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Rodrigo Duterte

Extrajudicial killings – on the orders of one man – are no way to wage war on drugs

The Philippines has a serious issue with drugs but it is for communities joining forces to resolve the problems, not a leader with orders to “kill, kill, kill”

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 4:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 4:01am

Drugs are so serious a problem in the Philippines that President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in large part for pledging to stamp them out. Drug lords, financiers and pushers have since been his target and he has made no secret that they will be arrested and jailed and, if they resist, “put in the ground”. In the three months since he took office, more than 700 suspected users and dealers are estimated by rights groups to have been killed by police and vigilantes. Taking matters a step further, the leader has named 159 officials, including politicians, judges and police, for involvement in the illegal trade.

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Duterte’s naming and shaming of the officials without first resorting to legal means got quick results, with dozens turning themselves in to police. It is shocking that people in such high places should be involved. The president has said that he will pardon law enforcers who get into legal trouble over his wars on drugs and crime. His record as mayor of Davao proves he means business; once crime-ridden, the southern city is now one of the country’s safest. Accusations of extrajudicial killings were ignored and the same strategy is now being applied on the national stage.

But fear and threats are no way to fight drugs. There is no doubt they are a scourge, with millions of Filipinos addicted, mostly to a type of methamphetamine known as shabu, and cannabis. The economy suffers through lost productivity and domestic violence and crime rates have soared, with communities deteriorating as a result. It does not help that corruption at all levels of government is rife.

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Duterte’s experience in local government has given him insight into the problem. But ignoring the law and ways of helping and treating addicts will not eradicate use. Rather than the executive branch of government working alone in the fight, the president has to partner with the legislative and judicial arms to find a solution. It is for communities joining forces to resolve the problems, not a leader with orders to “kill, kill, kill”.