In his campaign vs illegal drugs: Will Duterte be fair to all?

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By Rose de la Cruz

NOW that President Duterte has named eight judges; 44 incumbent mayors; five ex-mayors; three vice mayors; an incumbent congressman; an ex-congressman; an ex-partylist representative; a former board member and about 93 police and military men and officers in the drug trade, people are looking with eagle eyes if he would treat his friends among them with kid gloves.

For one, it pained him to see and mention that some of them were close friends as he advised them to just surrender and present themselves for investigation. Better yet, he said, they must resign, like honorable men.

With hundreds of people dying since the war on drugs was waged—some of them innocent victims of vigilantes—people are confused whether to keep on supporting the war against drugs or push deeply for human rights and the right to life, which are being overlooked or ignored.

There is also the persistent complaint that those being slaughtered and savaged are small users and pushers while the “big fish” is given the due course under the law, which is denied to the small ones.

The President insists repeatedly that there is no big fish in the country as they operate from abroad by remote control through the auspices of cellphones and the internet.

He explains that those being caught, named (including the five police generals) and humiliated are the “facilities” and “machines” who allow themselves to be used by the drug cartel in exchange for windfall profits.

Narco politicians

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said many Cabinet secretaries were shocked when they found that some of the President’s close friends, including a few of his campaigners, were in the list.

But the President only said “what can I do, I have to do my job,” Sueno quoted the Chief Executive.

He said the President’s love of country and his desire to abolish the drug rings took precedence.

"Kaunti lang talaga ang tumulong sa kanya sa kampanya... Masakit sa loob niya na tumulong sa kanya tapos andyan sa listahan pero he cannot do anything. Talagang napakabigat," he said during a review interview.

"Ganyan talaga ka-patriotic ang Presidente natin.Basta sa kanya love for the Filipino people, love for the country -- para malinis lang niya, bahala na kung sino ang maapakan. Talagang ganyan katindi ang passion niya to eliminate drugs ditto sa Pilipinas."

Among those he named were his friends, Maasin, Iloilo Mayor Marciano Malones and Marawi City Mayor Omar Solitario Ali.

In his speech, the President said his duty to the country outweighs his friendship with the drug-linked officials.

Sueno said some of the officials have already submitted themselves to investigation by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The local officials have been stripped of authority over police forces in their jurisdiction, he said. The DILG is also preparing administrative cases against them.

Sueno said the National Police Commission (Napolcom) will also file administrative cases against the policemen in Duterte's list.

Camps as rehab centers

In a previous speech, the President announced that he directed camp officials to allocate and construct buildings inside the camp that would serve as rehabilitation centers for those who surrendered and volunteered for rehabilitation.

He acknowledged the fact that existing rehabilitation centers could not cope with those needing rehabilitation from the scourge—with some being asked to be treated like “outpatient” cases.

But more than facilities, the rehabilitation centers are running on shoestring budgets—as drug abuse was never really appropriated funds by previous administrations which did not consider this a menace that required national action and appropriation.

A doctor interviewed on radio said the cost of rehabilitating a drug patient not only involves feeding and lodging him but the cost of medicines (against depression or aggression) could run to thousands of pesos per patient.

Add to that the lack of psychologists and psychotherapists and psychiatrists who would attend to the patients as this field of medicine and social science was hardly considered a lucrative practice.

Next, MM mayors

Metro Manila mayors with alleged links to the illegal drug trade would be the next target of President Duterte’s "narco-politicians" expose’, Sueno averred.

Sueno said investigating agencies are still gathering evidence against Metro Manila officials who have alleged links to drug rings.

Sueno said Duterte will not spare anyone, noting how even some of the President's friends were named in his list of narco-policians.