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CHICAGO – If reports are true that there are millions of Filipinos hooked on drugs, no amount of killings would be able to solve the drug plague.

And the extra-judicial killings apparently sanctioned by President Rody Duterte, no matter how good the objective maybe, would not be able to solve the problem either. It would only worsen the deteriorating state of human rights situation caused by both the police and the vigilantes, who need training in handling human rights cases.

The anti-drug enforcers should at least have body cameras during their operations so mistakes could be avoided.

Let’s remember that it took nearly 400 years for the Spaniards to Christianize the majority of the Filipinos but only less than 50 years for Americans to replace the Spanish language with British English.

This means that if anti-drug education is taught at home as early as pre-schools, the draconian measure of unrelenting killings of alleged drug lords would no longer be needed.

And the millions of pesos needed to put up rehabilitation centers to treat drug users could be used to fund poverty-alleviation measures.

During my chat with my friends Marlon L. Pecson, Carlos A. Cortes, Jr. (a former Filipino prosecutor) and Nestor Soriano and others, there was a suggestion that a portion of the Lewis College owned by Filipino American leader Loida Nicolas Lewis in Sorsogon City, Philippines be converted into an anti-drug rehabilitation center so Ms. Lewis could help in the anti-drug campaign of Duterte.

Another suggestion was for the various medical missions by groups in the United States and Canada to the Philippines to treat only drug addicts.

I agree with the father of a victim of a massacre in Chicago, Illinois two decades ago that the killers of his son should not be sentenced to death but to life imprisonment. Manny Castro, originally from Bulacan and a Vietnam War veteran, had a change of heart when I asked him if he was sad that the killers of his son would not be put to death.

Manny told me, “Before the sentencing, I wanted my son’s killers dead but when the killers were sentenced to life, I rejoiced because the killers will be forever suffering and agonizing in prison. If the killers were put to death, they would not suffer at all.”

If President Marcos were still alive today, I’m sure he would counsel President Duterte against doing the massive and senseless killings. Marcos executed only one man – Chinese drug lord Lim Seng, who was killed by firing squad – to get the attention of other drug lords.

But because there was not much anti-drug education after Marcos was gone, drug lords and drug dealers had regrouped during the administrations of Ramos, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo and Aquino.

Without early and continuing anti-drug education of Filipino children, I’m sure drug lords/dealers would only hibernate under the Duterte iron rule and would wake up, if not comeback with vengeance, when Duterte is gone.

If anti-drug education is done at home and in schools, early and often and at workplaces, our children would learn that the drug menace started with the use of opium in China for medicinal purposes during the 7th century.

A friend of mine, Roger Maslon, a Spanish-English translator married to a Filipina, translated to me a Spanish article, which said that when Mexican President Felipe Calderon started his anti-drug campaign in Mexico in 2006 at the end of his six-year term in 2012, there were 104,000 people dead and more than 14,000 missing and billions of Mexican pesos lost.

So the thinking of our President Duterte that killing will help solve the drug problem is disputed by the Calderon’s experience.

When Enrique Pena Nieto succeeded Calderon in 2012, Pena Nieto continued Calderon’s war on drugs. Mass executions have become the norm, and so are the abuses of power, torture (inflicted on both sides), kidnappings, attacks on human rights activists and murder of journalists.

With the widespread killing in Mexico brought about by the anti-drug war by the government, Duterte’s planned federalization of the Philippines is not very encouraging, especially if the President makes good his pledge to bow out of the government when federalization is in place in the Philippines. As the saying goes, when the cat is away, the mouse plays, and so are the drug lords and drug dealers.

So the best deterrent against illegal drugs is not turning the Philippines into a big killing field but educating young children at home and drawing up a new school curricula, adding anti-drug education from pre-school age to college and talking about it in workplaces.

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Joseph is a former reporter of the Manila Bulletin, former president of the Rizal-Metro Manila Reporters Association and former president of the Chicago chapter of the National Press Club of the Philippines. A native of Sorsogon, Philippines, he and his family now live in Chicago. A prolific reporter, Lariosa writes a column and news stories for the Filipino Star News and other Filipino community newspapers in the US as well as for GMA News and the Manila Bulletin.


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