The Drug War

The political noise was up several decibels in the past two weeks as the President floated the idea of appointing the opposition's most ardent critic to the head the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs. As The titular head of the opposition, Vice-President Leni Robredo has been at the forefront calling for an end to the killings of drug suspects. 

Much has been written about the drug war which began in 2016. Then candidate Duterte made it a hot-button issue of his campaign for President as he targeted Mar Roxas who was the incumbent DILG Secretary before he threw his hat in the Presidential race. 

The opposition has also politicized the issue mining it for all it's worth even up to the present. Their claim of 27,000 dead is disputed but no one asks the pertinent question of how it jumped from the official number of less than 4,000 to date. They have been trying to make if appear that the Philippines has become a killing field for drug dependents and pushers without much scientific data to back it up. 

Duterte claimed that he could eradicate illegal drugs, particularly shabu, in six months. Three years later he has admitted he underestimated the extent of the problem, particularly when it came to corrupt police officials and politicians who are involved in it. He hasn't appointed a new PNP Chief after the resignation of the embattled Oscar Albayalde because the vetting process is taking longer than expected. 

The issue bedeviling the administration is how its efforts haven't been as effective as they claimed it would be given the appointment of personalities who are part of the President's inner circle as the leaders of the drug war. Sen. Ronald De La Rosa headed both the PNP and the Bureau of Corrections. Nicanor Faeldon was Customs Commissioner and Bureau of Corrections chief after. De La Rosa had limited success during his tenure at the two agencies he headed while Faeldon failed miserably leading the President to sack him. 

The political noise was up several decibels in the past two weeks as the President floated the idea of appointing the opposition's most ardent critic to the head the Inter-Agency Committee on Illegal Drugs. As The titular head of the opposition, Vice-President Leni Robredo has been at the forefront calling for an end to the killings of drug suspects. The President threw the gauntlet at her by finally issuing her appointment which she accepted. Now all eyes are on her, particularly a skeptical public, who are curious about how she's going to go about putting her words into action in her new post as drug czar. 

The public is generally satisfied with the President's performance on the issue. There has been a palpable improvement in the peace and order situation. Shabu is not as easily available as it was during the previous administration. The crime index is down. The most recent SWS survey has the President's approval ratings at 77%. 

Data on the drug problem has been scarce because there is no scientific method used to collect them and politics takes precedence over data science. The 27,000 figure cited by the opposition has no scientific basis. They can't even cite police reports from drug operations as the source. What is consistent is how the negative media campaign against the drug war has been successful. Media outlets identified with the opposition hasn't let up on their efforts. The same is true with other hot-button issues against the administration. This is all part of their drive to turn public opinion against the administration. 

As is the case with the government bureaucracy, corruption remains the main reason why drugs continue to be available. The temptation of easy money is hard to resist. It doesn't help when a PNP official appears at a Senate hearing wearing an expensive wristwatch that is beyond the reach of his salary grade. This is actually true for some of the other officers of the national police service. 

There is also the structural issue of how the different law enforcement agencies go about the goal of minimizing, if not eliminating, the drug trade. The PDEA is a national agency but its personnel count is not at par with the PNP. It also hasn't been made clear which is the lead agency coordinating with its counterparts abroad. There is also the issue of personnel training and coordination with the other government agencies such as the Bureau of Customs which is notoriously corrupt. 

The Vice-President may have committed a costly mistake in her accepting the post because of her lack of experience in law enforcement. Her supporters have been touting the move as a win this early. What is certain is the odds are stacked against her because the country is an archipelago with porous borders. Smuggling is a centuries-old business. What is certain is there is not going to be a lack of political theater and entertainment until June 30, 2022 where she is the presumptive standard-bearer of the opposition. 

As with the case of everything else that's wrong with the country, politicking has always been one of the culprits along with its twin brother, corruption. Filipinos are tired of half-assed government policies which only serve the few while leaving the majority suffering from the laws not being enforced at all. There is also the continuing problem of the lack of competent leaders climbing up the nascent political ladder. This leaves everyone wondering when will real change ever come?

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About the Author
RG is a seasoned international trade and sales and marketing professional who also dabbles in writing. He was a contributor to Business World in the mid-90s and is also a tech geek.
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