It is what galvanized the electorate to grant Rodrigo Duterte his six million vote margin in 2016 and a continuing prayer to attain a drug-free society where the previous administration, through neglect, both deliberate and by “Noynoying,” escalated the drug menace to its most violent levels.
Note the numbers. Duterte garnered nearly double the votes of his closest rival and halfway into his term still enjoys a substantial 78 percent approval rating for his drug war. Nothing can be more democratic where the electorate vests in its leaders continuing support for an advocacy they deemed important in 2016.
Strictly, a narco state is one where employing a chemistry of corruption and policy-making government units or officials collude with the illegal drug trade.
For relevance, let’s start with acculturating definitions to the local milieu. The President has described the Philippines as a narco state. Let’s fine-tune that. The Philippines is comprised of countless pockets of narco states.
The illegal drug problem is likewise typically defined as a health problem. While that dictates anti-drug policies and operations, such definition curtails and limits a government’s capacity to address the expansive multi-dimensional problems created by the menace where attributable violence and gruesome and heinous crimes are direct offshoots.
What the traditional definition fails to account for is the debilitating social impact of the drug menace’s criminality on non-drug users, families and innocent communities.
Allow us to employ a timeline and value-chain analysis of the drug menace during the Aquino administration to track how it quickly escalated to narco state dimensions in the Philippine socio-political context and to also identify how neglect, ineptitude and “Noynoying” at the very top served as infernal catalysts.
The Aquino drug menace started with the installation in strategic agencies key personages, followed by domestic illegal drug production at the Aquino political bailiwick — Tarlac.
The critical agencies salted with factotums were the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, which has operational control over the police and local government units and the Department of Justice, which oversees the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the national penitentiary. Officials were vetted based on either campaign contribution, politics or Aquino’s default “classmates, friends and shooting buddies” criteria.
Let’s cite a train of critical incidents in the drug menace’s history under Aquino, while readers can supply the political coupling.
In 2011, the BuCor submitted a report detailing problems within the national penitentiary. These included drug use and drug trafficking. Proposals were made for stricter monitoring of incarcerated drug lords, random drug tests, raids and the confiscation of contraband.
Thereafter, a raid was conducted. Curiously, “illegal drugs were not confiscated.” Why?
Later, a former BuCor officer-in-charge revealed that as early as 2011, he had been receiving drug money from inside the penitentiary and would deliver this to a prospective Liberal Party senatorial candidate who was then his superior. He called these “campaign funds.” Two other former NBI officials would likewise testify to committing the same crime.
In 2014, towards the end of the Aquino administration, a fully functioning illegal drugs manufacturing facility and laboratory were discovered in Tarlac, Aquino’s political bailiwick. The largest in the Philippines, the laboratory could produce up to 100 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) a day.
So prolific was the drug trade under Aquino that in the immediate run-up to the 2016 presidential elections, over P15 billion in illegal drugs were conveniently being traded inside the national penitentiary.
On the eve of the 2016 elections, another political bailiwick figured prominently in the illegal drug trade. While they denied the accusations, two ranking opposition politicians with bailiwicks in the Visayas were implicated in controversies involving the use of illegal drugs to raise “campaign funds” in exchange for protection among competing drug lords.
Of the two, in a hotel in Cubao, the staff of one was reported to have met with police officials and generals implicated in the drug controversies.
Evidently, the drug problem is not a health issue. Under Aquino, it was about campaign funding and political ambition.