MINDANAO, Philippines — Fearing execution under the new and tough president Rodrigo Duterte’s rule, at least a thousand drug pushers and users have surrendered themselves to police across Philippines over the past four days to sign a pledge to stop trading and using illegal drugs.
More than half of them were from Pasay, Quezon, Caloocan, Zamboanga, Rizal Province, Isabela Province and Caraga region. Topping the list was Zamboanga City (800), followed by Rizal Province (762), Pasay City (362), Quezon (200) and Caloocan (200).
Their mass surrender began after Duterte warned 15 mayors linked to drugs that they will be treated like ordinary criminals once he sits down as president. However, he did not name them.
During his presidential bid, Duterte had promised voters to put an end to criminality and drug menace within six months after he takes office.
Dr. Adrian Semorlan, Asian Sociology Professor, told Asia Times this mass surrender is an indication that the high profile protectors of drug pushers have already abandoned them.
“Small time drug pushers and users felt that their protectors abandoned them so they feel the best thing to do is to surrender to save their life,” Semorlan said.
Interestingly, among those who surrendered in the past four days were three minors. Two village officials tested positive for drug use in Zamboanga City.
Nine police officers were also tested positive after the country’s top cop Ronald Dela Rosa ordered a surprise drug test for over 2,000 police officers last Friday. A case has been filed against the nine. If found guilty, they face dismissal.
After winning the presidential election, Duterte had encouraged public to kill drug addicts.
“If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful,” he said.
Since Duterte took oath on June 30, at least 12 suspected drug lords have been killed in gun battles with police or under mysterious circumstances, with some bodies bearing a cardboard sign saying “Drug lord ako” (I am a drug lord).
Five suspected drug dealers were shot dead by Manila policemen in Quiapo district on Sunday.
Psychology professor Jennifer Composa of Western Mindanao State University says the surrender of drug pushers and users is linked to a mass hysteria caused by Duterte government’s ultimatum.
The government should develop a Psyche Rehabilitation program for those who surrender because it is not easy for them to lead a normal life all of a sudden since they are so dependent on drugs.
In 2009, the Dangerous Drugs Board estimated 6.9 million drug users which is close to 7% of the country’s population. But according to Senator Vicente Sotto, an active legislator against drugs abuse, the estimate could be much higher.
The Philippine Star reported that the Philippines has become an illegal drugs exporting country. An illegal drug called methamphetamine is being exported to Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea and also in relatively small quantities to Guam and Saipan.
In Manila, Dela Rosa, who took charge as the new National Police Chief, told high ranking police officials linked to drug trade to either surrender within 48 hours or “continue as full- time drug lords and wage war on us.”
On July 3, Rosa said police and drug enforcement agents seized methamphetamine in 180 plastic bags from an abandoned farm in northern Cagayan province’s Claveria town. They are investigating whether it was smuggled into the Philippines or was manufactured locally.
Before his presidency, Duterte has been reiterating that the Philippines is becoming a narco-politics country destroying the future of its children. The mass surrender of drug users and pushers seem to confirm his earlier statements of possible nexus between public authorities and drug lords.
Asia Sociology professor Dr. Adrian Semorlan told Asia Times that with drug use and crime rampant in the Philippines, a weak leader cannot address the issues.
“What we need … is an iron-hand president like Lee Kuan Yu of Singapore and coincidentally we are beginning to see that iron hand in President Duterte,” he said.
Noel Tarrazona is a freelance Vancouver-based international journalist. He is presently in the Philippines working as a visiting graduate school professor. He is also a senior analyst of Wikistrat and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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