A Problem Bigger Than Extra Judicial Killings

The government cannot just address EJK, and then let the drug menace continue its relentless damage.

This February, the CBCP issued its pastoral letter on extra judicial killings (EJK). While EJKs have hogged the limelight because of its emotiveness, it is merely the tip of the iceberg of the menace of illegal drug use. Indeed, drug use may be a symptom of the disintegration of the Filipino family and the erosion of social capital. Some research has concluded that drug addiction is borne out of loneliness and that it tends to spare socially connected individuals.

Given the church’s mandate on values, it is disappointing that it gazed narrowly on only one issue (EJK) that also tends to be divisive. It would have been more fruitful if it cast the drug problem as a broader developmental and spiritual crisis so it can ventilate discussions about the social forces that feed it, and more importantly, generate more robust policy and programmatic responses.

The government cannot just address EJK (as the church recommends), and then let the drug menace continue its relentless damage. Solving the EJK problem alone will not solve the drug problem. In fact, it may embolden more drug traders as they feel protected under the shield of human rights advocates, a clear case of the "law of unintended consequences" working. Indeed, the threat of being killed may be dampening drug trading activities, as there has been a dramatic decline in the crime rate since the war on drugs started.

I hope that CBCP can revisit the drug problem more broadly as a developmental, spiritual, and existential issue. Yes, the drug problem is part of modern man's alienation. The dear bishops are philosophers and theologians, so they should know this. But apparently, they focused too narrowly on one issue and missed the social milieu in which it exists.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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