The threat to snuff out the lives of drug addicts is the lone campaign pledge that President Rodrigo Duterte has pursued with all his might.
Duterte warned that he hates drugs so much, and loves the country so much, that he would to shed a sea of blood to save it.
Latest statistics show that 5,000 have perished in the hands of law enforcers. Close to 20,000 others have died from attacks blamed on vigilantes or feuding drug gangs, though cops and their agents have been implicated in many cases.
The President ordered and egged on national security forces to kill in the name of national salvation. He promised them protection as suits alleging extra-judicial killings (EJKs) piled up.
This President repeatedly said that drug addicts are not human beings, that they are vermin beyond the pale of the law’s protection.
Again and again, he preached that these social pests deserve extermination, referencing the Nazi program as role model. He told orphans and mothers and widows, fathers and brothers that they will never receive justice.
Down the line, officials marched in step.
They withheld documents from grieving families and threatened those who defied the edicts of silence and surrender.
They arrested and vilified politicians, human rights workers and churches, with the goal of intimidating all those who sought to stem the bloodshed.
From Manila, the scourge spread to the Visayas, to Mindanao, across Luzon.
Poor suspects are dead, sacrificed to a crusade with no end in sight.
And yet the killings have not made a dent in the illicit sale of narcotics.
The price of shabu, the main illegal drug in the country, has dropped, according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
While killers stalked the streets and alleys of cities, huge shipments of shabu kept landing on our shores.
The first shabu scandal, tipped off by Chinese officials no less, dragged the President’s son and his friends and hand-picked, supposedly incorruptible Customs “reformers” into the spotlight.
Practically everyone emerged unscathed.
Some were rewarded with higher posts.
Crime has never paid off so well than in the time of Duterte.
That is hardly surprising.
In the first month of Duterte’s presidency, I warned that criminal empires relish the language of bloodlust, that governance by fear would ultimately benefit those Duterte claimed to hate.
In weak states, under corrupt leadership, crackdowns are often cartel wars in disguise.
Everything is deadly theater. Vigilante killings and helter skelter police operations are in aid of consolidation.
And so it has come to pass.
The scourge of drugs jumped in and tried to demolish the PDEA report on a new P6-billion shabu landing.
Part of it was supposedly caught by Customs officials. The bulk of the shipment, hidden in magnetic lifters, found its way to a warehouse just south of the capital.
PDEA Director-General Aaron Aquino said sniffer dogs had found “traces” of shabu in the abandoned containers.
Traces, because they found the containers empty.
No, Duterte said. No, that is all speculation.
Presidents seldom interfere with law enforcement operations.
Duterte, who has shrugged off police brutalities, stuck his neck out to hamper one of the few legitimate operations under his two-year reign.
This time, his bluff failed. The news would not die because the PDEA chief refused to back down.
Sniffer dogs do not lie, Aquino stressed, as he awarded the canine heroes.
The subtext was clear: some people were lying.
Then, a brave woman in the Bureau of Customs exposed that the bureau’s X-ray handlers had sounded the alert on the vagabond lifters.
Under this unflinching resistance to a cover-up, Customs chief Isidro Lapena has had no other option but to steadily backtrack on earlier claims.
He now says there may have been shabu in those containers after all.
PDEA has given a new estimate on the value of the shabu shipment: P11 billion.
Any leader would have fired the customs chief and thrown him and cohorts in jail.
Duterte ordered officials to shut up. He also insisted on Lapena’s credibility.
Under this President’s watch, crime gangs have smuggled in close to P20 billion worth of shabu (that we know of) — enough to make new addicts of a generation of children that Duterte claims are the main beneficiaries of his drug war.
The sins of omission are oft tricks to cover up other crimes.
One thing is clear: too many Duterte kin, friends, aides and allies are cropping up in reports of the biggest criminal exploits we’ve seen in years.
This emperor has been stripped bare.
Underneath the flag he loves to huddle under is blood and more blood. It will take generations to scrub the stain off our nation.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.