MonthOctober 2016

Divining Delphic messages

Divining Delphic messages” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 15, 2016. (Pilipino version: “Matuto mula sa mga Pagkakamali“)

PRRD and his critics agree on several fundamental points: We face a serious drug problem that demands attention; the police have a mandate to suppress the drug trade, and in the performance of their duty, they can use deadly force to protect their lives; some crooked cops are involved in the drug trade; extrajudicial killings (EJKs) cannot be condoned and due process must be followed in arresting drug suspects.

Despite this consensus, EJKs remain a concern: The EJK count shows that the police hear more clearly and execute more diligently PRRD’s directive to kill criminals than his caution to respect due process. Like the instructions of Apollo’s priest at Delphi in Greek mythology, PRRD’s message has become ambiguous and subject to alternative, defensible interpretations.

PRRD routinely expresses his confidence that the police know and comply with the requirements of due process. Hence, his repeated, often unqualified assurances that cops who kill criminals while on duty will receive presidential pardon.

But the presumed regularity of police action during official missions does not include the presumption that these operations will always and inevitably involve killing. Thus, police procedures require the investigation of all deaths during these missions. As the last Senate hearing on EJKs showed, many cases have not been fully investigated and resolved.

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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.

Learning from Mistakes

Learning from mistakes” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 1, 2016. (Pilipino version: “Matuto mula sa mga Pagkakamali“)

Preferably, from mistakes committed and paid for by others. We should thus thank Bangkok Post Deputy Editor Nopporn Wong-Anan’s who suggested that “Duterte should learn from Thai drug policy” in his article I caught during a Bangkok visit last month. In Manila recently for a media conference, Nopporn found similarities in the anti-drug policies followed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The parallels were obvious. Thaksin was equally disdainful of the United Nations, which had expressed concerns about the conduct of the “war on drugs” he had launched in 2003: “The UN is not my father.” The rhetoric was comparable: “We have to be as ruthless with drug dealers as they are to our children.” Drug dealers “deserved” to be shot dead. The war claimed 2,800 deaths in the first three months of the campaign.

Nopporn cited an official investigation, after Thaksin’s ouster, which revealed that more than half of those killed had no drug connections. Many were victims of envious neighbors suspicious of their wealth or of existing feuds with police officers. Nopporn reported that “despite a decades-long campaign, narcotic drugs use shows no signs of abating in Thailand.”

Justice Minister Paiboon Kumchaya had also concluded that the war on drugs had failed. Imprisonment did not seem effective in curing addiction. Despite jailing some 250,000 of an estimated 1.3 million addicts, 70 percent of drug offenders remained in prison, and people still complained about drugs in their communities. Addressing drug abuse as mainly a criminal problem also compromised Thailand’s campaign against HIV. Fear of arrest and imprisonment prevented drug users from essential, harm-reduction treatment services.

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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.

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