There is currently a brutal drug war going on in the Philippines, and I do not mean a metaphorical one. This war is being orchestrated by the Filipino government and their newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte and while it is purported to be for the benefit of the Filipino people, many so far have been caught in the crossfire, and more than likely drug addicts in the Philippines will be the ones to suffer the most.
Inaugurated into office in June of this year, Duterte’s made good on his campaign promises to crack down on the rampant crime and drug abuse that the Philippines has witnessed over the past few years. He quickly got to work on his war on drugs, and the fruits of his labor are palpable, as they have seen the streets of Manila littered with bodies, the total death count being 1,900 so far.
He is extremely popular in the country, having a 91% approval rating, and his overall agenda is to rid the country of drug lords and punish drug addicts in the Philippines. His agenda does not seem to have a distinction between the two groups and it assumes that drug addicts in the Philippines are criminals who, like their drug dealing counterparts, must be stopped.
The most commonly used drugs in the country are Methamphetamine, known colloquially as Shabu, and marijuana. Shabu is really the main concern in the country and it is said that some 90% of all drug addicts in the Philippines are abusing it. The drug is highly addictive and like the methamphetamine seen in the United States, the drug is known to cause hallucinations and extreme paranoia.
Drug addiction is not a new concern for the Philippines as it is something they have been battling for years. A 2004 report found that there were an estimated 6.7 million drug addicts, which for a country with a population less than 100 million is fairly high. But in the past 10 years, this number has dropped dramatically to a mere 1.3 million drug users, yet Duterte states the number to be closer to 3 or 3.7 million.
The reasons for the “high instance” of drug addiction in the country is reported to be because of the lack of social services available and because of corruption in the government, which allows drug addiction to run rampant. Duterte’s administration has seen the firing of 300 police officers in the past few months due to their connection with drug dealing and this number is thought to increase as investigations continue.
Due to the perceived increase in addiction rates and the lack of social and political infrastructure in order to handle it, drug addiction appears to have created huge problems for the country to the point where people are willing to justify the death of 1,900 in just a few short months, at the hands of the government, in order to help deal with the issue.
The baffling thing about this is that the instances of drug addiction have dropped dramatically over the past 10 years and this is said to be because of the joint efforts between the government and police in order to effect the supply of drugs into the country. Since this was working it is surprising that there has been a dramatic shift in the country’s policy towards drug addiction and in some regards it appears to just be another social witch hunt where the drug addict pays the price for public misunderstanding and prejudice.
I will admit that drug addiction is ugly. The social problems created by drug usage are nothing to scoff at, but at the same time, this idea, and one that is shared by most countries on the planet, that their country is under attack by an immoral and shadowy drug people does nothing but cause increased rates of incarceration and death.
It does nothing but alienate the drug addict from any available social services at their disposable and create a collective paranoia that is neither based in reality or in facts that can actually help the problem. In a sense, it is nothing more than a political scheme in order to rile up voters and create results that are based on destroying people who are easy targets.
What President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration are attempting to do is essentially genocide. He told voters before he got elected that he was going to kill all of the drug users in his country and that is what he is doing. He said that he was going to go after the drug lords in his country but as we have seen in the past, this usually never happen’s and when a “drug lord” is captured, there is usually 100 more standing behind him to take his place.
Combating drug addiction with violence and prison is about as useful as dropping a cup of water in the ocean, hoping to raise the sea level. It just doesn’t work because it doesn’t actually deal with the underlying problems that are creating the conditions in which addiction thrive. Lack of education, lack of social services, access to health care, and poverty are all things that actually contribute to drug addiction, but rather than focus on those things, because doing so are extremely difficult, President Duterte has decided to go the route that many have gone before and in the end he will fail.
In the wake of his failure there will, unfortunately, be thousands who die and all because we still believe on a certain level that a zero-tolerance policy actually works. It never has and never will, because fear only propagates misunderstanding and never actually solves the problem at hand.