February 29, 2024

I am not here to put up a fight, or to mock or criticize you and your opinions. I am here as a fellow Filipino who, like you, wants our country to be free of illegal drugs. I am here as a fellow Filipino, longing for a better Philippines. And I believe that on this, we are on the same side.

I am writing this because I think we are going the wrong way in this war. It has not just been a war against illegal drugs, but rather a war by Filipinos against Filipinos.

Let us take a review of some numbers. Since the drug war has started, it has taken lives of 14,100 Filipinos: 3,800 of which from police operations; 2,100 from drug-related murders; and the other 8,200, under investigation (rappler.com).

Most may see these as numbers alone—statistics. These are the deaths which Duterte claims as the reason for the 9.8 percent decrease in crime rate in the past year. Statistics, is it? How about the innocent people killed in the process—minors, even children? Are they simply collateral damage?

I guess it is easy to look at the war that way if you and your family are not directly affected by it. However, have you tried putting yourself in the situation of the family of the victims? What if one of your parents or siblings gets ‘killed’ as ‘collateral damage’?

Maybe some of you would slam this idea, because you have experienced otherwise. Someone close to you may have been a victim of these ‘addicts’, and ask for people to see the situation from your shoes. However, I guess the misconception in this view is how the ‘addicts’ are the culprit. As much as you are, addicts are victims, too. Illegal drugs–the ones we are supposed to be fighting against in this war, are the culprit. But sadly, in this method of war, where Filipinos fight against fellow Filipinos, no one loses but the Filipino himself.

You may then argue that it is the ‘addict’s’ fault he got addicted to drugs. Or that they should have stopped, since the President has forewarned them what would happen by the time his term begins. Well, this makes sense, but have you considered other possibilities before arriving to this conclusion?

I believe you have heard about addiction being a mental condition, and I will reiterate it. No, not to justify their habit, but to try to make you understand that it is not something they can simply control with will power, or even with fear from death threats. Drug addiction is a mental condition that makes patients compulsive in seeking drugs, even with the harmful consequences. It causes changes in the brain that affects their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs (drugabuse.gov).

With this, some may just go towards pointing out that it is the addicts’ fault they began taking drugs in the first place, for without it, they wouldn’t be addicted. Now, let us look at the usual casualties in the war on drugs–those from the slums, poor neighborhoods. Dwelling into drugs may have been these people’s way to forget hunger, stress, reality–or maybe those who entered drug peddling did it for desperate survival or for other reasons we do not yet understand, as we were born to a life with better conditions.

For short, most of these people are victims, too, not just of drugs–of hunger, depression, poverty, or maybe life in general. And they need help–support, from the government, for rehabilitation, for a chance to rebuild their lives destroyed by drugs.

You may argue that war on drugs does not aim to kill illegal drug peddlers, but to catch them instead. The killings occur because the suspects attack the police, and the latter would have to defend themselves. But, is this really the case? How about the cases reported to as ‘nanlaban’ but evidences say otherwise, like Kian delos Santos’ case, which was ruled as murder by the NBI? Among the 3,500 or so killed in police operations, do you really believe that Kian’s case is isolated? Meanwhile, those so called ‘cleaning operations’ of drug syndicates, which caused the death of even more Filipinos–the President should have foreseen them. If he really cared–if he really loved Filipinos, he could have prevented them.

There are still a lot of points to be discussed, and they will come as long as we refuse to see the reality. Let us face it. The lives of Filipinos are too much to risk in this process. As good as the intention may be, this is not the best way to do win against drugs. With the still rampant corruption in the PNP, with the lack of rehabilitation centers, with the still widespread poverty, we are not yet ready for this fight. We have rushed on this war without preparation, and we have lost too much already. This way does not lead us towards winning.

There is no such thing as an easy way out in this fight against drugs. Building enough rehabilitation facilities, ensuring proper medication, improving the quality of life in the marginalized sector–these are not easy. Catching ‘addicts’, killing them if they attempt to kill you, and leaving the rest for EJK sounds like an easier way, but it is not the right or more effective approach on this. It is better to take time doing the difficult but right approach, than to rush and risk lives of our own people.

This is not the war of the government, or the PNP alone. This is a war of Filipinos. As mushy or uncool as you think talking about love for the country is, this is not the time to be cool. As busy as you are, this is not the time to prioritize yourselves. The more we keep quiet, the more Filipinos die. We still have the power. We are still democratic. Let us use our power while we still have it. Let us call for the end of this war. This is not worth killing a Filipino for. The Filipino deserves a chance. The Filipino needs you.

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