PH can’t win war on drugs with guns alone

The Duterte administration must realize that the Philippines is not the first country to launch a war on drugs.

The United States is not unfamiliar with the catastrophic consequences of the drug war model. It is decades since Richard Nixon called drugs “public enemy number one.” Like the current effort in the Philippines, Nixon gained wide public support because people were desperate for concrete results, only to see his efforts wreak havoc on the lives of many people. In Thailand, the drug war, which began in 2003, led to almost 3,000 killings based on spurious uncorroborated "lists," something we have seen repeated in the Philippines. In 2015, the Justice Minister of Thailand declared the drug war a failure.  There is no reason to believe that lessons from around the globe do not apply to our country. We must listen to history and learn from other countries. 

It was reported that  the US Secretary of State John Kerry committed $32 million to the Duterte government to support intensified law enforcement efforts. Amid the growing number of extrajudicial killings, redirecting part of the funding to harm reduction programs will save more lives and send a strong signal that unwarranted killings should not be tolerated. This is more aligned with the Obama Administration’s denunciation of the drug war model and its strong emphasis on public health as the correct approach. 

Much like many who employed the drug war model, Filipinos are desperate for results. But even in this desperation, the Filipino people must learn the bitter lessons of the war on drugs in the US, and even our neighbor, Thailand. 

This is the lesson behind the Duterte government’s first 100 days. Good policies, not guns alone, are the key to tackling the country’s drug problem. –