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By: Bernie V. Lopez


Duterte is right in saying that, ultimately, shabu will destroy the very fabric of Philippine society from the grassroots (small time users-pushers) to the apex (drug lords and their cooperators, the police, military, local government). About half of heinous crimes can be attributed to shabu. Duterte is right in saying that neutralizing addicts will dramatically bring down the crime rate. Can we contain or reverse the drug menace? This depends on the extent of the ‘drug kingdom’ and our political will.

First, the war on drugs has a moral dilemma, which ultimately may boomerang. It cannot morally justify judicial killings, which the Church and human rights advocates condemn. There is thus a moral price to pay for an effective war on drugs.

The reported more than 4 million shabu users nationwide is conservative. There may be more. Before Duterte’s war on drugs, the shabu trade was reaching its climax without the knowledge of former President Noynoy. The drug lords from China, largest source of shabu, invaded the Philippines, largest shabu market in Asia. This was a drug lord’s paradise – no death penalty, a large expanding market, complete protection and cooperation from the police, mayors, generals. It was a huge industry of trillions of pesos per year going haywire. No one was stopping the irresistible force.

Before Duterte’s reign, both cities and rural areas became flooded with shabu, bringing down prices dramatically. The pushers started targeting the poor to buy shabu to get rid of the oversupply. Farmers, tricycle and jeepney drivers could now afford shabu. We are at the edge of a nationwide drug explosion, addicts from all levels of society from peasants to millionaires, farmers, lawyers, students, policemen, congressmen.

Addiction makes drugs unstoppable. It is virtually irreversible. Rehab does not always work. An addict, with a successful two-year rehab, can go back to shabu at a snap of a finger when a friend knocks at the door. Peer pressure can destroy the strongest of will power. Desperate addicts prefer to risk death for a hit. They are homicidal and suicidal all at once. It is a dead end.

The emergency solution is to immediately stop not so much the users-pushers but the source, the drug lords and their protectors and their shabu factories. This needs the cooperation of both police, intelligence agents, and the NBI. The dilemma, which made Bato weep, is – some law enforcers are also the law breakers. Drug test is the simplest cheapest most effective way to identify users. Drug tests must be done on a massive scale at all levels of society – policemen, mayors, generals. Can Duterte do this?

The supply from China, the couriers must also be stopped immediately, the ships or planes that bring in the shabu or input chemicals. This needs the help of the Bureau of Customs, the Coast Guard, and the Airport Officials, many of whom, again, may also be in on the take. Duterte needs to field spies and agents to find out the true situation on the ground in terms of both shabu factories and supplies from China, especially of input chemicals for local factories. Finally, Duterte’s drug war needs a bilateral treaty with China.

One medium-sized drug lord can easily supply 15 to 20 kilos of shabu to 25,000 to 100,000 users within two to three towns. Kerwin, the Drug King, was supplying an entire region, Eastern Visayas, made up of many provinces. He could have been handling easily 1 to 2 tons a month for the whole region, involving tens of billions of pesos. Behind him was a labyrinth of law-enforcers-law-breakers. Getting a drug king like Kerwin has tremendous impact on supply and distribution.

The drug war which has killed about 4,000 (and rising) has hardly made a dent because majority of those killed or arrested are users-pushers in drug dens on the street level. There were some drug lords neutralized on the top level, but perhaps not enough. This has a dramatic impact on supplies stashed somewhere. Prices go up because of the war on drugs. Stashed supplies can be sold later when the situation cools down. Killing 5 big-time drug lords at the top is more important than killing ten thousand users at the bottom.

Neutralizing the drug lords, the source, may not work long term, because, like water seeking crevices, there will be new sources and new drug lords to replace the killed or jailed ones. This is the American experience in their decades-old war on drugs. Drugs can only be lessened by not eradicated completely. Addicts will forever seek new sources even if it means death. The tremendous demand from millions of addicts forces the makers and distributors drool over big bucks.

In summary, the story The Shabu Addict ( gives us some lessons – 1) Love and caring is more a solution than rehab centers. 2) The beginning of shabu addiction is pain, loneliness, depression, being unloved. Shabu momentarily erases all bad feelings. Hence, psychological addiction. 3) Peer pressure (barkada) can nullify years of painstaking rehab. 4) Stage 5 of shabu addiction is suicide, psychosis, heinous crimes, numbness of the spirit. At a point, it is irreversible. The addict is trapped and he knows it, hence suicide. Let us pray for them. May the Lord have mercy on their souls.


Bernie V. Lopez,




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