August 18, 2019
A drug war is not an easy job for any government. I have taken the cue from many countries, who indulged this seemingly eternal chore to weed out this menace. I tried watching the voluminous episodes of “Narcos” and “El Chapo” several times on Netflix to find out how these drug cartels intimidated even the top officials in Colombia and Mexico.
Drug lords accumulated immense amount of money and power that enabled them to extend their kingdoms way beyond their boundaries. In my analysis, these two countries failed miserably that they chose the much easier route — extraditing these “kings” or passing the headaches to affected countrries like the United States.
In our country, the same challenges are confronting the governance at present. Add to this the unwanted judgmental chorus of local human right activists and international critics that inflates the real number of killings in this crusade against drugs. And it’s not funny that some leftist groups, including some clergies are also adding to the weight of the burden.
Neutralizing drug lords, couriers and users was branded as inhuman while condemnation in behalf of the victims who were ensnared by criminals was almost inaudible or muted. Even media was sort of attracted to carry loads of adverse propaganda plus its insistence that we are on the brink of a totalitarian or a fascist regime. As if this is not enough, our economic policy and border disputes leaning favorably toward China were being used to tip the balance in Beijing’s favor.
It is easy to pronounce the legitimacy of these actions as ultra-democratic and fully justified as legal prescriptions faithfully embedded in footnotes and fine print. Heroic talks and knightly jousts riding on galloping white horses are maligning the essence of a simple crusade to end the reign of the illegal drug trade.
The government erred too as it started the war too early. Right after the declaration, I suggested a thorough clean-up of law enforcement agencies first before embarking on a full-scale war. This mistake gave the opportunity to those involved including local government officials to silence those who were liable to “sing” to expose their participation. Murdering their co-conspirators and winning stripes for a job well done were indeed twin victories that swept the conspiracy dirt under the rug.
At first glance, this is a war that is seemingly hard to win. But many people are asking questions, saying that with this admission or submission, are we just expected to terminate the effort, sit and relax, and watch the devils laugh? Too much is at stake. Drug addiction is not an enemy to befriend just because it is unbeatable. Surrendering to its domination is outright damnation.
Colombia’s history will tell us that Pablo Escobar tried to buy his inclusion in Colombia’s legislature by spending tons of money to buy politicians and voters. Policemen and judges were bought, cash were given left and right to impress and champion the cause of hungry citizens. But he lost and finally was shot to death. The government did not give up. Compromises were entertained earlier but Bogota eventually realized that the country was being obliterated by Escobar’s Medellin cartel.
And some groups want our country to stop the war because of human rights violations? Are we amenable to the scenario that our jails, courts, hospitals and clinics will be filled with abusers of drugs? Are we ready to continue watching violence and heinous crimes committed in our neighborhood? Are we ready to accept neglected children, abandoned without a future or even abused?
Looking back with a certain guilt myself, I vividly remember the 1960s which generally started our infatuation with drug use. It started with the “harmless” marijuana which we fondly call as “weed.” Remember the flower children we call the “hippies” in the “Age of Aquarius?” It migrated to other more potent varieties like LSD, heroin and morphine.
Woodstock was the gigantic event that declared the revolution to use drugs at any given time. Even those Fab Four from Liverpool experimented with those hallucinogens to bring their music to a “higher” level.
Vietnam War returnees were addicted as well. During the 1970s, the business of drug distribution prospered in South America emanating from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. The Triad reigned supreme in Asia with bases in China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Opium sources was the infamous Golden Triangle that includes Burma, Thailand and Laos where an estimated 800 tons of opium a year are being produced. Add to these Afghanistan and Turkey.
Criminalizing drugs is not enough. Its eradication is a gargantuan task that involves billions. It may take a lifetime but we cannot just stop and submit to the effect of this monster. Punishment or strict law enforcement is not enough to stamp it out. We need to simultaneously invest in education, speedy treatment and an effective and sustainable rehabilitation template.
Vested interest groups can easily blame the Duterte administration. The blame should be heaped on them instead for just barking at the sidelines and shamelessly watching our country die.
Good work, good deeds and good faith to all.
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