By By Atty. Romulo P. Atencia
Yes to the “War on Drugs”. But…..
posted 21-Oct-2016  ·  
4,874 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

President Duterte said in his state of the nation address that data from the PDEA showed there were 3 million drug addicts 2 to 3 years ago, which may have increased to 3.7 million. In speeches made after his inauguration President Duterte urged citizens to kill suspected criminals and drug addicts. He said he would order police to adopt a shoot-to-kill policy, and would offer them a bounty for dead suspects. This declared presidential policy was officially named Campaign Plan Double Barrel – a campaign against illegal drugs in the Philippines. In early September 5, 2016, with 2,400 people dead so far, President Duterte repeated that "plenty will be killed" in the Drug War. Latest total killed  is nearing 4,000 already.

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Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa announced in mid-September that the Drug War had "reduced the supply of illegal drugs in the country by some 80 to 90 percent". A few days later, he said that the Drug War was already being won, based on statistical and observational evidence. On the other hand, Aljazeera reported that John Collins, director of the London School of Economics International Drug Policy Project, had a different assessment: "Targeting the supply side can have short-term effects. However, these are usually limited to creating market chaos rather than reducing the size of the market. ... What you learn is that you're going to war with a force of economics and the force of economics tends to win out: supply, demand and price tend to find their own way." He said it was a "certainty" that "the Philippines' new 'war' will fail and society will emerge worse off from it."

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Some people are beginning to be alarmed. The Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle acknowledged that people were right to be "worried about extrajudicial killings", along with other "form[s] of murder": abortion, "unfair labor practices", "wasting food" and "selling illegal drugs, pushing the youth to go into vices". United Nations human rights experts called on the Philippines to halt extrajudicial killings. 

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Let us pause for a moment and take a look at the Prohibition years in America. Prohibition was the period of time from 1920 to 1933 in the U.S. when it was illegal to make or sell alcoholic beverages.  The purpose of Prohibition was to reduce crime and corruption, solve social problems, and reduce the tax burden created by prisons and poorhouses. Also, improving health and hygiene in America was another goal.  Prohibition came into force at midnight on January 17, 1920. However, the production, importation, and distribution of alcoholic beverages — once the province of legitimate business — were promptly taken over by criminal gangs, which fought each other for market control in violent confrontations, including murder. Major gangsters, such as Omaha's Tom Dennison and Chicago's Al Capone, became rich and were admired locally and nationally. Enforcement was difficult because the gangs became so rich they were often able to bribe underpaid and understaffed law enforcement personnel and pay for expensive lawyers. Many citizens were sympathetic to bootleggers, and respectable citizens were lured by the romance of illegal speakeasies, also called "blind tigers". The loosening of social morals during the 1920s included popularizing the cocktail and the cocktail party among higher socio-economic groups. Those inclined to help authorities were often intimidated, even murdered. In several major cities — notably those that served as major points of liquor importation (including Chicago and Detroit) — gangs wielded significant political power. A Michigan State Police raid on Detroit's Deutsches Haus once netted the mayor, the sheriff, and the local congressman. Prohibition lost advocates as ignoring the law gained increasing social acceptance and as organized crime violence increased. By 1933, public opposition to prohibition had become overwhelming and Prohibition came to an end.

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The real lesson of Prohibition is that society can, indeed, make a dent in the consumption of drugs through laws. The failure of prohibition in America was partly because it lacked popular support – it was not easy to force the majority of people who used to drink to quit their personal habits and customs. Moreover, even the police and public officers ignored the law forbidding liquor, which made the enforcement much harder and did not reduce corruption. In the Philippines, government officials and the police have been shown to be also directly involved in illicit drug activities. But the situation here is different. The majority of the approximately 100 million Filipinos are not illegal drug users. And they are in favor of the vigorous campaign against illegal drugs. Based on a Social Weather Stations poll conducted in late September, 83% of Filipinos have “much trust” in President Rodrigo Duterte, 8% have “little trust” in him, and 9% are undecided.

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Indeed, there is a price to be paid to curb the proliferation of drugs in our society, and the deaths resulting from the drugs war to save us and the next generation from the evils of drug addiction is a small price relative to the benefits. What is more worrisome is the seeming freefall of our government into what political scientist and sociologist Harold Lasswell  called a “Garrison State”. In his 1941 article in the American Journal of Sociology, he outlined the possibility of a political-military elite composed of "specialists in violence" in a modern state. It is a state preserved by military power and where the military matters dominate the social, economic and political matters. It primarily serves its own need for military security and is formed mainly for preventing violence as opposed to other purposes. For example, a military state or a police state composed of specialists in violence is a garrison state.

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CONCLUDING THOUGHTS: Our fundamental law presumes an accused innocent until proven guilty. To overthrow this presumption, the prosecution must establish his guilt by proof beyond reasonable doubt, or that degree of proof which produces conviction in an unprejudiced mind. This is done in a court of law where an impartial magistrate is duty bound to carefully scrutinize and closely examine the prosecution's evidence that the accused indeed committed the crime. This procedure has been established by the experience of ages and has been the cornerstone of our present justice system. Policemen and soldiers, including their superiors, do not necessarily have the training, experience, and aptitude of discriminating truth from error and guilt from innocence. In some instances, police “raids” in dark streets and alleys where some slain drug suspects inevitably have cheap firearms used in allegedly engaging the police in firefights are hardly the place nor the way to impose penalty on drug offenders.

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