EDITORIAL - Better be careful what we wish for

(The Freeman) - October 6, 2016 - 12:00am

Ask any decent media person who has ever covered a police raid against illegal drugs long before Rodrigo Duterte even loomed on the horizon as a potential presidential candidate and he or she will tell you that in most cases, it is the communities that help foil the raids. Entire neighborhoods act as lookouts against any police activity, serve as buffers to impede progress in cases when raids actually happen, and when that fails, actually rise as an army to attack the raiders.

This is not an exaggeration. This is not being made up. This is easily verifiable in virtually every newspaper that has ever carried stories about police raids against illegal drugs. In almost virtually every raid, the police always encounter some resistance, not by the drug suspects, not by their immediate families, but by the neighborhoods they live in.

The message conveyed here is that the illegal drug menace has become so sweeping that it has infected entire communities. These communities may not be into illegal drugs themselves but may have benefitted from it to the point that it would rise up in its defense. And how do the drug personalities do it? By taking care of the communities' needs?

In other words, the drug personalities have become the go-to guys when community members are in a pinch. They have become Robin Hoods of sorts. In gratitude, the communities repay the drug personalities in the only way they can - by acting as lookouts, as stumbling blocks, and as flank defenders. This is the reason why before Duterte, no drug campaign ever succeeded. Either the police themselves were involved, or got stymied by uncooperative neighborhoods each time they got real.

This protective attitude has carried over into the Duterte era. And while Duterte's methods have apparently scared neighborhoods from doing what they used to do, they continue to be protective of the drug personalities by putting in a good word for them in the aftermath of police operations. While before neighborhoods usually clam up about drug suspects, now they have become very vocal in their defense.

While before nobody said anything about anybody, now everybody volunteers information that this drug suspect is a case of mistaken identity or that suspect is already on the mend. In virtually every volunteered information in the Duterte era, not one has suggested that a drug suspect is who what the police think he is. It is as if every drug personality vanished and all that is left are either people on the mend or people getting mistaken for someone else.

This is what is making the Duterte drug campaign particularly challenging. Every time the police conduct a raid, the neighborhoods always claim some form of police irregularity or another. The picture that is being portrayed is that the police are so wrong and so vicious, and the communities so clean and free of vices. If the Filipino nation allows itself to accept such a portrait, then we might as well give up.

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