Timely warning against EJK
The arrest of suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa by the joint efforts of the Abu Dhabi police and Interpol was a welcome break for the Duterte administration, which came under fire from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for its seeming inability to stop or its permissiveness over the occurrence of extrajudicial killings that claimed thousands of drug suspects’ lives.
The warning or threat by the ICC to investigate the extrajudicial killings has given President Rodrigo Duterte serious pause, and rather than castigate the ICC, replied that he is ready to be imprisoned if charges will be filed against him by the international court rather than relent and stop his aggressive campaign against illegal drugs.
The President’s remark was to save face, of course, and show to both the Filipino people, his fiercest critics, and the drug syndicates that have been hurting in the war against drugs that his drive will continue to be relentless, just toned down in terms of rhetoric in order not to draw any more international backlash.
Which is just about time considering that his inflammatory statements specifically aimed at both domestic and international critics had earned him public ire and polarized supporters who wished that he would just tone it down and continue to work rather than hurl invectives at anyone who dares cross his path.
The ICC warning is specifically potent since the Philippines is a member of the international judicial body, no doubt as a result of the country’s experience under the Marcos martial law regime. The late senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had been invited to become one of its justices and it was unfortunate for her, the country and President Duterte in particular that she turned it down in favor of another shot at the presidency.
Espinosa’s arrest and the ICC warning both serve as reminders to President Duterte that the rule of law and effective law enforcement remain the crucial and valuable weapons in the fight not just against illegal drugs but the bigger crime menace.
The thousands of drug suspects killed in the country, either by legitimate police operations or EJK, is not a badge of courage or distinction for the Duterte presidency nor does it serve as bragging rights for his administration to use as ammunition to fire back at the President’s harshest critics.
What the extrajudicial killings only serve to do is to whet the public’s appetite for bloodlust and righteous indignation without any consideration for due process for drug suspects and rehabilitation for drug users, rendering these processes as antiquated, useless and ineffective in the war on drugs.
But as the Espinosa arrest and the ICC warning both remind the President, his administration and the public, there are no real substitutes for due process and effective, stringent law enforcement.
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