unz | The actual story is that Duterte is not only using the threat of summary executions to round up addicts and pushers; he’s naming names, both of cartel leaders and the national and local politicians and officers who shelter them. It’s a rather thrilling high stakes game—allegations emerged this week that the bombing in Davao that killed 14 people and was apparently an assassination attempt on Duterte was actually conducted by threatened narcopoliticians, not the Abu Sayyaf Islamist banditti—but the US press has apparently shown little interest in covering these ramifications.
Also I haven’t seen a lot of reporting on the fact that Duterte’s drug war necessitates deeper PRC-Philippine engagement in several important aspects.
First of all, the Philippine drug trade—primarily meth, locally known as shabu—is dominated by Chinese Triads by virtue of the fact that the large and poorly regulated PRC drug industry is a ready source of the intermediates needed to make the drug and also by the fact that Triads are deeply embedded in the major Chinese-diaspora presence in Filipino society. The PRC has a lot to offer in terms of tighter enforcement on the mainland and perhaps in using its good offices to encourage crackdowns in a key Triad operational base, Hong Kong.
On the other hand, the PRC can make life difficult for Duterte if it wants to, by turning a blind eye to the export-oriented meth trade. So there you have it.
Duterte made his expectations concerning PRC assistance quite clear by summoning the PRC ambassador back in August:
The Philippines government said on Wednesday it had summoned the Chinese ambassador earlier this week to explain reports that traffickers were bringing in narcotics from China, opening a new front in President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial war on drugs.
On Tuesday, the country’s police chief told a Senate hearing that China, Taiwan and Hong Kong were major sources of illegal drugs, and Chinese triads were involved in trafficking.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the Chinese ambassador had been summoned for an explanation, and the government would also send a diplomatic communication to Beijing to “pursue this in a more aggressive note.”
Another area of potential Philippine-PRC cooperation is PRC assistance in a crash program to rehabilitate the Philippine drug users who have turned themselves in to the police to avoid getting targeted by the death squads.
Though virtually unreported in the Western media, over 700,000 users have turned themselves in.
Let me repeat that. 700,000 drug users have turned themselves in.
And they presumably need to get a clean “rehab” chit to live safely in their communities, presenting a major challenge for the Philippines drug rehabilitation infrastructure. Duterte has called on the Philippine military to make base acreage available for additional rehab camps and the first one will apparently be at Camp Ramon Magsaysay.
Duterte has turned to the PRC to demand they fund construction of drug treatment facilities, and the PRC has obliged. According to Duterte and his spokesman, preparatory work for the Magsaysay facility has already begun.
There’s an amusing wrinkle here.
Magsaysay is the largest military reservation in the Philippines. It is also the jewel in the diadem, I might say, of the five Philippine bases envisioned for US use under EDCA, the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement that officially returned US troops to Philippine bases. It looks like the US military might be sharing Magsaysay with thousands of drug users…and PRC construction workers.
I expect the Pentagon is quietly fuming at Duterte’s presumption.