JUST recently, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (Pdea) seized an estimated P1.8 billion worth of “shabu” (crystal meth) shipped to Manila International Container Port by a suspected Chinese syndicate.
Aaron Aquino, director general of the Pdea, said that arrested Chinese drug traffickers were unafraid to carry out their activities here because they knew that if caught, they would not be meted the death penalty.
“They will continue to smuggle drugs because they can buy anybody—judges, prosecutors, even law enforcers—and return to their country safely,” Aquino said in a press briefing.
The Pdea chief asserted that the Duterte administration can only solve the drug problem if there is death penalty. However, I think that drug smuggling cannot be solved by simply applying the death penalty. It has been shown by experts that the greatest deterrent to crime is not capital punishment but the certainty that the offender gets caught and brought to justice.
In other words, what insures the peace and tranquility of society is not capital punishment but an efficient and credible justice system. But how can the offender be punished when even the Pdea chief knows that the Chinese smugglers “can buy anybody—judges, prosecutors, or even law enforcers—and return to their country safely?”
What makes the justice system problematic is not only the vulnerability of judges and prosecutors to bribery but the people’s loss of trust in the police. According to the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 68 percent believe policemen are involved in the illegal drug trade. In his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, SWS pollster Mahar Mangahas said: “Even worse, the great majority of Filipinos see policemen as drug war villains themselves, rather than as the people’s protectors. In December 2018, 68 percent considered the accusation that ‘some policemen are involved in the illegal trade’ as either definitely or probably true. This proportion was 70 percent in April 2017.”
With the people’s loss of trust in the police due to their involvement in the illegal drug trade, and the corruption in the bureaucracy, particularly in the judiciary and the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Immigration, not even a hundred capital punishments can prevent the proliferation of drugs in this country.
The rich with their money and connections, can escape the death penalty, but the poor are already suffering the brunt of summary executions even without the formal re-imposition of capital punishment.