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The Failure of Duterte's
War on Drugs
The Hounding of the Wrong Enemy
by Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

n his vow to rid the country of drugs and corruption, he staked his honor, his presidency, and his life. like many others, i joined in the chorus of hope, desperate for a country long ravaged by corruption and the metastasizing scourge of drugs.

on that vow, a brutal war on drugs was unleashed. duterte said he would be happy to see the slaughter of three million addicts. . . to save the next generation. under the protective aegis of a no-fault presidential edict, an army was let loose upon drug pushers and users. the nightly news and morning papers saturated us with stories of buy-busts, drug kills, ejks, staged and nanlaban deaths. early on, while some denounced this brutal war on drugs, many sat on the fence. even in the boondocks, many sighed relief and welcomed some palpable change. and if surveys reflect some truth, early on, many approved of his war.

it has been a war often waged outside the rule of law. as the body count swiftly rose—eight, nine, or ten thousand—politicians, media and civil society argued how many were legal kills, how many were ejks, how many were murders done under the cover of the drug war. from his bully pulpit, the president raged and cursed against the clamor for human rights. he ranted that he will "hound drug dealers to the gates of hell." when a day of drug-kill spree claimed thirty-one deaths, he said: kill thirty-one more. of the many thousands dead, most were minons of the drug trade from the hapless fringe strata of society—C, D, and E pushers, runners, and users—with only a token few from barons, narcopoliticians and local drug lords perched high in the empire of drugs.

the war on drugs started fizzling early on. the six-month promise extended to twelve extended to an admission his term will not see the end of this war. he even admitted it cannot be won—the coastlines are too long, the islands too many. a year into his drug war, rehab houses stand half empty or almost empty. the buy-busts and the killings continue despite the drug-ops galore—tokhang, double-barrel tokhang, double-barrel reloaded, each new one suggesting a failure of the old. while exposés on scalawag police and rogue elements of the law surprised no one, slaps on the wrists and push-ups dismayed many. the public was served with spectacles of hearing after hearing after hearing, our hopes diminished as each ended in a cul-de-sac of political impotence and "absueltos." the end of the drug war, unimaginable.

kian's death stoked the smoldering early outrage, lit candles and laid flowers on shrines of protest, rang church bells, and fueled marches of indignation.

but if any single event should bring us to absolute outrage, it should be the 6.4 billion shabu shipment
that was green-lighted and slipped through customs. while it is resounding testimony to the abject failure of the war on drugs, it is the absolute societal and political evil: the collusion of chinese drug lords, narcopoliticians, customs people, and law enforcement—the malignant nexus of drugs, greed, and corruption—the mind-boggling billions in the commerce of drugs and political machineries of corruption that pump supplies of shabu into the street market of addicts. . . while the president was waging his war on drugs with signature impunity, seeking out the streets for addicts and pushers, as the body count rose with drug kills, collateral damage, and hundreds of apocryphal deaths of the "nanlaban."

while this present war on drug is lost, there are still battles that can be fought and won. seek out the real enemy, the hub of the apparatus of the drug trade that he vowed to destroy—they are not the users and pushers in the streets. they are the powers that be: drug barons from alien shores, smugglers, narcopoliticians, local drug lords, and countless corrupted public officials high-up and low-down in commerce of the drug empire, for whom the thousands of dead are nothing but collateral damage in the commerce of their greed. they are the ones who should be hounded to the gates of hell and shown as much mercy as were shown the thousands of users and pushers killed. these are the men and women the president should hound to the gates of hell. these men and women who make mockery of his vow.

his vow to rid the country of corruption and the scourge of drugs. a vow on which he staked his honor, his presidency, and his life.

october 1, 2017
also read: Shabu
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