At what cost?

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the January 28,  2009 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“What one must lose in order to win is sometimes not worth the price of playing.” – The Rude Pundit

Whether by design or not, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Dionisio Santiago’s psy-war against Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors laid out the red carpet for brown shirts.

Legislators filed bills to reinstate the death penalty. A bishop from Infanta, Quezon urged Mrs. Arroyo “to use the iron hand of the government and smash all shabu laboratories, not only in Quezon but in every nook and corner of the country.”

Mrs. Arroyo directed the  Philippine National Police (PNP) and the PDEA to “endeavor to eliminate the number of drug cases dismissed due to mere technicalities.”

There’s a trial balloon for the return of Jovito Palparan, a soldier who never allowed mere technicalities to temper his war against suspected communist rebels and their sympathizers.

“We’re studying what would be the immediate utilization for him. He’s being considered for the DDB (Dangerous Drugs Board). Maybe, he’ll be one of the board members,’’ said Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

The chair of the DDB, former senator and comedian Vicente “Tito” Sotto, said Palparan would be “a welcome addition to the committee. With his expertise, he can help us formulate strategies against drug pushers.”

The comedian added that he considers Palparan’s berdugo reputation an asset.

“If that is his image, then that will work well for us. It’s the drug traffickers who should fear him, not the public,’’ Sotto said with a straight face.

For his part Director Santiago told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “You give me people, I’ll utilize them and judge them according to how they will perform.”

We are being told the Philippines will become a narco-state if we don’t wage a total war on drugs. We are being told that drug traffickers are making humongous profits, billions of dollars, feeding the habit of a population that can barely afford three square meals a day. Where is all that money coming from?

But no one dares to ask. Nobody questions statistics. Instead, we have moral crusaders who say that if we must cut corners to defeat the drug menace then so be it.

That sentiment comes from the sort that spouted an inanity like, “we are prepared to lose our freedoms and our rights just to move this country forward.”

Such silliness is music to the ears of Director Santiago who once admitted he sees nothing wrong with planting drugs on anyone “publicly known to be peddling drugs but always escapes arrest” and Jovito Palparan who reputedly sees nothing wrong with planting suspected rebels six feet under.

Our war on drugs may end up becoming like Bush’s war on terror. We can lose our soul as America did when Bush trampled on the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the name of defeating terrorists.

Let’s be cautious. Let’s not become so overzealous we will need to be told what President Barack Obama told the American people:

“[w]e reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.”

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