Thursday, November 24, 2016

PHILIPPINES and all the Drug War-related telenovela

WHAT consumes Manila these days is the ongoing hearings around President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial Drug War. All drug wars are controversial in a gruesome vein. Hence its existence in itself is already flawed and damaged. Meantime, several characters have surfaced (as expected). Etc etcetera. 

          Those who are familiar with how drug trade or drug wars operate shouldn't be surprised with these anymore. I am not very concerned with who are lying and who are involved or who are implicated. I am more concerned with the big picture. Obviously, Duterte has chosen a program, a historically defective program, to pursue upon assumption of office. He apparently sees such mission as a sort of continuum of his 20-year mayoral journey in his native Davao City in the South. But a country is not a "mere" local government, and vice versa. His advisers should given him wiser alternatives to anchor his quest for righteousness. As I always mentioned, I foresee that Duterte will end this anti illegal drug chivalry soon otherwise a larger hammer's gonna fall. 
          All said, sans drugs--his tact vis a vis the big global players are on the right track. But we have to look at the big picture.

          Looking back, the Philippine president's saga is similar to Colombia's Cesar Gaviria--at the time of Pablo Escobar. Deaths or killings in that drug war, EJK or otherwise, belittle Duterte's odyssey. Gaviria also resisted US meddling in his government's internal affairs. But after Escobar and the Medellin Cartel were wasted, Gaviria was appointed Secretary General of the Organization of American States. It's like Asean--but the difference is, OAS is a US buddy and Asean isn't really one that cozies up with Uncle Sam. At that time (90s to early 2000s), China wasn't yet this huge and Russia was still reconstructing. The US was the go-to power. At this juncture, Duterte has China and Asean watching his back.The US cannot play bully to China and Russia--there is some kinda odd friendship there. Figure that one out. What Filipinos must do? Quit the personality-bashing and negativity and come out as one and pressure Duterte to end this drug war and then talk economy and regional clout. 

          With money coming from the generous Chinese, more jobs should be generated--especially in inner cities and countryside. Combat drugs via simpler, gut-level economics. The country's current unemployment rate stood at 5.4 percent in July of 2016, down from 6.5 percent a year earlier and from 6.1 percent reported in April 2016. Although it isn't really that bad compared with the rest of the world and Southeast Asian neighbors, Duterte's government becomes easy picking due to its unsound priorities. Although the Philippine peso slid to a low-50 which again no big deal if we compare it with other Asean partners, such a dip is bloated as staggering in the eyes of the world. In that regard, that significantly include OFWs who contribute 40 percent to the Philippine economy. Philippines is the fourth largest recipient of official remittances after China, India, and Mexico. Our dollar reserves are still high--that may shake unless Duterte makes his move now. 

          By the way, even though Escobar and the Medellin Cartel were snuffed out, the rival Cali Cartel took power--and control of Colombia's cocaine and coca farms. Colombia is back as the world's #1 producer/exporter of coca. Ergo, drug wars don't result in total eradication of the illegal activity but it will have a dent (in re people's mindset), for sure. People will learn yet it doesn't stop drug lords from plying their trade. Meantime, the bigger shit in illegal drugs (coca and poppy production) stay. The Golden Triangle/Southeast Asia remains toe to toe with Afghanistan in terms of shipments of illegal poppies worldwide. 
          I am not saying that Rodrigo Duterte must put a lid on his drug war--he just have to put a lid on his mouth while he pursues other programs that are equally or more important than chasing shadows that will never ever go. 

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