Tag archive

tokhang

On Culture and Fascism under the Duterte Regime

in Arts & Literature/Countercurrent
by Alejo Nicolas

President Rodrigo Duterte’s regime can now appropriately be described as a looming fascist dictatorship: one wherein mechanisms, operations, and systems are being put in place towards a full-blown resurrection of the Marcos authoritarian rule, which in 1986 was ousted by the people’s collective action.

The term “fascism”, first used to denote ultranationalist and right-wing governments in Europe, is understood in the Philippine context as rooted in bureaucrat capitalism. In Philippine Society and Revolution, Amado Guerrero discusses how the country’s political landscape changed from direct colonial occupation under Spain, Japan, and the United States to a neocolonial republic ruled by a succession of Filipino puppet regimes since 1946.

Led by bureaucrat capitalists, these regimes continue to protect imperialist and feudal interests by maintaining a deceptive bourgeois democracy supported by the entire state machinery of the military, police, courts, penal system and cultural institutions. However, such a regime can revert to outright authoritarian rule when the people’s resistance threatens the existing order, as shown by Ferdinand Marcos’s imposition of Martial Law in 1972.

Fascism and Philippine culture

The past two-and-a-half years under President Duterte were marked by the regime’s increasing use of deception, threat/intimidation, coercion, and armed violence against the people.

Its campaign, through police brutality and reckless killings, against the proliferation of illegal drugs and its counterinsurgency plan of deception and “all-out war” against the advance of revolutionary and progressive forces have left tens of thousands dead or displaced. The breakdown in the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) was followed by crackdowns: illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, and false charges against hundreds of civilians. Martial Law in Mindanao was declared in May 2017 during the armed conflict in Marawi. It has been extended three times until the end of December 2019.

In October 2018, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fanned the false alarm of a “Red October” destabilization plot as a pretext for expanding such repression to the rest of the country. Although the faked destabilization plot has been thoroughly exposed, the security forces have continued to sustain it as a reference point for its expanded counterinsurgency operations.

The Philippines is witnessing the turn towards fascism across different fronts. It is crucial to consider this rising state of tyranny not only in the military and political spheres, but also in the field of culture which is part of the arena of class struggle. Culture encompasses all spheres of social behavior while art distills, reflects, and refracts human and social experience. How is state violence reinforced, reflected, diffused or deployed by cultural institutions? How does it appear across everyday discourse, popular culture, mass and social media, the visual arts, film, literature, architecture, and more? And lastly, how is the people’s anti-fascist struggle conveyed across culture and the arts?

Signs of tyranny

Fascist rule in the Philippines is reinforced in the way the state wields culture and art to, first, openly suppress and demonize the people’s struggle through censorship and harassment. On the other hand, it also selectively patronizes and supports initiatives that whitewash and sanitize the repression of the regime. Over the past two and a half years, the following developments can be noted:

2015: The President as populist but anti-people personality. Since the start of the presidential electoral campaign in 2016, Duterte’s outrageous conduct, language, and gestures have generated controversy and aghast. His years in power, however, have been marked by more vile, sexist, misogynistic, anti-religious, and anti-people statements.

Since assuming office, he has threatened and began to slaughter suspected drug addicts, to bomb Lumad schools. He told a United Nations rapporteur on human rights to go to hell, denigrated the International Criminal Court prosecutor for being black, and ordered troops to shoot woman rebels in the vagina. Recently, he urged street idlers to rob and even to kill bishops critical of his war on drugs and EJKs, and described rape against overseas Filipino workers—whom he referred to as those “working as slaves [overseas]”—as “com(ing) with the territory, ‘kasali sa kultura (it’s part of the culture).”

These can not be dismissed as simple rhetoric, as they reflect and symbolically justify actual states of violence happening everyday. As a key political figure—the head of state no less— Duterte’s every word and action is covered and amplified by mass and social media, reaching and influencing millions of people inside and outside the Philippines and enabling public acceptance of fascist rule.

A succession of spokespersons for the regime’s propaganda machinery, each worse than the previous one, adds to the circus of disinformation and lies. These messages, many of which express the disregard for human rights, feed a populist cult of personality which breeds blind obedience to the President, fueled by a paid social media army of trolls.

2016: Memorializing a tyrant and reinstating fascist figures. Among the first nationally-condemned acts of Duterte as President was to enable the family of the fascist dictator Ferdinand Marcos to bury his remains with military honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in September 2016, with the backing of the Supreme Court. The occasion also gave the Marcoses air time to sanitize and whitewash their family’s history of bloody fascist rule.

Allowing the dictator’s remains to rest in the country’s supposed memorial cemetery for heroes sends a strong symbolic message to the Filipino people: that a deposed and dead dictator can be valorized, honored, and restored to state power. It is an insult and assault to past and present generations who resisted Martial Rule.

This enabling and restoring of proven fascist figures was again unabashedly shown in July 2018, when former President Glora Macapagal-Arroyo, questionably acquitted of plunder by the state courts in 2016, crawled back into the halls of power and installed herself as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. She has since engineered the passage by the House of a joint resolution of both legislative chambers calling for changes in the 1987 constitution that, among others, removes the ban on political dynasties and term limits to all elective officials, and insidiously aims to cancel the May mid-term elections to prolong her and other incumbent officials’ terms until 2022.

2017: Rising state impunity and EJKs. The “war” on illegal drugs was a campaign platform of Duterte. Tokhang operations, surveillance, and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) of suspected drug addicts started in mid-2016 and he has vowed to continue the drive till the end of his term—without assurance of winning the “war”. The number of estimated drug suspects killed since July 2016 ranges from 4,251 to over 20,000 people.

The government continues to deny that a culture of impunity exists and to downplay the gravity of the deaths. Outside of official reports, however, the frequency, undeniability and brutality of the EJKs in the drug war is documented by media workers and reflected in the many artistic works or initiatives that represent the drug war as a theme, setting, or reference.

Examples from Philippine films of 2017, for instance, include Bubog, EJK, Neomanila, Respeto, The Right to Kill, Madilim Ang Gabi, Adik, Double Barrel, Durugin Ang Droga, Kamandag Ng Droga and Si Tokhang At Ang Tropang Buang. Some films support an anti-drug stance that does not deviate from the government’s own discourse, while others more critically reflect how the drug war has affected lives, for worse, across urban to rural communities.

Government propaganda campaigns aiming to justify this state of impunity have intensified. The Philippine National Police (PNP), for instance, stepped up initiatives such as the 1st PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Festival in July 2017. And resigned PCOO Undersecretary Mocha Uson attempted to parade fake Lumad leaders in hopes of discrediting genuine community leaders.

2018: Heightened attacks and counter-insurgency. The ever-increasing influence of the AFP is reflected in the militarization of the Duterte Cabinet and the sabotage of the peace process towards an all out war against Philippine revolutionary forces led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the NDFP. By December 2017, issuances such as Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as a terrorist group set the stage for heightened assaults against both revolutionary forces and civilians critical of the regime. Since entering the second half 2018, the AFP has been fanning the flame of imagined destabilization plots and has been similarly extending the timeline of these to the end of the year.

This counter-revolutionary war against “terror” led by the AFP in the countryside continues to target and displace the broad masses from countless communities. There is nothing more fascist than the current killing spree of activists, civilians and progressives across the country. The EJKs, massacres, harassments, and arrests of activists and members of progressive organizations have risen sharply since 2017, mostly targetting farmers, lawyers, indigenous peoples, health and Church workers, media workers, union leaders, and environmentalists.

The counter-insurgency drive is also expressed in forms of harassment, such as the circulation of black propaganda and red-tagging of civilians and attacks against institutions of mass media, which attempt to paint all dissenters to the regime as “destabilizers” who must be neutralized. Individuals, schools, universities and institutions or organizations holding cultural, media or educational activities critical of the regime are now being openly red-tagged.

Art and culture for the anti-fascist struggle

The culture of impunity and fascism unleashed during the past two and a half years under Duterte underscores the looming danger to all revolutionary and progressive forces. On the other hand, it also points to the regime’s increasing desperation over the rising popular unrest fuelled by worsening socio-economic crisis in semi-feudal and semi-colonial Philippines. The lingering discontent over high inflation rates, rising prices, dislocation of communities due to neoliberalization, and lack of employment and substantive development in urban and rural areas only gives rise to more expressions of collective dissent.

“This rise of fascism is not a sign of strength but in essence is show of despair and weakness,” Guerrero noted in Philippine Society and Revolution during the pre-Martial law era, adding:

“Fascism is on the rise precisely because the revolutionary mass movement is surging forward and the split among reactionaries is becoming more violent…the exposé of the violent character of the reactionaries will only teach the masses to defend themselves and assert their own power.”

These words ring as true then as in the present time. When words and gestures fail to deceive the Filipino people into submission, the state apparatus of force and repression kicks into high gear. The worsening culture of impunity, terror and fascism that has defined the Duterte regime so far reflects how the reactionary state now resorts to desperate measures. The proliferation of trolls, paid hacks, fake news, disinformation and black propaganda only emphasize how the reactionary regime is quickly mobilizing resources to discredit the recent gains of revolutionary and militant struggle by the people.

On the other hand, the threats under a fascist dictatorship have done little to deter and prevent Filipino artists, cultural and media workers, organizations and communities from expressing the anti-fascist struggle through creative and collective means. If there is anything that history and the past years under Pres. Duterte have emphasized in the field of culture, it is how art that has resisted fascism possesses great potential to mobilize and agitate diverse sectors of Philippine society to collectively act against the threat of tyranny and dictatorship.

The Filipino people’s cultural resistance against fascist rule has, across time, yielded compelling forms and practices that exposed the depravity of the state’s counter-revolutionary campaigns and the extent of human rights violations against the people.

Through such efforts, the Duterte regime, for instance, has been mocked and unmasked early on as another iron-fisted and essentially anti-people fascist puppet regime. It has been exposed as a railroader of socio-economic policies that reinforce neoliberal and feudal class interests and drag the Filipino toiling masses into more poverty and hardship.

Lastly, the people’s cultural resistance has also documented, made vivid and advanced the growth of the mass movement and the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside. As the Party observed its fifth decade of advancing the Philippine revolution, these efforts help show and testify to how struggle and optimism continues to grow amid heightened counter-insurgency by another puppet regime.

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 3 of 3)

in Mainstream

The New People’s Army  fight vs Drugs

by Pat Gambao

Aware of the disastrous consequences on people, the society and the revolution, the revolutionary movement from its inception has been fighting the drug menace—long before Duterte started his own “drug war”.

The organs of political power in the guerrilla zones have impressed on the masses the dangers of addictive drugs. In conjunction with this, they helped the masses cope with the prevailing conditions that forced them to turn to drugs either for the money to beat the debilitating poverty or to escape from its reality. People were organized and they joined hands to increase production and income. They were initiated to meaningful activities. They were trained for tasks on health care and education to fill in the vacuum left in the far-flung barrios by the reactionary government. The youth were drawn to sports and cultural activities that challenge their vibrant energy and creativity.

Through political education the masses have been enlightened and have fully understood the root cause of their problems and the solution that is in their very hands. Their awakening has instilled in them a sense of purpose for being. With these the scourge of addictive drugs was eventually licked as they imbibed the revolutionary discipline.

In 2015 for example, the revolutionary youth movement, Kabataang Makabayan (KM, Patriotic Youth) in Central Luzon launched various activities in their respective barrios to draw the youth, as well as adults, away from marijuana and shabu. The KM conducted forums on the youth situation and how the decadent system has engendered the problems of drugs and criminality. It led meetings with the barrio youth to plan on productive activities with them. They formed a basketball league and held tournaments lasting for one and a half months. Some 50 youth participated in the tournaments initially. The number swelled later.

Simultaneous with these activities, the New People’s Army (NPA) in coordination with the Party branches issued series of warnings to pushers and users in the barrios of Central Luzon. The NPA, in coordination with the KM, widely disseminated the policy of the revolutionary movement and the people’s democratic government on the trafficking and use of drugs, be it in small or huge volume.

Meantime, drug traffickers, their activities, networks and laboratories in the guerrilla fronts of Panay were banned. The Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command of the NPA uprooted the marijuana plantations in Barangay Buloc, Tubungan town a few years back. Two years ago, a known drug dealer was arrested, disarmed and driven out of the NPA front after bringing in drugs in a town in Capiz. In April 2016, the Napoleon Tumagtang Command, also based in Panay Island, launched a campaign against illegal drugs in barangays surrounding the town of Tubungan. The drug production facilities of drug lord Edwin Odicta in the NPA area and the entry of the Richard Provendido’s drug syndicate in San Joaquin, Iloilo has been subject of NPA’s surveillance. Odicta was shot by an unidentified man on his way back home from Manila while Provendido was killed in a police operation.

In 2016, the revolutionary movement in Northern Samar investigated illegal drug trafficking that implicated high officials of the province.

In the Southern Mindanao Region, the NPA has launched tactical offensives to dismantle the network of operation of drug syndicates. A police chief here once said that criminality and drug addiction is practically absent in areas where the NPA is strong. In the Central Mindanao Region, the NPA burned marijuana plantations run by the killer paramilitary group Alamara.

Aware of the NPA’s fight against drugs, Duterte has once called on them to run after drug lords. However, seeing that the Duterte regime’s war on drugs is clearly anti-democratic and anti-people, having become a frenzied campaign of extrajudicial killings and vigilante murders perpetrated by the police and police-linked criminal syndicates, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) withdrew its support to the regime’s drug campaign.

The revolutionary movement recognizes that the drug plague is rooted in the basic problems confronting the Filipino people—the historic imperialist dominance perpetuating the feudal and bureaucrat capitalist conditions in the country. The NPA will continue its anti-drug campaign but will adhere to its policy of differentiating poor drug users and victims of drug abuse from the rabid perpetrators of the drug trade. The NPA will continue to intensify its campaign to arrest and disarm drug trade operators and protectors in its territory.

The revolutionary movement has its own criminal justice system and offenders are given due process as well as due punishment. Meanwhile poor drug victims will be rescued and rehabilitated through political education and meaningful activities.

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 1 of 3):
Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 2 of 3):
China’s Experience Under Mao

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 2 of 3)

in Mainstream

China’s Experience Under Mao

by Pat Gambao

In the years prior to the victory of the Chinese revolution led by Chairman Mao Zedong, China was mired in the quagmire of addictive drugs. Profiting immensely from the drug trade, foreign capitalists in cohort with the local ruling class dope the populace. Some 70 million Chinese, including children were hooked on drugs. Despondent about their miserable conditions, the poor found escape in the fleeting comfort of the illicit substance. The consequences were dismal and despicable. To finance their addiction, women resorted to prostitution, parents sold their children, money for food went to drugs.

Upon victory of the revolution, the new people’s republic launched a mass campaign against addictive drugs not by the power of the gun but through the people’s movement. Since the addicts among the poor were mere victims of a depraved system, they were not treated like common criminals nor human thrash but were helped to lick their addiction. The revolutionaries organized the masses in the communities to help educate and convince their neighbors and kin who were hooked into drugs to kick the bad habit. Community members burned drugs to emphasize their abhorrence of these. They also stopped the supplies of addictive drugs by busting drug trade networks. In support of the drug campaign, radios and newspapers carried news and stories on the ill effects of drugs and its detrimental impact to the development of the new socialist society. The revolutionaries relied on the organized masses from the cities to the countryside to end the manufacture, trafficking and their use.

Class distinction was made between the poor junkies, who were victims of the system, and the filthy rich drug dealers, who nurtured the system to their advantage. The poor victims needed help while the big drug dealers were considered enemies of the people. The victims trusted the new people’s republic that they had no fear in seeking help. They were rehabilitated and assisted in the withdrawal process. They were praised for their efforts to get clean from drug addiction. They were organized, re-educated and trained for meaningful jobs that the new socialist society provided. They police themselves through criticism and self-criticism. They were helped to restore their self-dignity. The new socialist society ensured the eradication of poverty that drove people into addiction and drug trade.

Small-time drug dealers who pledged to get out of and helped wipe out the drug trade were not considered enemies. The Mao government offered a one-time-only deal to buy out all the products of the small dealers and opium growers to be destroyed. Opium growers were requested to plant rice or wheat instead. Those who refused were arrested and put under surveillance or jailed for re-education.

Liberated from the drug scourge, they were encouraged to join the struggle against drugs and the building of the new socialist society.

Unrepentant big-time drug dealers who enriched themselves off the suffering of the people were classified as enemies of the people. They were sentenced to life imprisonment or execution depending on the gravity of the offense.
According to the New China News Agency (Xinhua) the drug problem In Northern China which had been liberated first was “fundamentally wiped out” by end of 1951. That of Southern China, where opium grew profusely, followed suit after about a year. For over 20 years thereafter, China had almost no drug addiction.

However, after the death of Mao in 1976 and the restoration of capitalism in China ushered in the resurgence of drug trade and addiction. In 2015, over 14 million Chinese were addicted to drugs, as related to Xinhua by the vice president of China’s National Narcotics Control Commission.#

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 1 of 3):
Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 3 of 3):
The New People’s Army Fight vs Drugs

Solving the Drug Problem (Part 1 of 3)

in Countercurrent

Duterte’s Drug War: Via Body Count or the People’s Movement

by Pat Gambao

The death toll on President Duterte’s “war on drugs” has risen to astronomic proportions that it has astounded and shaken the nation. Even the capitalist world, cloaking its hyprocrisy on human rights, has raised alarm over the extrajudicial killings.

More than 12,000 have been killed both in police operations and vigilante handiwork — only 3,811 cases were grudgingly attributed to the police. Photos of cadavers have been shown, strewn beside each a gun, sachets of shabu (crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, the poor man’s cocaine) and in some cases paper bills to portray a buy-bust operation. In vigilante killings, the victims’ bodies were invariably hogtied, heads covered with packaging tapes with warnings that read “Pusher ako, huwag tularan” (I am a pusher, don’t emulate me).

The horrendous killings, occurring mostly in urban poor communities, have raised alarm and outrage, nationally and internationally. Most infuriating is the way the government and police authorities have been dismissing the deaths of apparently innocent poor civilians as mere “collateral damage”.

Most sickening is the story about a mother suspected of being a pusher-user. She was breastfeeding her baby in their humble abode when the executioners came. After taking the baby away from her and handing it to her 11-year child, they mercilessly shot the mother to death.

Many such ruthless extrajudicial killings of merely suspected addicts or pushers among the poor have piled up. Duterte’s war on drugs has been shown up as a war against the poor, whereas so many identified drug lords have been given a chance to defend themselves or to flee.

Due to public sympathy and the clear evidence, the killing of a 17-year old student, Kian de los Santos, created uproar that the authorities were hard put to dismiss. Son of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) employed as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia, the boy had not seen his mother for three years. The police’s claim that he had a gun and fired at them was belied by the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage and neighborhood witnesses.

Kian’s case substantiated, if not reinforced, the long-held public belief that “planting of evidence” is a standard operating procedure (SOP) among state security forces to pin down and physically exterminate their victims with impunity.

Eradicating drug trafficking and addiction was Duterte’s campaign promise when he ran for the presidency in May 2016. He set a six-month timetable. But he reneged on his promise after seeing the four million people in a supposedly narco-list handed to him by his cohorts. He admitted that six months wouldn’t be enough to end the drug plague, not even his full six-year term as president. After the police force in Bulacan killed 32 drug suspects in a day, however, Duterte nonchalantly mused that if 32 would be the daily death toll for drug offenders, then maybe the war on drugs could rid the country of “what ails it.”

Duterte should stop dreaming and open his eyes to what really ails this country. The drug menace is systemic. It is a natural consequence of a debased system where the accumulation of wealth is the greatest motivation and that “jungle law” is the rule; wherein the struggle between the powerful forces and the weak and disadvantaged, between the exploiter and the exploited thrives. It is the greed of the exploiter versus the impoverishment of the exploited. In this sense, the fight against drugs can be deemed a class struggle.

Weapon for colonization and imperialist hegemony

The drug menace is a global social illness dating from the era of colonialism and capitalist trade. The Opium War of 1839 broke out due to the British trading of opium into China to earn more silver for its colonization of islands in Asia. The drug had doped a large number of the populace and corrupted Chinese officials who were bribed to give way to the smuggling of the drug. China lost in that war and Hong Kong was annexed to Britain.

Since that victorious war of Britain, narcotic drugs have been conveniently used to dope people and subjugate them. Capitalism up to its highest stage of imperialism has immensely profited from plying the trade. It has facilitated the creation of puppet officials, promoted bureaucratic capitalism through bribery, patronage or intimidation. It was used to quell resistance, conquer nations and control and enslave peoples using narcotic drugs as one of their subtle, secret weapons.

The production and trafficking of addictive dr

ugs is a multi-million-dollar business of big-time capitalists who have ties throughout the US government, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and state security forces. Huge amount of foreign aid, purportedly to fight drugs, actually goes to quashing people’s rebellion and has been provided to groups, usually state security forces which themselves are involved in large-scale drug trafficking.

In exchange for Panama president General Manuel Noriega’s covert anti-insurgency work in Nicaragua and Latin America, the US imperialists provided him with hundreds of thousands of dollars while tolerating his drug trafficking activities. When this leaked out and Noriega became a liability to the US, the Drug Enforcement Administration finally indicted him. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and his government was overthrown.

In the 1960s, the CIA bribed oppressed communities with heroine to pay for the US secret war in Laos.

The $3-Billion Merida Initiative Aid to Mexican security forces, with the pretext of fighting drug cartels, is used to suppress the Mexican people’s resistance against the plunder of their lands and resources by US business interests.

The Planned Colombia Program of the US government provided hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the war on drugs that actually went into fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Corrupt members of the Colombian army themselves have been accused of engaging in drug trafficking. The Colombian President Cesar Gaviria’s unsolicited advice to Duterte that the drug war is “unwinnable” and “disastrous”stems from his own failed war on drugs. For after the drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed by the police and the Medellin Cartel’s activities were ended, the cocaine industry in Colombia and the world persisted and prospered as a new drug cartel that has “more money, power and wider reach” took over.

The 2011 report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy gave this attestation: “The global war on drugs failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”

Bureaucrat capitalism

People in government take advantage of their positions to enrich themselves. The rotten system breeds greed. Thus it is not surprising that there are governors, mayors, legislators down to barangay officials who are either engaged in drug trafficking or stand as protectors. Generals, policemen, drug law enforcers, soldiers likewise instigate and protect the widespread proliferation of the drugs. No wonder the drug problem isn’t being solved.

Supply also seems to be inexhaustible. It is common knowledge that seized drugs get back into circulation as fast as, or even faster than the dying of the embers of the supposedly alum-substituted shabu crystals being incinerated for photo opportunities. According to reports, nine shabu laboratories have been raided and disabled to cut on the supply.

But, at the customs bureau, 650 kilos of shabu shipment worth Php 6.4 billion have passed scrutiny, landed in the agency’s “green” lane. Had there not been a tip from China, the source itself, the shipment could not have been apprehended. The actual volume that has slipped in to the “green” lane eluding inspection and reached the dope market is still undetermined.

The scandal opened the Pandora’s box, bringing to public scrutiny the corruption in the customs bureau that has long been kept under wraps, implicating even the president’s son, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, and son-in-law Manases Carpio, with the “Davao group”. A customs player under investigation for the drug smuggling spilled the beans on the nagging corruption in the bureau.

Worst, Duterte’s war on drugs has been used by unscrupulous policemen to further their criminal activities. Extortion, kidnapping for ransom, robbery, elimination of rival drug syndicates and assets, who may rat on them, are shrouded by the government’s anti-drug operations Tokhang (contracted term from the Visayan words toktok and hangyo meaning knock and plead) and ‘Double Barrel Reloaded’. Others, especially neophytes in the police force, do it to impress and bag promotions or awards. The ferocity of police operations springs from the orientation of the police as chief instrument for repression of an oppressive and exploitative state to preserve its power. For a corrupt law enforcement to handle the fight on drugs is indeed a travesty of options.

Drug trade and corruption at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP)

Sources at the NBP (names withheld) have stories to tell.

Confined at the NBP, the main penal facility of the national government, are big-time Chinese drug lords and their Filipino recruits to the drug trade. Recruitment is easy among inmates as the prospective returns are enticing. Incarcerated for criminal offenses other than drugs, the recruits rose to a new level that offered more money and privileges, just like what their Chinese co-inmates enjoy in prison.

From their cells, the drug lords continue to ply their lucrative business in the outside world using electronic devices such as cellphones, which they smuggled in or freely brought in for a fee. Seventy-five percent of the trade is done outside prison through accessories and henchmen who resolutely carry on the tasks of procurement, manufacture, trafficking and even eliminating rival syndicates or any other hindrance to the trade.

The inordinate corruption in the penitentiary enables the illicit trade to prosper. Some prison guards, gaters, custodial officers, escorts, sentry goals to the highest jail officials are, directly or indirectly, embroiled in the trade. The scandal in the NBP that exploded before the public’s eyes had implicated its directors and even the justice secretary.

Corruption in prison starts from pilferage of the prisoners’ food budget, supply provisions, electricity charges and graduates to the constant acceptance of enormous bribes for allowing undue privileges to inmates. Selective inspection on visitors becomes a norm. Thus, the proliferation of cell phones, kubol (literally, huts but these are spaces rented out to privileged inmates), drugs and other contrabands, including deadly weapons, is relentless. Thus drug dealers can operate freely in the confines of their cells.

Even when the NBP changed guards after the scandal broke out, the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police got involved in the entry of cigarettes, a premium commodity in jail as this cost a fortune, P15.00-P50.00 per stick.

The illicit drug trade in the NBP did not stop at all as corruption persisted. It just lied low for a while then it slithered back with small-time Chinese drug lords in jail at the helm this time around while the big drug dealers waited for the opportunity to spring back to the trade.

Duterte’s anointed grand master of his war on drugs, General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa will take over the reins at the NBP after his retirement from the Philippine National Police. We may expect tokhang inside prison or privileges for drug lords who are key witnesses against Duterte’s favorite nemesis.

The penitentiary under the existing debased system can never be a haven to rehabilitate offenders. It has only turned them worse.

Bureaucratic corruption extends to the courts where impunity is upheld. In many intances, drug offenders get away unpunished and manage to continue with their trade–for a fee. This is aside from the given flaws in the prevailing justice system. One of which is the way cases drag till kingdom come.

In sum, Duterte may succeed in killing all those drug lords, traffickers, peddlers, pushers, runners and users but that will not wipe out the plague and solve the problem. The drug menace will continue to rear its ugly head and spit out its venom to destroy human lives and society. Unless and until the roots of the problem is addressed-the abject poverty stemming from landlessness and absence of meaningful job opportunities for the toiling masses, the foreign domination and control of the economy, politics and culture of the Philippine society, the petrified corruption in the bureaucracy — President Duterte’s war on drugs will come to naught. It will fail, desperately.

SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 2 of 3):
China’s Experience Under Mao
SOLVING THE DRUG PROBLEM (Part 3 of 3):
The New People’s Army Fight vs Drugs
Go to Top