Even before Duterte took oath as the President of the Republic of the Philippines, he already strongly manifested his will to end the illegal drug trade in the country which actually gathered support even from the left. Months later, there seemed to be a change in course when progressive groups denounced Duterte’s bloody drug war. Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), through its official website, claims that there have already been 13,000 drug-related killings. And the nation must have been shaken when the 17-year old Kian Delos Santos was reportedly killed by no less than the Philippine National Police.
Progressive groups, including farmers’ organizations, all over the country urge Duterte to end his war on drugs, also seeking justice for all the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings.
Alliance for the advancement of People’s Rights, Karapatan, reports that about 66 farmers were killed under the first year of the Duterte administration. But if we look into it, most of them, if not all, weren’t killed due to the drug war but because of political affiliations. Why then should progressive farmers’ groups such as Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas and other Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas regional chapters nationwide condemn the brutal war on drugs? Does it have any direct effect towards the farmers? How is it related to their struggle against land monopoly?
War against the poor
It has long been established that Duterte’s drug war is anti-poor. Mr. President himself openly declares that it is the poor who are more engaged in drugs, saying that they are “ignorant and more likely to be hit”. His peculiar vulgarity as manifested in his speeches is, unfortunately, a testament of his anti-lower class policies.
Instead of targeting the big drug lords, the top individuals behind the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the country, the Philippine National Police along with their vigilante groups are eyeing on the small drug users and dealers through “cleaning the streets”. Of the 13,000 victims of extrajudicial killings, we coulds only count on our fingers the number of relatively politically-epowered individuals who were also hit by government armed officials. The bigger fishes are still left protected through their political and military power.
If Duterte really has a clean intention to end the drug menace, he must have taken into consideration that the country’s drug problem is not detached from the whole socioeconomic problem in the country. A rehabilitative, instead of punitive, solution must have arisen. In fact, the towering number of people involved in illegal drugs is a reflection of the government’s failure to address the country’s problem of joblessness. Similarly, the continuation of the drug problem in the country is a testimony that Duterte’s economic policies fail to address the very reason why the poor engage themselves in illegal drug trade and this also manifests that Duterte’s war on drugs is nothing but a failure.
From “left” to right: Disregarding people’s issues
While the Duterte administration invests all the hype to end the drug menace through murderous means, the socioeconomic concerns of the basic sectors are still unaddressed. Contrary to his pro-people pronouncements, Duterte is now exposing his rightist tendencies: forwarding neoliberal economic policies, promoting fascism, and simply advertising anti-people programs. The characteristics Duterte once had that made him famous to the masses are all gone except one: his unnecessary straightforwardness which could be of help if only he uses it to advance people’s rights.
In May this year, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) boycotted the fifth round of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), expressed his seriousness over the termination of talks for reasons both the NDFP and the CPP invalidated.
The “meat” of the talks was supposed to be discussed in the fifth round. The two panels were too close to finally signing a paper on free land distribution. We could only imagine solving the number one problem of the majority of the population in the country – landlessness. But dealing people’s issues must not be on Duterte’s top priorities. Consequently, 75% or more than 75 million people are still suffering from the exploitation of the few ruling elite.
While the issue of joblessness, landlessness, inaccessible education and basic social services remain unaddressed, the drug menace will not cease. Not to mention that the “filthy” bureaucracy takes a huge role in the proliferation of illegal drug trade.
Duterte’s drug war gathered diverse opinions from the lower class up to the upper middle class. It promotes and strengthens the stereotyping of classes – that the poor are the ones who are more likely to commit “filthy works” while the rich are less likely to deal with it. The same is true when our rotten education system teaches us that farmers’ poverty is due to their indolence. This is a manifestation of an anti-people culture even more intensified by the present administration for the sole purpose of protecting his power.
But why does the Duterte administration or whoever is behind the war on drugs have to put a huge gap between the lower and the middle class?
The alliance of the basic sectors and the middle class have broadened under the Duterte administration, especially on the issue of just and lasting peace. The united front has become more vocal in advancing national democracy.
Aside from using political, economic and military power to maintain the control of feudal lords, capitalists, and imperialists, the cultural aspect is also crucial. The present administration appears to be maximizing these aspects.
The current administration’s drug war, however, is bound to fail if we continue to broaden our alliance against Duterte’s drug war and the looming tyranny. The rich history of our country teaches us well-enough to fight against a fascist dictatorship.