By Aryeh Neier

..."The Trump-Duterte drug war tango"

...(continued from index page)

Editorial DECember 2017 Cartoon by Jym Andalis

One reason officials in the Philippines have cooperated so readily in carrying out Duterte’s policy is that doing so includes financial incentives that go far beyond the payments police have reportedly received for executing the President’s “war on drugs.” Sheila Coronel, a distinguished investigative journalist and the academic dean of the Columbia Journalism School, has found that the list of illicit rewards includes profits from extortion, property commandeered from victims, ransom for kidnapped suspects, and even commissions from funeral parlors.

These and other motives are fueling the Philippines’ cycle of corruption, and undermining any attempt to reestablish effective policing. Citizen awareness of police corruption is an important part of restoring credibility, which is essential for effective law enforcement. But as Coronel notes, “Filipinos have consistently judged the police the most corrupt of all government agencies.” By promoting policies that contribute to police misconduct, Duterte is actually encouraging the very criminality that his campaign to wipe out illegal drug use was ostensibly meant to curb.

The mounting death toll from the US opioid epidemic suggests that America’s drug problem is no less serious — and possibly more so — than that of the Philippines. Though the Trump administration has yet to propose an adequate response to its crisis—declaring a national emergency and failing to put any new spending behind the order are clearly insufficient — at least it recognizes that using the police to kill dealers and users is not a solution.

If Trump were to think through how Duterte is perpetuating a drug crisis he seeks to end, perhaps he would refrain from expressing enthusiasm for the approach. Maybe he would even go further, ignoring Duterte’s directive to “lay off.” But, given Trump’s affection for strongman leaders, Duterte will most likely receive a free pass on the murder of his own citizens. –Project Syndicate

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