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Is this the end of Duterte’s politically-led war on drugs?

Nico Ravanilla, Leonard Sexton, Dotan Heim

As the campaign to replace President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for a limited time is in full swing, what will happen to his infamous “war on drugs” is being talked about. Actively confronting drug dealers and users was the cornerstone of Duterte’s 2016 campaign. Duterte primarily fulfilled what he promised — a brutal crusade that killed thousands, alienated allies like the European Union and the United States, and prompted international investigations into human rights abuses.

Initially popular, drug control campaigns have lost support over time as more and more Filipinos have become afraid of being inadvertently targeted by themselves and their acquaintances. A contradiction in police reports that three teenagers died in 2017 caused a wave of protests. According to a recent survey, up to one-third of respondents who claimed to support the war on drugs in the survey forged their tastes because of fear.

Duterte himself turned his attention to a similarly brutal campaign aimed at curbing communist “terrorism.” In response to the changing political situation, current presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and current vice president Leni Robredo have announced that they will make changes to the war on drugs. Each of them aims not to be labeled as “vulnerable to crime,” but hopes not to emphasize what was the apparently brutal crackdown that alienated the growing part of the population. The risk of prosecution from the International Criminal Court is also increasing.

How has Duterte been able to implement this constitutionally questionable policy with such brutal efficiency over the past six years? And why do police make it harder to get rid of other crimes by keeping witnesses away and stick out for policies that can expose police officers to retaliation? Many presidents invaded the Malakanian Palace with grand plans, but most were stranded in the face of quiet opposition or inadequate capacity in the state’s bureaucracy. The control of the Philippine National Police is complicated by the fact that under Philippine law, local mayors “exercise operational oversight and control” against the police rather than the national authorities.

Although international discussions have focused on national authorities, the implementation of the war on drugs is actually driven by about 1500 municipalities in the Philippines, whose mayors actively or quietly curb the war on drugs. Used discretion for. The choice of strategy to adopt was driven primarily by political networks and sponsorship. The mayor, who was part of an old sponsorship network related to former President Neunoi Aquino, chose to delay the war on drugs primarily. They were able to access political networks to help them win the reelection without having to implement such dangerous policies. For many, that was out of the question.

However, the political motivations for conducting the war on drugs were very different for the mayors of those who were small parties, independents, or who were not affiliated with the Aquino Network. These “outside” mayors receive 40% less money from public works funding, which is the main source of funding for local politicians’ sponsorship, compared to established mayors.

Without these traditional resources needed to secure a long-term position in politics, the mayor of outsiders relied on the second option of actively waging a flagship war against Duterte’s drugs. rice field. In the long run it was dangerous to link their destiny to Duterte, but it could allow them to win significant support from the president. Former Mayor Duterte was well aware of these incentives the mayor was facing without having access to a favorable “insider” political network.

It worked. The mayor of the outsider wages a war on drugs much more aggressively than the outsider, signaling Duterte their loyalty and cooperation. Outsider-led municipalities oversaw 40% more drug control activities and were 60% more likely to have police officers kill drug suspects.

This fuss was rewarded. Local outsiders have historically been more difficult to win reelections than insiders, but with great success in the Duterte administration in mid-2019. In previous elections, mayors outside the main political network were 20-30% less likely to be reelected. However, in 2019, the mayor of an outsider who formed an alliance with Duterte through the war on drugs achieved a significantly higher re-election rate than his former insiders.

What does this mean for 2022? Both Robledo and Marcos bring a different political network than Duterte’s new insider. This means that new restructurings are likely to occur after the election. Even if the war on drugs itself is reduced, the president-elect may take pages from Duterte’s book and use local politicians to promote their own signature policy.

A democratic recession in the Philippines may continue. Alternatively, attempts to reduce Duterte-era policies to more progressive alternatives may be successful. But they may be stopped based on the president-elect’s ability to win local allies in decentralized Filipino provinces.

Nico Lavanilla He is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Diego.

Leonard Sexton I am an assistant professor at Emory University.

Dortanheim He is an assistant professor at Florida State University.

News Lens, this article East Asia Forum.. The East Asia Forum is a platform for analysis and research on society related to politics, economy, business, law, security, international relations, and public policy, with a focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Read next: The wealthiest man in the Philippines is hijacking the country’s water. These people are trying to stop him.

TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl).

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