War on Drugs?
According to a New York Times article titled, In Duterte’s Philippines, Having a Beer Can Now Land You in Jail, President Rodrigo Duterte has committed himself to a bloody crackdown of the drug trade in the Philippines, one that many Filipinos originally supported. However, to Duerte, there are too many crimes in the Philippines and many of them originate from minor infractions like drinking. As a result, Duterte dispatched police to arrest anyone publicly drinking, urinating, or even walking around without a shirt. Now, the brutal war on drugs has officially extended to other crimes. The result: innocent individuals in jail, crowded jail cells, and citizens living in utter fear.
While disciplining citizens from indulging in alcohol and from urinating in the neighborhoods is constructive to society’s well-being, Duterte’s use of force with these petty crimes contradicts his goal to take down the drug trade. Within a week, 7,000 people were arrested for loitering, drinking, and walking around without shirts. Personally, I believe that Duterte is wasting his resources and manpower to search for minor infractions when in reality, drug cartels are penetrating through the country and 401,000 Filipinos are living in modern-day slavery. To me, Duterte is putting off the large issues, notably the drug issue, that face the Philippines.
Critics may emphasize that Duterte is practicing an approach of the “broken windows” policy adopted by the U.S. about one generation ago. However, Duterte should know that the success and effectiveness of “broken windows “is debatable to this day. According to the the New York Daily News article, Does Broken Windows truly work? Inside the science behind nation’s most controversial police policy, after five years of practicing the policy in New York, NYPD assessed the data and attempted to discern a relationship between quality-of-life arrests (minor infractions) and felony crimes. There was no clear link between the two. In fact, Dan O’Brien, an assistant professor at Northeastern University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice claims that, “There’s just so many studies, that people will point to whatever study supports their argument.” For example, a study in Los Angeles may have shown that the clearing of house encampments reduced violent crimes but another study may have displayed that aggressive traffic enforcements in Ohio had no impact on felony crimes at all. There is no substance to the research done on the broken windows policy — if one study supports it, the next is bound to refute it.
At this incarceration rate, if individuals are arrested for the smallest infractions, cells will be overcrowded and jails will thus require more space and more resources for its inhabitants. This translates to more money dedicated to the Filipino prison system and consequently, less focused on other urgent nationwide issues like the poor infrastructure, heavy dependence on remittances, the HIV epidemic, and violated children’s rights. As incarceration rates increase in the Philippines, I cannot help but connect the Philippines’ current situation with that of the United States’:
Over the past few decades, by widening the amount of crimes punishable and lengthening the sentence with laws like the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, U.S. incarceration rates have skyrocketed. Consequently, the U.S. has the largest prison population in the world. To put things in perspective: It costs $29,000 to incarcerate one inmate in federal prison! U.S. taxpayers pay more than $70 billion for incarceration! Because of the strict imprisonment protocol in the U.S., taxpayers and inmates face grueling financial, psychological, and health problems. It’s more than a problem in the U.S.; it’s a crisis. Let’s hope that Duterte soon sees that.