LIKE many others, I have a personal reason for wishing success to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against drugs. I am happy that we finally have a president who puts his fists where his mouth is insofar as the extermination of this modern day menace is concerned.
Just like in the case of cancer where the doctor has to remove all the malignant cells, the war against illegal drugs has to be waged with surgical precision to ensure that it does not recur. A half-baked job will not do otherwise the disease will come back with more virulence.
Duterte’s ways are admittedly unorthodox. The tokhang is legally borderline. So is the name-and-shame strategy. But no one is complaining, at least, none publicly. Under the regime of change, this is the new normal. Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures.
That’s why I am all for the re-imposition of the death penalty in drugs cases and for other heinous crimes. As I have argued in a previous column, we should all be held accountable for the things that we do. Our constitution while ostensibly proscribing retribution actually allows it by giving Congress the power to determine which crimes shall be punishable by death.
I don’t buy the claim that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. Why, do you think, are people turning up in droves at police stations to “surrender”? Because they do not want to die.
Which brings us to the matter of extrajudicial killings and the president’s angry reaction to any suggestion that it has become a fixture in the war against drugs.
It is undeniable that hundreds of people have been killed since the launching of Duterte’s no-nonsense anti-drug campaign but the police claim that all those who died in their hands met their fate because they engaged the peace officers in an armed encounter. As for the rest of the fatalities, the police say that they were killed by unidentified assailants.
There are people who refuse to believe the police version. This skepticism may be baseless, the doubts unfounded and the suggestion of extrajudicial killing hurtful and insulting to the police and their big boss, both of whom have endangered their own lives in the pursuit of a drug-free Philippines.
But as former senator Rene Saguisag once famously said, welcome to public service where an unjust accusation is part of the territory. If you want to serve, you have to have a thick face.
Meaning, don’t get mad. The last time I heard, ours was still a democracy where criticism is standard fare. Public servants, even the President, should be accepting of their lot.
Thus I find Duterte’s reaction to criticism by a functionary of the United Nations rather disappointing. I hope that he was quoted out of context or was only joking when he said that he will pull out of the United Nations because of its interference in a purely domestic affair of the Philippines.
Maybe, he can legally do that despite the fact that the constitution says that entering into and, by logical inference, breaking from treaties need the concurrence of the Senate. I’m sure he can easily get their consent.
But should he do it? No, he should not even have mentioned it. The UN is not just any ordinary alliance. It is the United Nations.
It is this country’s curse that political divisions continue to haunt us long after an election. Thus, when you read the social media or the comments section of any newspaper now, you will notice the big number of Filipinos who think that Duterte cannot do anything right and the even bigger number who believe that he cannot do anything wrong.
The United Nations does not belong to either. When it states its position on an issue, it does so for good reason and not because it is someone’s fanatic. We may not like its opinion but we have to recognize its right to give it.