ONE of the things that did not convince me to vote for Rodrigo Duterte was his promise to end the “drug problem” in three to six months. I have made my stand at the onset: a candidate who would make such a promise should not be taken seriously. Who in his right mind would be honestly convinced that he can end a complex problem such as drug trade in a matter of ninety to one hundred eighty days?
It is true that the President of the Republic possesses a wide latitude of powers. But in the face of a complicated network behind the “political economy of narcotics,” such powers can only be used to a certain extent. Even an ordinary observer like me, cannot but use his common sense to arrive at a sound conclusion that politicians who depend on the money of businessmen cannot just go against their financiers past the campaign period.
President Duterte himself admitted that he was wrong. Our evidence for this is no less the statement he made in Cebu, two months ago: "when I became president, ganito sabi ko (this is what I said), ‘I can clean it in six months.’ And after that, I realized, nagkamali talaga ako (I was really wrong).”
Many of Duterte’s supporters would vehemently argue that the war on drugs is a success, or at least when it started. They would tell you that their views are backed by personal experience. They would cite their sitio as an example, how the “addicts” in their place “behaved” because of Tokhang.
This for me, however, is problematic. I am not going to invalidate the feelings of those who were relieved of their fears. Unfortunately, the feelings of some are not the feelings of all. While there are those who feel safe because of tokhang, there were or are also those who feel “scared” because they’re not sure if they or their family member would live for another day.
We should not forget those wives and mothers who ended up as widows due to the untimely death of their husbands. Among the things that we cannot forget with this outgoing administration are the corpses of mistaken identities.
Those who feel proud of the war on drugs are convinced that human lives are greater than human rights. They are convinced that human rights are an obstacle to making this country better. They are convinced that the discourse on human rights is a creation of the Liberal Party. Some have gone far theorizing about the radicalization of democracy under this administration. I think the word “lutang” would best describe this platoon of “intellectuals.”
Let’s have more real talk about the war on drugs now that this administration is about to take its bow. One time the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Tatay Digong: “Itong Peter Lim na ito, may bahay sa Canada, may bahay sa Bahamas [...] Peter Lim, pag nakita kita maski saan papatayin kita and I will go to jail for you.” This was said in 2019. So, what has happened to this? The threat is “not radical” enough.
Duterte was looking for something that can make people rally behind him. There are two ways to unite people. Either you unite them in hope, or you intensify their fears. I don’t think that the 16 million were united by hope. Their votes were solidified because of their fears and hatred. The past six years fed on people’s dislike for drug addicts. Whether BBM will do something about it – in Cebuano we call it “ambot” (we don’t know)!
By definition, a legacy is an inheritance or something that brings positive results. If the war on drugs is a “legacy,” do we have empirical evidence that would show that its results have been sustained and will last beyond Duterte?