Dear VP Leni Robredo, Filipinos are not as stupid as you think they are

Published November 1, 2019, 4:37 PM

by Rj Nieto



RJ Nieto

RJ Nieto

Possibly out of exasperation over Robredo’s non-stop cross-border tirades against the administration’s war on drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte offered Vice-President Leni Robredo the opportunity to lead the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.

Robredo declined. If the drug war didn’t fail, she says, then why the need for her appointment?

It wouldn’t have been a problem if Robredo was just a regular taxpayer criticizing the government. But she isn’t. She is the vice-president, who the Consitution designates as the first in the line of succession. It’s her job to take over Duterte’s job should anything happen to him, and that job includes leading the drug war.

Anybody with at least half a brain understands that Duterte was exaggerating when he said during the campaign season that he can end the illegal drug trade in just six months. I myself interpreted it as a promise to take the drug problem more seriously.

And that resonated to me because the Aquino Administration in its entire six years of existence seems to have pretended that there was no drug problem at all.

I hail from a small rural town in Bulacan where most of my neighbors belong to Socioeconomic Classes D and E. While my community had a handful of resident shabu (methampetamine) addicts back during the presidencies of Ramos, Estrada, and Arroyo, they were undoubtedly the exception.

But come 2010, everything changed. Drugs during the Aquino Era were so easy (and relatively cheap) to buy that most of the men in my barangay turned into meth addicts. By 2013, being a drug addict, at least in my village, became the norm.

And because these addicts come from poorer socioeconomic classes, they resorted to crime to fuel their drug habit.

And because I live in an archetypal rural village where everybody is somehow related by blood, that meant the addicts victimized none other than their own relatives.

Another meth head uncle, a cousin of my dad, stole my grandaunt’s water tank and was likely planning to sell the scrap metal to the nearest junk shop. Caught in the act, his defense was he took the tank “for safekeeping.” Only addicts subscribe to that kind of logic.

Another uncle became notorious for his habit of running amok in the middle of the night while high on shabu. I heard his screams and threats because he lives (and runs amok) just a block away from my grandma’s home.

Most of men there are farmers, but a lot of them stopped working because they’ve literally become too high to function. Without means to feed their families, “nakawan ng ulam at sinaing,” despite how absurd it sounds, became commonplace. Yes, people got so broke and so high that they literally even steal what their neighbor would eat for lunch.

Oh, and before I forget. I also have this uncle who got so high, he flashed his private parts to one of my aunts and even showed signs that he intended on raping her.

All of these stories happened during the Aquino Administration, where access to drugs in my own community was so easy that almost everybody turned into a meth zombie.

And when the Probinsiyano from Davao City showed during the 2016 campaign that he was the only candidate
who fully recognized the existence of the drug problem and the need to definitively address it, then I wasn’t at all surprised when my neighbors in Bulacan rallied behind him.

No, they didn’t expect him to totally stop drugs, but they expected him to make illegal drug use far less prevalent than it was during the reign of Leni Robredo’s Liberal Party.

The problem with Robredo’s logic, i.e. taking the 6-month deadline literally, is that it assumes that Filipino voters are so stupid that they took this promise as literally as Robredo did.

No, Mrs. Robredo.

Even poor Filipinos love to dream big. But the poor are inherently aware of the reality that they do not always get everything they want. So when Duterte promised to end the Drug Problem in 6 months, what they heard is a promise that there’ll be fewer addicts than there were when Robredo’s party was in power.

And that’s exactly what happened.

In my village today, the running joke is, “Salamat kay Pangulong Duterte, tumaba na ako.” (Thanks to President Duterte, I’ve gotten fat.), which is a euphemism for “I stopped doing drugs.” Shabu suppresses the appetite, that’s why.

Despite the drug war’s imperfections, my village is safer now because of it.

That doesn’t mean that the drug war needs no, as Robredo puts it-“tweaking.” But to simply criticize the drug war without providing a realistic, feasible, and well-defined alternative, is just stupid… and that’s what Robredo’s been doing for the past three years.