By Raïssa Robles
Business magnate Richard Branson’s post on “Duterte’s war on drugs is not the answer” was a most unexpected post from an extraordinary man.
Branson began his blog post by saying,
“It’s not easy to suppress frustration and anger reading news from the Philippines these days. When President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30th, he vowed to double down on the country’s war on drugs – and double down he did.
Duterte openly called on police and others to kill anyone involved in the drug trade, from drug traffickers and dealers to people who use drugs. This unprecedented and brutal call for people to take matters into their own hands has had devastating and shocking consequences.”
What is this Englishman doing, meddling in our internal affairs?
It turns out that Branson has “friends” in the Philippines who have told him some things we did not even know about Duterte’s drug war:
“Friends familiar with the situation on the ground tell me that watch lists of alleged suspects are circulating, including club or bar owners that are now being considered “drug pushers”, as are politicians representing areas of high drug use. These lists have fuelled the ambitions of trigger-happy gunmen to do as they please. And more people are being killed because the actual drug lords are fighting back and killing people who they think would be whistleblowers. It’s a situation that has spun completely out of control.”
He puts the blame squarely on Duterte. He says f the President:
“But there is no question that his statements led to these atrocities. To me, and many others, these are clear and unacceptable violations of international human rights standards the Philippines signed to uphold.”
He also points out that the number and manner of killings could turn out to be crimes against humanity:
“Given how systematic and widespread these extrajudicial killings are, I wonder how long it will be until someone points out that what has been unfolding are actual crimes against humanity.”
Branson predicts total failure in Duterte’s war on drugs. He explains why:
“All told, President Duterte’s campaign pledge to end crime within three to six months is bound to fail, especially when it comes to drugs. Illegal drugs are a renewable resource. The drug trade is a global trade controlled by criminal organisations who will always find a way to enter the market. Tough law enforcement and zero tolerance will do nothing to reduce supply or demand of illegal drugs in the grand scheme of things. It’s been a bitter lesson for dozens of countries, from the US to Latin America.”
But still, why is Branson concerned with what is happening in a country that is on the other side of the globe? Shouldn’t he just concern himself with #Brexit which would affect his airline Virgin Atlantic and not meddle in affairs he has no business meddling with?
Branson explains why he has taken a moment to call world attention to the rapid spike in extra-judicial killings in the Philippines which Duterte’s words have encouraged:
“As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, I fully support their appeal to President Duterte to:
- Immediately end the incitements to kill people suspected of using or dealing drugs
- Act to fulfil international human rights obligations, such as the rights to life, health, due process and a fair trial, as set out in the human rights treaties ratified by the Philippines
- Promote evidence-based, voluntary treatment and harm reduction services for people who use drugs instead of compulsory rehabilitation in military camps
- Not to reinstate the death penalty for drug offences”
You can read Branson’s entire post by clicking here.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has 25 members from around the globe, including former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Asma Jahangir a human rights activist from Pakistan and a former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions,Pakistan.
Branson’s post has shattered the silence of the most conservative sector of society – the businessmen.
The killings have given the Duterte government much negative publicity worldwide. I myself have received some queries from abroad whether it is safe to do business in the Philippines under the circumstances.
The sector that bears close watching since it will probably be hit first is tourism.
It’s not a pleasant sight for vacationers to go to a country where the newspaper’s front pages are filled with photos of dead bodies lying in the streets of its capital.