Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s national war on drugs and the crime which is a natural outgrowth of the drug culture is itself the outgrowth of Duterte’s hands-on anti-drug/anti-crime policies that were executed during his long tenure as the mayor of Davao city. From his first days as mayor in 1988, Duterte realised that traditional law enforcement methods were inadequate against the narco-terrorism that plagued one of The Philippines’ poorest cities. This was true for the same reason that traditional standing armies have often been systematically beaten by guerrilla forces just as the French army was in Algeria or the US army (like France before it) was in Vietnam.
Realising that the ‘old ways’ had failed, Duterte decided to empower ordinary people who had been the victims of violence from drug takers, dealers and traffickers and helped lead empowered citizens on the front lines of a drug war that the good citizens of Davao eventually won. For years, anyone with any knowledge of Davao has realised that taking or selling drugs in the streets of the city is an effective suicide mission. After years of the criminals forcing normal people to live in fear, Duterte turned the tables and made the druggies, dealers and traffickers live in fear of the normal people who he empowered in their own city.
Now that Duterte is using similar methods at a national level, Filipinos from all parts of the country are reporting that they feel safer in the streets, even in the late hours of the evening, while families are feeling more confident that their country will once again be a safe, prosperous and healthy place to raise children.
Duterte has warned the United States that while many American politicians throw proverbial stones at Duterte, that their words may come back to haunt then. Duterte stated: “Someday, remember this. One day to your horror (you will realise), your problem is 100 times more serious than what we have”.
Throughout major cities in the United States the crime arising from drug gangs is terrorising once moderately safe cities. Parts of Chicago are described as “no-go areas” or even “war zones” while various Latin American gangs, including the infamous MS-13 terrorises parts of the south-western United States.
While Donald Trump is keen to see drug dealers executed after being convicted for their offences, this is only part of the solution to America’s urban crime problem. A more holistic solution would require the US authorities to adopt a Duterte style method of tackling the drug dealing gangsters once and for all by empowering ordinary people who are at present often victimised both by the criminals and by their own government and law enforcement.
Years of political victimisation of both African-American and Latino-American communities have led to ordinary people feeling trapped between law enforcement officials who not only blame but extract de-facto vengeance upon vulnerable urban communities on the one hand and violent drug dealing/taking gangsters who ought to be classed as terrorists rather than common criminals on the other. Both major US political parties have failed the people in this respect. For the Democrats, the rights of gangsters and drug dealers are more important than the lives of normal individuals and their families. This is both a perverse and disgusting point of view that is incompatible with anything resembling true humanitarianism. For the Republicans, an increasingly impractical, impracticable and racist approach betrays the fact that they do not even understand the problem they claim to want to fight. So out of touch are the Republicans that they would rather instil fear into those who are the first victims of narco-gangsters rather than unite with normal people in a collective fight against violent, terroristic criminality.
The clear solution is for US law enforcement officials to go first into Latino communities and state that law enforcement will cease any activities which target normal human beings on the basis of lack of legal US documentation. In other words, while many peaceful, productive and normal Latinos in the United States currently live in fear of law enforcement tearing apart families with the selective enforcement of draconian immigration laws, Latinos must be given the supreme and inalienable guarantee that such policies will be dropped. In return, Latinos who cooperate with the authorities regarding intelligence about who the narco-gangsters are, where they operate and how they operate, should be rewarded with both cash and legal documents certifying their right to live with their families in the United States on an permanent basis.
Additionally, regular law enforcement should work with local Latino communities and deputise volunteers who will be given free firearms to help patrol their communities and if necessary (in accordance with existing laws on resisting arrest) administer on the spot justice to narco-gangsters who put the lives of normal people at risk.
In order to do this, the government must build trust with local communities and help them to unite against a common enemy. Not only will this empower people to take back their own streets, but it will help ease fears that participating in anti-criminal community action will somehow expose undocumented individuals to penalties that are gravely unjust and whose enforcement is impractical at a time when it is the violent narco-criminals and not the hard working Latino families that threaten the entire population of major US cities, while targeting their “own” communities as the first victims.
In African-American communities, a similar strategy can be implemented. The culture of white police versus black civilians must end and this can only be accomplished through a clear political action wherein local African-Americans are deputised are then paid and armed to go after local narco-gangsters. The authorities must make it clear that using firearms against otherwise unstoppable gangsters (e.g. those who resist arrest) will not only help to empower African-American communities but crucially it will demonstrate that working on the side of right will pay more than crime.
The money wasted in the courts whenever there is an incident of police brutality could easily pay for a local community enforcement agency that will help young African-Americans can take back their own cities and make the gangsters fear for their lives, something which is vastly preferable to the present status-quo of young African-Americans being susceptible not only to police brutality but to inter-gang warfare that is often colloquially referred to as “black-on-black violence”.
In the case of both Latino and African-American communities the situation is clear. Drugs, many of which were planted in these communities by the CIA in the 1980s continue to fuel violence, a dangerous black market and an overriding anti-social malaise. The problem must be tackled at its root and the best way to do this is to turn local people who are the first and most numerous victims of drug violence into those with the empowerment, authority and skills to tackle the problem. Such people should be paid well for their hard work, given prestigious and dignified titles, given the tools to protect themselves, their families and communities free of charge and in the case of undocumented individuals in Latino communities, they should be given every legal document they require so that the message is clear: good people will be rewarded for hard work and action against criminal elements while the criminals will either be sent to their death or to jail.
Duterte has helped give the majority of normal Filipino people their country back and he has done so without fear or favour, without any sort of discrimination and with a simple message that if you are torturing your fellow men, women and children, the tables will be turned.
These lessons can be applied to US law enforcement so as to end years of mistrust between ethnic minority communities and the authorities while helping to elevate the position of good people who rise to the challenge to rid their cities of the plague that is narco-gangsterism and violence. This is a win-win solution that represents the only realistic way to make America’s urban landscape safe ‘again’.