Editorial: Shame tactics

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

NAGA City Mayor Valdemar Chiong, perhaps in response to the governor and the human rights commission’s advice, said yesterday he will rethink a plan to display in the city’s plaza the names of persons arrested and charged with possessing or selling illegal drugs.

The mayor, in a follow-up story in today’s issue, said he will make sure the plan does not violate human rights. But he also wants to get a message across: he believes most of the crimes in Naga are tied to illegal drugs and that something must be done about this.

Give the mayor some credit for calling attention to a problem that has festered in some communities, yet still awaits effective solutions. Even the police have tried their version of a shame campaign; there was a time when police chiefs in Cebu City were relieved of their command and transferred if their stations failed to arrest drug pushing suspects within a given period.


But a shame campaign assumes that the illegal drug trade’s peddlers and protectors remain capable of shame. Their actions suggest otherwise.

The illegal drug problem is a hydra, a serpent with many heads. Public leaders and communities serious about curbing its influence need to fight not just local narcotics supply chains, but also organized crime groups that import drugs or finance the illegal laboratories that make them. Add to that, said the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, “the exploitation of understaffed and under-resourced law enforcement agencies” and “the weak judicial system of the country.”

Mayor Chiong is right on one point: people in the illegal drug trade need to be stopped. But in focusing on the small-time drug runners or pushers who’ve run afoul of the police, we miss the big picture and the more menacing targets.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 14, 2014.


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