported to have already reached about half a million drug pushers and drug users. The nation has run out of rehabilitation facilities and trained personnel to attend to the needs of the latter.

Meanwhile, the government appears not ready with the necessary legal batteries to hail to court all suspected criminals beginning from those named by the President in government service and those who surrendered under Project Tokhang. In addition, it shows it has not the necessary capacities to run after those involved in collateral vigilantism, thus the killing of ordinary citizens continues to this day.

Generally, the drug pushers and users are back to their respective communities scot-free. Meanwhile the big time drug lords have not been neutralized. Thus, it’s business as usual in the commerce of illegal drug, even inside jailhouses… This is so because the pusher needs to earn a living and the drug addict to secure and use illegal drugs to “feel good” over and over again. “Everybody happy”, as the guys in the street say.

Notwithstanding the odds, it’s still possible, however to save the campaign. Government planners ought to look at the drug menace not simply from the angle of criminality but from a perspective that the drug menace is a complex socio-economic, health or disease and felony problem that needs to be addressed holistically. Corresponding programs thus have to be developed in the direction, like training and creation of wholesome livelihood opportunities, family and community-based drug education and prevention and ‘feel good” projects and activities, among others.

To win the war the government cannot do it alone. It must not alienate but secure the cooperation and support of the family, community, church, and other sectors of society. To have this, the government has always to consider and give due respect to the sanctity and dignity of human life which everybody values after all and remember that the ultimate aim of the struggle is to improve the quality of the Filipino life. Hence law enforcers need to uphold the law, due process and the rules of engagement at all times. This way we not only regain our self respect as a people but may perhaps earn the respect and admiration of the international community.

(Minda views is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph. D. is retired professor and former chancellor of the Mindanao State University Naawan campus, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)