state of the “drug” nation

“We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or are put, either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.” – Philippine President Duterte, on drug enforcement.

A partial transcript of the speech is here if you want to read it, but it doesn’t contain his adlibs. It was vague, meandered up and away so he could score some comedic points and left me wondering. It feels like populist propaganda to me. But he is the populist Dirty Harry president everybody loves. So why not.

Rodrigo_Duterte_June_2016
President Rodrigo Duterte, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The good points included a nicely scaled down event, no mega-fashion show as with previous years. It’s funny that all it took was a short statement banning it. PNoy must be shocked. I guess vague economic promises, a “ceasefire” and basically a whole of it “it will be like this” without actual statements on what they will do count kind of counts.

Nothing about the China Sea ruling, which for me is a pertinent issue since they are building on the contested land. Nothing regarding the Marcos burial.

Scapegoats are nice. Drugs have always been a nice scapegoat for governments. Nixon knows this too. After all, he was the original “war on drugs” president. A declared war on drugs feels a lot like state-sanctioned propaganda.

Drugs are a pervasive societal issue that affects people at all levels. There’s no one-off solution to “solving” drug smuggling, use and abuse. But it’s easy to please people through a show of force. And it’s easy to please people who are all to happy to hand it over to a president who has a reputation for taking action.

In this context, I can’t help but think of Richter Baykin, the 16-year old student killed in a buy-bust in Baguio. (Buy-busts in Baguio are a laugh and a half, let me tell you.)

What about Jefferson Bunuan, the young scholar shot dead in his sleep next to his cousin. Police say they started a gunfight, so they shot them. Witnesses say they were asleep. Maybe people hide guns under their mattresses these days. In a country where a gun costs more than a month’s salary. (Legally, of course!) Illegally, well.

Do we have a concept of reasonable force in this country? Or is force reasonable because you have the authority to wield it?

Not all cops. Not all pushers? Do we have that kind of hashtag? #druggielivesmatter Every life matters? Or they only matter if they make national news, but if you classify them as no-lives, worthless lives that don’t deserve the basic things other people do, because “human rights cannot be used a shield or an excuse to destroy the country–your country and my country. (Duterte, again in the same speech”.

If so, what other reason can be used? 400 estimated dead due to extrajudicial killings. Of course, some of them were committed by vigilantes in the name of justice.But you have the dubious blessing of The Man in Power.

It’s easier to kill than to prove guilt. He does talk about rehabilitation later on. You can’t put the dead in rehab, though.

You can’t really put the dead anywhere.

be irrelevant!

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