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New Philippines Leadership Vows to End Drug Trafficking

     This June served as a promising leadership change in the Philippines with the inauguration of Rodrigo Duterte, a man who passionately spoke of eradicating the drug trafficking ring that dwindled over the country. Taking office in late June, Duterte replaced the previous leader, Benigno Aquino III. In 2010 Aquino promised to bring about social justice to the innocent people of the nation who were frequently put in danger by the drug traffickers. Failing to hold true to his word, Aquino was despised by his people and often referred to as an inefficient leader. With the strong hatred toward their previous leader, the Filipinos were hopeful that Duterte’s radical approach to drug trafficking would fix the political and social unrest.

     In a sense, the plan worked; Duerte’s plan to decrease the number of drugs and drug lords in his country went exceptionally well. The Philippines has gone from a country whose citizens feared the worse, as they attempted to live their everyday lives, to a country that is now almost completely free of the trauma of drug trafficking. However, concerns have been raised over just how this has been achieved.

     Even though the crimes committed by drug lords have decreased dramatically, the number of heinous murders related to ending the drug war is still staggering, and this continue to plagues the innocent people. Now, instead of the city dwellers being the targets of drug lords, the traffickers are the targets of vigilantes. Among the thousands of suspected drug traffickers that were killed for their crimes within the last few months, about one-half of them were killed by these supposedly “civilian” vigilantes. The other half were killed directly by their own government, something that Duerte promised the nation.

     Many drug traffickers began to quickly realize that they were being targeted as if the whole nation were after them. Due to this, many criminals turned themselves over to the government, picking prison over death.

     Social rights activists have shown specific interest in the killings of suspected drug traffickers because these traffickers were not given a proper trial. This pressing issue raises the question as to whether all of the deceased suspects actually committed the crimes for which they died. Although many Western countries believe in due process, the justice systems of developing nations are often set up under the discretion of their current leader. The last Philippine president, Aquino, was often looked at as a relaxed leader who never answered the people’s desires to end crime in their country. Even though that crime has not actually stopped in the Philippines, many of the people are appreciative of what Duerte is doing, while others voice concerns of injustice taking place.

     The  drug trade has almost completely disappeared from the Philippines. In fact, the Philippine government claims that drug related crimes have almost vanished. It would seem that Duerte is content with ending the problem in any possible way. Even though murders may still linger over the nation and debates of social justice continue, the fact remains that Duerte has zeroed in on drug-related crimes.

     Sources: Al Jazeera, International Business Times, The New York Times

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