‘If I had a hammer’” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on September 3, 2016. (Pilipino version: “Pukpok nang Pukpok“)

Someone with only a hammer for a tool may be tempted to treat every problem as a nail. His election as president provides PRRD with many hammers. But the presidency offers many more instruments beyond the hammer to address the complex task of nation-building.

Because it seems to have worked in Davao, the hammer strategy of “shoot to kill” remains PRRD’s favored device for dealing with the drug menace. But other cities have reportedly managed to control criminality while observing constitutional rights to due process. The summary killing of suspects by government forces arguably undermines the rule of law and contributes to a climate conducive to vigilante murders.

No one questions the need to dismantle the drug trade and demolish the network of narco-criminals among politicians, bureaucrats, judges and security forces who have profited from promoting its expansion. The public’s growing uneasiness about the means employed to achieve the laudable ends of the war on drugs is not without basis. No country has eradicated the drug problem simply through the ruthless application of violence.

In a poor country, the drug trade partly stems from the problem of poverty. The poor apparently resort to low-dose, low-cost “shabu” sachets to dull hunger pangs and boost energy for physical labor. Their need creates a shadow economy yielding princely profits to those who organize and finance the trade, while luring the poor into serving as drug pushers.

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Edilberto de Jesus
Edilberto de Jesus is a former Secretary of Education. He is also professor emeritus at the Asian Institute of Management.