Finally, we’re getting a better idea of the extent to which the Philippines has been allowed to degenerate into a narco state. So here’s what it looks like right now. From the barangay to the judiciary, officialdom in the country is rife with illegal-drugs facilitators – all taking their piece of the action from the mass addiction of youth and the breakdown of society.
Shortly, President Rodrigo Duterte will be furnishing his National Security Council (NSC) with the names of up to 10,000 government officials with alleged links to drugs racketeering. Potentially what this reveals is a layer of narco public servants – functionaries; elected and appointed, across every tier of civil authority in the country – with a pecuniary interest in illegal drug sales and in perpetuating those sales.
According to chief presidential legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, the list of names stands about one foot tall. “There are about 10,000 people, government officials involved. That means that the magnitude and depth of the drug menace is so much, so huge, that public safety is now in danger,” he said.
Those words might be by way of preparing the public for the possible suspension of the writ of habeas corpus – the right of those arrested to be brought before a court and not summarily detained. Such as action would need to show that the country faces a risk of either rebellion or invasion. So if that goes ahead, we can expect an outcry at fever pitch from Duterte’s detractors. Let’s write the headline for them now: “Dictator Duterte Scraps Due Process, Pushes Philippines Towards Police State”. Or some such nonsense. Guaranteed there’ll be no analysis; no impartiality; no balance.
But, under the circumstances, a case could be made to temporarily shed the writ on the grounds that drug money is being used to fund a terrorist rebellion in Mindanao; or that the country has already been invaded by foreign organised crime gangs, there to build an empire by turning the country into a narco state. Presumably, the NSC will be looking into all this.
Meanwhile, as families are torn apart by this scourge; while addicts die from bad drugs, overdose, suicide and violence, or just go mad; while the national workforce becomes increasingly debilitated, the barangay captains, city mayors (possibly as many as 17), governors and all the way up to the judicial branch of government, including prosecutors, are enjoying the proceeds of this death and decay.
But why should any of this come as a shock: official corruption in the Philippines is legendary; it’s fabulous – it’s virtually a tradition. All that’s really happened here is that the thieves in office have branched out into a more lucrative field of endeavour. And for them, not a very demanding one; all they have to do, for the most part, is simply look the other way.
Those who criticise the government’s efforts to end this hell – the media and the liberty groups, in particular – are culpable of aiding and abetting these corrupt officials as they reap the rewards from this parasitic trade. No media are championing their downfall; no liberty group is backing Duterte to lock them up. Far from it, according to them Duterte is the villain here; he’s the one they want locked up.
And so, while the mayors and the provincial governors who’ve amassed wealth from illegal drugs toast themselves with a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil champagne (shop price, PHP53,075; don’t worry they can afford it), their customers – several removed – are scratting around to get enough money together for a dopamine rush from a 0.1 gram hit of shabu (crystal meth; street-price today, anything from PHP300 to PHP600. It was 200-500% cheaper before Duterte instructed the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to go after the gangs, arrest or kill their salesmen and destroy their labs).
C10H15N1 – that’s the chemical formula for shabu – includes the following ingredients: red phosphorous, iodine, brake oil, ephedrine or pseudoephedrine (cold/asthma cures), lighter fuel (such as butane), hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, ether, anhydrous ammonia (farm fertilizer). Alternative recipes use: acetone, toluene (brake cleaner), sulphuric acid, methanol/alcohol (gasoline additives), muriatic acid, trichloroethane, lithium-battery acid. And it’s the drug of choice of some 90% of Filipino addicts.
Ingestion is versatile It can be smoked, snorted, injected; taken orally or anally. It’s an extremely poisonous cocktail and that’s why Duterte wants to eradicate it. In his words: “I will suppress drugs until the last pusher is out of the streets…” He also vowed that his campaign “will last until the last day of my term”.
Backing him all the way is national boxing hero, senator and likely heir-apparent to Duterte, Manny Pacquiao. Last weekend, while in Tokyo to discuss the opening of a gym – his first outside the Philippines – he had this to say. “The [illegal-drugs] problem in our country is beyond our expectation; beyond our imagination … My main focus is to change our country and hold our president’s advocacy because the president and I are very close and join together to clean these illegal drugs in our country”.
So, Duterte’s war on drugs enters its next stage as it moves up the food chain to reel in the bigger fish. It will be extremely popular with the Filipino populace in general; it will be like 10,000 prayers answered for those who live in the shadow of this menace. But don’t expect any of that to be reflected in coverage by the mainstream media; don’t expect them to be dancing in the offices of Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International thousands of miles away from the grim stench of the Philippine reality either.
This news will be enough to pull them away from their floundering campaign to undermine US President-elect, Donald Trump. If Duterte suspends the writ of habeas corpus, they’ll go apoplectic. Trump will be lucky to make page 19.