DUE PROCESS AND THE WAR ON DRUGS
If you did not know, drug lords actually love the Rule of Law.
And why not? Just take a look at who are actually doing the fighting for them now in the current war against drugs being instigated by the new government. Is it some influential lobby groups representing the interest of the drug lords? Or a party list group of drug users asserting their right of choice? No. On the forefront of the battle is no other than a senator of the realm, Senator Leila de Lima, former Secretary of Justice, and a few other colleagues in the chamber, backed by human rights advocates, lawyers, due process champions, pro-lifers, priests, academics, professionals, civic groups and the like. Now, from any angle, that’s a formidable force to reckon with, a force which, for completely disparate reasons and purposes, find themselves curiously, if unwittingly, on the same side with the drug syndicates. The drug lords need only lie low now, sit back and relax, and watch while the warring forces decimate each other. When the dust have settled down, it’s back to business. If a few of them were also bruised, it’s all part of it, it comes with the territory. In their own way, they will remember to pay tribute to them who cleared the road of obstacles and of unwanted disruption.
Due process. Who really could quarrel with the principles of due process? Our legal literature is brimming with discourses for its advocacy and defense. Any lawyer worth his salt should be able to stand up at any moment’s notice to orate on the topic: Due process, the foundation of our justice system. As it is, due process has now become the central issue because of this bloody war being waged against illegal drugs, a war which has so far waylaid hundreds of drug suspects and caused the mass surrender of thousands of drug addicts to authorities. It’s a violation of human rights, cry the critics. It’s murder, wails Senator de Lima. This is a desecration of the Rule of Law, bewails the civil society. And, to be sure, strictly speaking, they are correct.
Yet, they too would readily agree that use of illegal drugs has grown to gargantuan proportions and it’s a problem. Ironically, for all their cries, it is the President’s draconian tactic that exposed the extent of the problem, to the embarrassment of the previous government. You have to ask, just how did the problem grow? Was it not under the auspices of so-called due process or rule of law of previous regimes that it grew? At the Senate hearing, de Lima was at pains to explain that the previous government to which she belonged did everything it could and that it should not be blamed for negligence. She went on to cite various initiatives from agencies under her watch as Secretary of the Department of Justice in the previous administration. De Lima should be asked then, what the results were because, obviously, if measured by the results, the initiatives failed grandly. Why these failed, she should honestly seek why. Because if she did, she will come to the sad realization that due process is the problem.
Indeed, the tough question to ask: can you fight illegal drugs in a regime of due process? No one will tell you this, but the answer is NO, no you can’t! It is either you sacrifice due process and fight illegal drugs in an extrajudicial manner. Or uphold due process and just give up the fight. Tough choice to make, but that is the reality on the ground.
In the real world, and I mean, in the real, unembellished world of real, imperfect people, due process is just a beautiful concept, easy to undermine and manipulate if you understand how it works and where the nuts and bolts are. See, when you are awash with money to buy anybody, have weapons of war to employ against those you cannot buy, and you have an amoral/criminal mind free of any moral/ethical restraint, due process is just that, an ideal for the idealists to idealize! Everybody has a price. Cynical though that statement is, it is true. Some are just more expensive than the others. And for the very few highly principled men and women who cannot be bought, just how much violence could they really endure when instruments of brute force is turned on them?
Because the Rule of Law does not differentiate the guilty from the innocent, the guilty drug elements could easily take refuge in the same law that protects the innocent. And because due process requires evidence and witnesses to prove a case in court, all that is needed is to take care of the witnesses and evidence. Also because you need a fiscal to prosecute a case and a judge to decide on it, then the fiscal and the judge must be dealt with too. By this, you can already identify the personalities who need to be bought, threatened, silenced or killed. As it helps too to have a wider sphere of influence, why not include influential personalities too as recipients of goodwill? No wonder why there is no one of consequence in the matrix of drug personalities being sent to the gallows despite harsher laws.
How many law enforcers could really refuse the temptation of riches? How many witnesses could? How many fiscals and judges could really forgo the offer of millions? To the idealist on the outside looking in, he could only see the corruption of the system and rail to the heavens against it, but he understands human nature the least. Luxury and riches in real life have their own lure that not many really could resist. And for the few who could, how many of them could brave the daily threats of violence on their own lives and their loved ones?
Over a few bottles of beer one night in a friend’s place, as our conversations wandered into Duterte’s war on drugs, I posed this situation to my friend: Imagine you are a cop, the good, idealistic kind; you are offered a million pesos to let go of a drug case, plus a few thousands more weekly after that; they say it’s the last offer as there were previous offers before which you adamantly turned down; they say if still you refuse, your children and your wife will be kidnapped one by one and killed like a dog… will you accept or not accept the offer? He stared up thinking deep for a long moment. Just then, his youngest child came rushing out of their house and sat on his lap. Our beer talk quickly drifted into other more innocuous topics…
The morning after, I was awakened by the blaring radio of a neighbor. The news was about a teenager who was gunned down at dawn, the mother swears his son never did drugs at all.