By MELITO SALAZAR JR.
If one wants to stabilize prices of a commodity, like rice, one can address both supply and demand. Increasing supply will drive prices down while lowering demand, shifting from rice to corn grits, could also lower prices. In the case of illegal drugs, one can eliminate the problem by both decreasing supply and demand. This is what the Duterte anti-illegal drugs campaign should have done.
As a priority, it seemed that the focus was to lower demand. Drug addicts were asked to register with the barangay and the expectation was that those on the list would undergo rehabilitation. However, given the rhetoric of President Duterte, the police forces seemed to have used the information to track down the petty drug addicts and eliminate them. There were even allegations that quotas had to be met by local police, otherwise they would be replaced.
There seemed to have no efforts in rehabilitation, as quick results was what the Duterte administration wanted. Effective rehabilitation would need community-based efforts, needing funding for building well-equipped centers with adequate health personnel and appropriate orientation and training for family members. It would necessitate going to the roots of the drug problem, the core being poverty. The rehabilitated drug addicts need jobs from more community enterprises, established with support from government in an environment supportive of business. Even family members required some degree of assistance as they nurtured their drug addict dependents towards total healing.
Regretfully, the Duterte administration was perceived to have lowered demand differently – physically eliminating the drug addicts and earning for itself universal condemnation and soiling the good reputation of the police. Yet, it could have been otherwise.
The supply side was also targeted but, it seemed, at the lower end of the distribution channel, petty peddlers. The body count of the anti-illegal drugs campaign exponentially rose as suppliers of one or two sachets of shabu were added. A few provincial “druglords” were arrested and one died under suspicious circumstances inside the prison. Definitely, no “big fishes” were caught, making one think that they were not a priority.
However, the best approach to stop the supply of illegal drugs is to catch those who smuggle in billions worth of illegal drugs and their cohorts in the Bureau of Customs and other government agencies. The exposes in recent weeks have shown the impunity of these officials and President Duterte’s promotion of the BOC head who was not able to prevent the smuggling is sending the wrong message – personal ties is more important than competence.
Given the warm relationship between President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, why don’t the two countries ink an agreement that will mandate the Chinese government to Inspect all shipments being exported to the Philippines? Once the Chinese government finds illegal drugs, they have the legal basis to impose the death penalty which the Philippines does not have. The Philippines can set up special courts headed by judges of known probity and integrity for illegal drug offenses in ensure fast prosecution and conviction. Foreign nationals now in prison should immediately be deported as it has been proven that they continue to oversee their drug operations even in jail.
It’s about time the Duterte administration deals with both the supply of and demand for illegal drugs, if it really wants to solve the problem. It’s about time the campaign focuses on the “big fishes.”