Is Duterte's drug war working? Analysts weigh in

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2016 06:31 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs has been effective but could still improve, analysts said on Thursday, which marked the chief executive's first 50 days in office.

In an interview with ANC, University of the Philippines Assistant Professor Ranjit Rye asserted that the Duterte administration has achieved a lot despite the criticisms it received, highlighting the high number of drug personalities who have surrendered.

Rye admitted, he personally did not recognize the drug menace as a huge problem, but he maintained, "you have to live within a community, a poor community to understand how bad the situation is."

"Coming home from your call center job, passing through eskinitas controlled by different gangs, most of them are gangs because of drugs. Now, many of these areas are free, and that’s a palpable sense that change at that level has happened," he said.

But Vergel Santos, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, argued that the war on drugs has been carried out "quite cluelessly."

"Apparently, the president didn’t even know that the big fish of drugs were not in this country but unreachable elsewhere," he said.

He added that in extrajudicial killings, those slain are "thrice victimized," first by poverty, then by drugs, and then by extrajudicial executions.

"What is an issue here is something basic, something that stands as a balancing power in a democracy which is the rule of law, and this is basically what is being flouted, being ignored," he said.

In rebuttal to Rye's point, Santos said, with a program as aimless as Duterte's war on drugs, many people were bound to surrender,

"When you have an indiscriminate program, you can expect a great number of [those who surrender]. This is the reality and I’m beginning to wonder really whether propaganda really has given or magnified or blown the damn thing out of proportion. I don’t know," he said.

"I don’t know because I don’t see deeper studies, I don’t see something more empirical, and also because I am beginning to wonder why the previous administrations never saw this at all," he added.

Rye also pointed out that it would indeed be difficult to assess a bloody war on drugs, especially within 50 days of implementation.

"The problem with war on drugs being done on all over the world is there are large body counts, the effectiveness is uncertain, and largely because the program was never really developed," he said.

He agreed that the the war on drugs left an impression of being "an anti-people, anti-human rights program," when it actually was able to achieve lots within the few days of implementation. He believes, there is chance to change the discourse.

"[Duterte] has to go out together with his PNP General to start deploring extrajudicial killings with the same vigor as he has deplored the criminal syndicates," he said.

He maintained, the program in itself needs re-calibration.

"I feel that a more transparent, more comprehensive program that includes the community, more stakeholders that is accountable, where the Human Rights Commission is a partner of [is needed]," he said.