EDITORIAL - Rethinking the war on drugs

As expected, Malacañang disputed yesterday the latest report of the Commission on Human Rights on the conduct of the war on drugs. The CHR report said the Duterte administration “failed in its obligation to respect and protect the human rights of every citizen” and has “encouraged a culture of impunity that shields perpetrators from being held to account.”

On the other hand, Malacañang stressed that President Duterte would be leaving behind “a legacy of a safe and secure Philippines.” While acknowledging his failure to fulfill his campaign promise to eliminate the drug scourge in six months, the President has expressed no regret and sees no need to apologize over the brutal conduct of the drug war.

Recently, he said he wanted three or five more major drug traffickers to be killed before he steps down on June 30 – a plan that the Philippine National Police promptly dismissed as mere hyperbole that would not be implemented.

Malacañang described the CHR report as a “rehash of old issues,” although the Department of Justice itself has found cause to pursue criminal cases related to the abuse of police powers in the anti-narcotics campaign, in several drug killings that it reviewed. Human rights advocates have lamented that too few of the over 6,000 drug killings carried out by the police have been reviewed by the DOJ.

Despite those 6,000 deaths, the drug menace persists, as the President himself has admitted, with shabu being smuggled into the country by the ton. He has said he is preparing to face efforts by human rights groups to have the International Criminal Court conduct a full-blown investigation of his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.

The next administration will inherit the drug scourge and will have to review whether it should sustain the brutal approach, or carry out a multipronged program that addresses both supply and demand, plus the corruption that allows the criminal activity to thrive. No country has fully eliminated the drug menace. The enormous profits from the illegal trade plus continuing demand have sustained drug trafficking even under authoritarian regimes.

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Apart from giving justice to those who were executed in the anti-drug campaign, the incoming administration must develop a new approach in fighting the drug menace. The past six years have shown that even a brutal bloodbath is not enough to deter drug traffickers.

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