Duterte government’s proclivity for short cuts backfires

by Benjie Oliveros

People have been saying this all along; the Duterte administration could not solve the illegal drug problem with the use of uncontrolled violence and shortcuts that disregard human rights. And they were right. The Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs has not made a dent on the illegal drug trade despite more than 12,000 extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings (as per Human Rights Watch), which were widely believed to be committed, sanctioned or ordered by police officers.

Instead of listening to bits of advice, criticisms, and protests, President Duterte himself chose to disregard, insult and threaten critics of its bloody war on drugs. Now it is backfiring on the Duterte administration.

Recently, a panel of prosecutors of the Department of Justice dismissed the charges against alleged drug supplier Peter Lim, self-confessed drug distributor Kerwin Espinosa and several others due to “weak evidence.” The panel of prosecutors is blaming the police who, they said, was not able to gather the evidence to merit the filing of a case. This is the problem when the police are getting used to just shoot and kill without having to go through the process of painstaking investigation and evidence gathering and the rigors of a court case.

How could the Duterte administration now explain why and how a self-confessed drug distributor, who even testified before the Senate about his involvement in the drug trade, and an alleged drug supplier, who the President himself accused publicly of being a drug lord and even threatened to kill him, elude justice while thousands of drug users and low-ranking drug pushers are killed without due process? How could it counter the criticisms that the war on drugs is mainly targeting the poor?

Compounding the problems of the Duterte administration is the initial inquiry on the charge of crimes against humanity being conducted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in relation to the war on drugs. According to a report by The Guardian, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said her office would “analyze crimes allegedly committed … since at least 1 July 2016 in the context of the ‘war on drugs’ campaign”.

What was President Duterte’s reaction? He hastily declared the country’s withdrawal as a signatory to the Rome Statute, which created the ICC. Again, the Duterte administration attempted to take a shortcut to escape being held accountable by an international court.

By now the Duterte administration must have realized that it takes a longer process for the withdrawal to take effect, a year after a notice was received by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Second, the country’s withdrawal from the ICC does not absolve it from its unfulfilled obligations and from crimes committed while it was still a signatory.

But still, the Duterte administration remains obstinate and truculent. The Duterte administration’s obstinacy and truculence could result in a failure in the war on drugs despite more lives lost and eventually, the President and his top officials would be held accountable for their crimes against humanity and the Filipino people. And a declaration of martial law would not change this; look at what happened to the Marcos dictatorship

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