Is Philippines the first country to win war against illicit drugs?

Noel T. Tarrazona
Noel T. Tarrazona - Special to Al Arabiya English
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While human rights groups are questioning the drastic reforms of the Philippine government to eliminate drugs, the Philippine government claims it has taken huge step to eradicate drugs in the Philippines and it could be the first state to win a war against illegal drugs.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino told the international media that the Philippine could be the world’s first country to win the war against drugs after President Rodrigo assumed the presidency two years ago.

The Philippine government reported that at least 5,000 drug suspects and traders were killed in encounters with police forces while 150,000 others were arrested and jailed.

All of these were the result of the 110,395 anti-drug operations from July 2016 to September 2018. Moreover, early this week, Philippine lawmakers are also investigating a case involving the confiscation of 1.6 tons of smuggled illegal drugs estimated to be at $590 million.

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With such record, Aquino affirmed that the Philippines is the first country that would win the war on drugs. Aquino said though his agency did not totally eradicate drugs, but it has significantly reduced the proliferation of drug trade.

Despite the statistics, majority of Filipinos still believe that the Philippine government is in the right direction.

A recent poll conducted by the country’s leading poll firm, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released its September 2018 results and the poll result showed that 75 percent of the country’s population affirmed that the Philippine government is in the right direction and 22 percent claimed it’s in the wrong direction while 3 percent preferred not to answer the poll.

A typical wharf in the southern Philippines. Ports are often used to smuggle prohibited drugs. (Supplied)
A typical wharf in the southern Philippines. Ports are often used to smuggle prohibited drugs. (Supplied)

Duterte’s popularity

While some disagree that Philippines is winning the war on drugs, Duterte continuous to increase his popularity rating.

Mindanao civil society leader Rolly Pelinggon told Al Arabiya English that the Duterte administration has taken giant strides toward eradicating the menace of drugs thwarting the control of druglords over our people and law enforcers.

Pelinggon said: “our communities particularly in Mindanao are relatively safer now compared before and we are winning the war on drugs, inch by inch, foot by food, yard by yard,”

“It’s a struggle as drugs is a multi-billion industry but I’m glad that the Duterte administration made war on drugs, a priority initiative,” said Pelinggon who is also public a transport dealer.

Duterte relieved some of the high rank officials at the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for failure to stop the importation of illegal drugs to the country. “The commissioners are out, the department heads are out,” Duterte was quoted saying by Philippine media.

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The move to oust some custom officials also led to the arrest of Bureau’s Intelligence Officer Jimmy Guban who was reported to have been facilitating entry of illegal drugs from Taiwan and China. Guban was also known to have different contacts in different government agencies.

Guban was detained and is now under the custody but Philippine Senator Richard Gordon hinted that he wanted to make Guban a state witness to determine if there are higher officials protecting him.

In 2016, Duterte ran for Philippine president promising to eradicate drugs and crimes as he warned the public that the Philippines will be “bloodied” should he be elected to the presidency.

This year, police statistics revealed that the nationwide crime statistics dropped by 21.48 percent from 2016 to 2018 compared to the two-year period in from 2014 to 2016.

When asked why he is hard on drugs, Duterte said that if all the youth will get hooked onto drugs, no one will take care of the ageing population of the Philippines.

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