EDITORIAL - A different approach

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - A different approach

The drug problem can’t be back, as those behind Oplan Tokhang and Double Barrel are lamenting; the problem never left in the first place. Not even the killing of over 6,000 people on mere suspicion of involvement in drug dealing could put an end to one of the most lucrative illegal activities in the world.

Even at the height of the mass extermination of drug suspects, shabu was being brazenly smuggled into the Philippines by the ton, even breezing through the express lanes of the Bureau of Customs. A congressional investigation into the large-scale drug smuggling failed to nail down any of the big fish implicated by a supposed whistle-blower, who has not been heard from again.

The reality worldwide is that continuing demand and the readiness of suppliers to take risks in exchange for the huge profits in meeting the demand have allowed the illegal drug trade to flourish. The United States and other advanced economies have poured enormous resources into the battle against prohibited drugs, but the traffickers have managed to survive. The harshest regimes have failed to eradicate the drug scourge, and in some cases have themselves been involved in the illegal trade. What governments do is sustain a relentless campaign and try to stay one step ahead of the traffickers.

The bloody crackdown launched by Rodrigo Duterte on drug suspects earned him an investigation by the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity. Unfazed, Duterte has brushed aside the ICC probe. Yesterday he lamented that the drug problem “is coming back” and is “growing bigger and bigger.”

How the supposed growth was measured is unclear. Even during Duterte’s presidency, as even anti-narcotics officials themselves had pointed out, statistics he had mentioned on the extent of the problem seemed to have been pulled out of a hat. Duterte has been consistent in his stand that drug dealers deserve death. The difference, in countries with tough laws against drug trafficking such as Singapore, is that guilt is first established by a competent court before the death sentence is carried out. And anti-narcotics cops don’t shoot to kill first and ask questions later.

President Marcos and his officials have stressed that a new approach is being pursued in fighting the drug menace, with emphasis on minimizing the demand and giving drug abusers a second chance. Although human rights advocates have pointed out that drug-related killings continue, the current campaign has undeniably been less brutal than in the previous administration. And the new approach deserves to be given a chance to work, without unsolicited advice from those who, by their own admission, failed to eradicate the menace.

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