EDITORIAL - Life if full of tough choices

The Freeman

Rodrigo Duterte did not invent the drug problem. Before he became president, it was no secret to anyone that the Philippines had a drug problem. Almost every family had one. And ever more frequently, the problem manifested itself in some crime or abomination that is not supposed to happen in a civilized and orderly society. Yet everybody seemed to have one excuse or another to pretend it didn't exist, or cajole one's tomorrow into taking care of the worrying, and the tomorrow after that.

But Duterte became president, on a mandate that was pregnant with tacit approval for all the vows he made during the campaign, including a merciless crackdown on illegal drugs and whoever was involved. Finally, here was a man who had no time for pretense and niceties and who was willing to take on all the tomorrows to which we consigned our collective helplessness and procrastination against illegal drugs.

Duterte promptly went to work, the methods he employed shocking. But the bigger shock came with the reawakening. For so long, the Filipino nation knew it had a problem but did not bother to measure its extent, perhaps fearful of what it might find. But from Duterte's initial prick, the pus oozed far more than what the shape of the abscess suggested. There was more from deeper down where the more infected tissue lay. And the squeeze had only just begun.

Some promptly started crying, calling for an immediate stop to the painful proceedings. The squeeze was questioned. It was not in accordance with the rules or was against the usual practice. It was out of form. But Duterte cared little for conventions. Not to be trifled with, he is not about to let go of what he has started. Besides, he did not ask for the job. He had been living a relatively relaxed life. It was the Filipinos who insisted he take it on. And so he did.

Nevertheless, as one merely carrying out the wishes of the Filipino people, Duterte cannot insist on what they no longer want him to do. As he has said ever so quite often, if the Filipino people want him to stop, he will stop. So what is it that we really want him to do? Should Duterte stop or should he go on. Unfortunately the choice is not as easy as it appears to be.

We have reached a point in our illegal drug problem where it is no longer a matter of forcing Duterte to stop what he is doing over questions arising from the methods he employed. The bigger thing to consider now is where it will leave us if Duterte stops. Things are no longer the same since Duterte showed us exactly what we are facing. There is no going back to a world where we had the luxury of pretending the problem did not exist. There is no more letting tomorrow worry about our lot.

What we have seen so far of the problem is just the tip of the iceberg. If it has been shown that there are that many involved in just a one month and a week that Duterte had been in office, certainly there must be so many many more who have not been flushed out into the open. Whether to stop or to go on is entirely all up to us. Duterte is just carrying out the mandate he has been given. It is just hoped we do not live to regret whatever decision we might make.

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