“Searching for common ground in 2017” was first published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 7, 2017.
National interest requires an honest effort in 2017 to find common ground between critics and supporters of President Duterte. On the drug policy, surely they can all agree that: 1) we have a drug problem requiring action; 2) law enforcement is part of the solution; and 3) enforcing laws may lead to casualties.
Shouldn’t they also agree that: 1) an informed strategy must guide policy; 2) drug addiction afflicts many countries; and 3) we can benefit from the global experience with addressing drug addiction? Unfortunately, Mr. Duterte has shown little inclination to accept the global lessons learned at great cost over centuries, preferring to go by his 30-year experience in Davao City.
While repeatedly rejecting US influence, Mr. Duterte has come up with a strategy that follows the war on drugs that America waged at home and exported abroad in the 1970s and ’80s. This policy, anchored on police action and punitive sanctions, arguably helped push the death penalty for drug offenses from 10 countries in 1979 to 36 by 2000.
This approach has now fallen into disfavor. By 1977, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty and 140 have done so today. And 33 countries rarely impose the death penalty they prescribe for drug offenses. Since 2010, only seven countries have conducted executions for drug offenses, according to a report of the International Drug Policy Consortium.