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Making It Our Problem

I am not a religious person and the reformation of any religion shouldn’t be my problem or anyone else’s. I wish I could respect other’s beliefs to the point of indifference. It shouldn’t be my concern how someone else’s superstitions, mythologies, and traditions evolve and adapt to survive in the modern age through reformation and reinterpretation. How their religion can withstand being disproven by science and refuted by universal human rights is not my problem.

But religious people have made themselves everyone else’s problem.

Religious terrorists have murdered, raped, and enslaved thousands across the globe and threaten tens of thousands more. Religious fanatics impose their beliefs on everyone else by seeking impose religious laws and deny others equal rights. Religious tyrants suppress free speech by outlawing it as blasphemy, suppress the freedom of choice by banning apostasy, and suppress women’s rights by imposing “modesty.” Religious oppressors use legend and prophecy to justify occupation, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing.

Let’s recognise that the majority of terrorists, oppressors, and bigots today–be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist–justify their actions with a fundamentalist interpretation of ancient religious scriptures.

There are terrorists who are inspired by Marxism, Fascism, and other non-religious ideologies, but those do not diminish or absolve the actions of religious terrorists.

Denying the link between religion and terrorism, oppression, and bigotry will not make the problem go away.

We must support those who are reforming their own faith. We must recognise the problems within these faiths that these reformers are pointing out.

We may not share their faith or their culture. But it is in our own interest that they prevail in liberating their religion and culture from bigotry and terrorism. We must support reformers and secularists such as Maajid Nawaz, Raif Badawi, and Faisal Saeed Al Mutar.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Secularism0 Comments

Phelim Kine on Duterte’s War on the Poor and Human Rights | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about Duterte, extra-judicial killings, and the Davao Death Squad. Phelim Kine from the Human Rights Watch gives us facts on crime statistics in Davao and Duterte’s drug war. We discuss what people need to look out for as these human rights violations might become more common as the threat of martial law looms.

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

The War on Drugs is Even More Misguided Than You Think

The War on Drugs is Even More Misguided Than You Think

It’s come to the point of parody now that anyone caught criticizing Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs is described as someone who supports drug crime. When the drug war’s death toll is brought up, the conversation inevitably descends into insinuations that you have forgotten about all the victims of the rapists and murderers hopped up on drugs who have gone on rampages throughout the Philippines, making all those Facebook commenters living in Riyadh and working at the Krusty Krab fear for their lives. Or something like that.

Even critics of the drug war concede that drug use is so life-destroying and conducive to crime that, while it may be that the war on drugs is being waged wrongly, we still need to take aggressive steps in stamping out the drug menace. This concession reflects just how deep anti-drug propaganda has seeped into public consciousness. But, once we look at the evidence, we will see that 1) the depiction of drug use as “one taste, forever hooked” is deeply flawed and 2) the link of drug use to violent crime is tenuous at best.

The government has been lying to us about drug use figures, but they have also been lying to us about the very nature of drug use. By looking at the scientific evidence and uncovering the untruths we have been sold about drugs, we also reveal the profound injustice of the drug war and how contradictory it is to any lasting solution.

 

What is addiction?

According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” While, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders describes “substance abuse disorder” as taking large doses of a substance longer than the intended period (e.g. Fentanyl use outside of prescription).

Substance abuse disorder is also characterized by a conscious desire by the user to cut down on use, though they spend more and more of their time to try and acquire the substance. Key to its definition, drug use is considered substance abuse disorder when it prevents someone from performing their major social roles due to activities associated with trying to acquire the substance or due to the use itself of the substance.

There is some evidence of genetic links that may predispose a person toward increased drug use, such as relatively higher tolerance to substances. And, on the matter of “addictive personalities,” although personality traits such as neuroticism and low conscientiousness may have some link to eventual drug use, there is no strong evidence that personality traits can be used to predict drug use.

 

How do drugs work?

The pleasurable effects of recreational drugs stem from how they trigger dopamine production in the brain. Dopamine is not in itself pleasurable, but it is involved in many neurological events that regulate emotion, motivation, and pleasure.

Duterte’s bête noire, shabu (or methamphetamine), also has other associated effects that contribute to its popularity such as: increased alertness and suppressed hunger. You can imagine why such a substance would be popular among people who need to be awake for long hours for work that pays them barely enough to eat. It is little surprise then that the vast majority of Duterte’s victims are poor. He himself has dismissed the drugs of the wealthy like coke and heroin as “not as destructive to the mind” as meth. And that is the issue at hand, isn’t it? Drugs are supposedly so bad that they destroy the mind. Duterte says that drug users are the “living dead.” We’re supposed to believe that drug users’ minds have been so thoroughly corrupted that killing them in drug operations isn’t a loss to the country.

This idea of zombie drug users has taken hold even in the minds of drug war critics, but there is practically no evidence that this is the case. While some drugs such as meth, ecstasy, and mainly the very much legal alcohol are neurotoxins, Yale University School of Medicine’s Sally Yates says,

Yes, addiction changes the brain but this does not doom people to use drugs forever. The most permanent change is memories.

Withdrawal from drug use may be harrowing as the body adapts to the abrupt loss of substance it had grown dependent on. But, some of its worst symptoms are the result of bringing back things that predate the drug use itself and may have even motivated drug use: mental illness is no longer self-medicated with the drug, chronic pain comes roaring back, and severe malnutrition is no longer hidden.

 

What causes drug addiction?

It may be self-evident that drug use causes drug addiction. One hit and you’re hooked for life. This image of the forbidden substance is illustrated by the classic experiment of making rats choose between a button that supplies them morphine and a button that releases food and water. This classic experiment’s result: the rats loved morphine so much that they kept pressing the morphine button until they died of starvation and overdose.

Conclusion: drugs are so bad that you get hooked on it until it kills you. So, our Dear President was right all along!

However, the psychologist Bruce Alexander found severe issues with this experimental design. Mainly, he asked, why didn’t the rats have anything else to do? They were locked up alone in cages and only had food or drugs. To challenge the classic wisdom, he created Rat Park.

In Rat Park, rats were no longer alone. Rats are deeply social animals. This is one of the reasons we use them as model animals, after all. Their behavior and brain structure are similar to humans in many important respects. In this environment, the rats were given the same choice: drugs or food. And, what Alexander found was that even if you force-fed rats morphine and even if they were undergoing withdrawal symptoms, they preferred the company of their other rats and they suffered their withdrawal symptoms together.

The skeptic might say, these are rats. What about people? Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have had a real-life analog of Rat Park.

During the Vietnam War, heroin was widely available to US servicemen. Up to 20% of them self-identified as addicted to heroin. And yet, 95% of these “addicts” went home without relapsing into drug use. This seems completely contradictory to the walking dead description Duterte had for drug addicts. So, how did this happen?

The treatment regimen for these servicemen focused on addressing the physical dependence in Vietnam. The only time they returned to the US was when they had lost the physical dependence on the drug. Leaving Vietnam removed the environmental context of their heroin use. They were able to reintegrate into their communities and they no longer had their surroundings reminding them of their drug habit.

 

Is addiction a disease?

The prevailing view of addiction is that it is indeed a disease. It is defined as a disorder by the DSM, after all. However, many scientists have come out to challenge this view. In the paper Addiction: Current Criticism of the Brain Disease Paradigm, Rachel Hammer and her co-authors wrote,

“…the lack of a molecular diagnosis is a point of criticism for opponents and a source of frustration for scientists.”

In other words, it is actually hard to pin down what addiction looks like from an objective biological standpoint. And, even if we do consider addiction as some kind of disease, it is actually a very treatable one. Most people who use drugs eventually quit.

In the paper Addiction and Choice: Theory and New Data, Gene Heyman of Boston College collected data that showed that remission from drug addiction had extremely high rates for cocaine and marijuana. Contrast this to alcohol dependence, which, as you can see from the graph can reach an average of 20 years for just 50% of dependents to quit. We will learn more about this hypocritical attitude we have toward alcohol later.

 

Are addicts mindless slaves to drugs?

“Ang unang mawala dinha ang cognitive. Mokalit ug istorya, murag boang kay wala na lagi. No sense.”  (The first to be gone is the cognitive. They talk suddenly like crazy persons because their cognitive sense is gone.)

Our President said this. And, I hope at this point you have been convinced that Duterte is no expert on drugs. I hope you are being slowly weaned away by the evidence from this notion that drugs are so especially life-destroying that they turn people into zombies focused only on feeding on more drugs. And since drugs are quite evidently possible to quit, perhaps we should start asking ourselves what is it about society that is driving so many people to take drugs in the first place. Because, it is not simply due to the alleged brain-meltingly addictive properties of drugs.

The neuroscientist Carl Hart conducted experiments on this very idea of the drug-addled meth fiend, this boogeyman so frequently paraded by Duterte and his disciples. Hart housed meth addicts in a hospital ward and gave them the option of taking pharmaceutical grade crystal meth doses throughout the day, or the delayed reward of collecting money by the end of the several week-long trial.

Every day and at different points of the day, Carl Hart would offer the study subjects: meth doses, $5 gift cards at the end of the trial, or $5 cash at the end of the trial. And, contrary to what we were supposed to believe from Duterte and other purveyors of the drug zombie myth, majority of the subjects chose money or vouchers.

In a variation of the study, Hart would up the dosage at levels unknown to the subjects. And, while increased levels of meth persuaded the subjects to start choosing meth again, the favorability of this choice disappeared with higher levels of cash/gift card offers.

Thus, Carl Hart was able to show that “addicts” are actually capable of rational decisions. It is just that the high drugs give is also something they consider. Whether they use meth to delay hunger, to stay alert for late night work, or to space out from the troubles of their lives, meth gives them something of value. And, if you offer them something of equal or greater value, they can rationally make that judgment, even it means delayed gratification.

 

Do drugs lead to crime?

Duterte ran on drugs and little else. There was the side narrative of fighting the oligarchs, and we heard people clearly unfamiliar with the word trying it out for the first time during the campaign period. Of course, Duterte himself comes from a political dynasty tied to various other oligarchs, including the Marcoses. It doesn’t get more oligarch-y than that. Today, nearly everything, from terrorism to human rights activism, has been linked to drugs and drug money by Duterte and his administration.

Despite the government’s own numbers saying that there were 1.7 million drug users in the country, Duterte has gradually inflated these figures up to the current 4 million figure. The basic implication Duterte and his followers make is that drugs users are rapist murderer fiends who will slash your face in their drug-addled haze. On that note, critics are enjoined to have a taste for themselves of what it means to be a victim of an addict since we are so inclined to defend them. But this basic implication of drugs ⇒ violent criminal does not stand up to even the most casual scrutiny. In Between Politics and Reason, Eric Goode of the Stony Brook University wrote,

“Even the fact that drugs and crime are frequently found together or correlated does not demonstrate their causal connection.”

This basic tenet of science may be too abstract, but it is critical to any drug enforcement policy. If drugs aren’t the cause of violent crime, maybe we should stop responding to it so… violently?

In the paper Dynamics of the Drug-Crime Relationship co-authored by Helene White
and Dennis Gorman, some of the findings they wrote would be completely alien to the common wisdom in Duterte’s administration. Their study found that most drug users never commit any crimes, except for the obvious crime of possession. And even for those involved in crime, it was not drug use that initially got them involved in crime.

And while the sha-boogeyman eternally haunts Duterte’s nightmares, it’s actually alcohol that is most associated to pharmacologically motivated crime. Because of what we know about the terrible results of Prohibition, nobody suggests banning alcohol. And yet, we are doing the exact same mistakes for other kinds of drugs. In the paper Psychoactive Substances and Violence, Jeffrey Roth wrote,

“Of all psychoactive substances, alcohol is the only one whose consumption has been shown to commonly increase aggression.”

Further, White and Gorman conclude that it is drug market forces that motivate drug-related crime. Since drugs are illegal, people in the world of drugs create their own shadow economy, complete with pseudo-police and pseudo-states to enforce, which lead to turf wars. Rather than drugs causing crime, it is the very illegality that is most to blame for the violence. But that is not even what drug war cheerleaders are most worried about. They incessantly point to the provably false link between drugs and non-organized crime.

It is also important to note at this point that as Duterte escalates law enforcement response to drug use, so too does the response of the drug market escalate. If the police can kill a mayor in custody, jail a senator with the collusion of convicts with little motivation to tell the truth, abduct a Korean national and murder him in the national police headquarters, execute people and plant drugs and guns without consequence, there is practically no incentive for drug users to ever cooperate. Your death warrant has already been signed. What is left for drug suspects when the cops are at their door but to try to escape by any means necessary?

 

What can we do?

While Duterte has openly mocked the idea of drug decriminalization and while its proponents may point to Portugal as a model of drug decriminalization. We must note that drug decriminalization will not address drug use. It may deescalate violence. It may kill the drug black market. It may decrease drug deaths. But, even Portugal’s experience shows drug use remained identical to neighboring countries.

The UK Home Office found that between the very strict drug laws of Japan and the lax rules of Portugal, “We did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country.” That is to say, Duterte’s tough on drugs stance actually does very little to address drug use. At that point, we might question the justification of the innocents murdered in the drug war as “collateral damage,” when the drug war itself does not even address the issue of drug use. If “drugs corrupting the youth” is Duterte’s motivation for the drug war, the evidence shows that he is not solving the problem in any meaningful way.

It is clear that while decriminalization is no silver bullet, neither is waging a protracted war against drugs. Our response to the drug problem must take into consideration why people go into drugs in the first place and how the criminalized supply of drugs subverts capitalism into a primitive form. There is no simple answer, but we need to have solutions that go beyond what has already taken the lives of thousands of Filipinos.

 

The war on drugs is not just ineffective, it is counter productive

The issue of drugs has been exaggerated in many respects and ineffectively responded to. What the evidence shows is that people resort to drugs as a rational response to personal and social problems, such as poverty, hunger, and mental illness. The trouble is, these are not problems you can shoot your way out of. They are not issues you can solve in three to six months. But, then again, neither was the war on drugs.

Rather than address the social problem of drugs, focusing on the illegality of drugs has made users vulnerable to black market forces as they lose the protection of the state. Worse, they become victims of the state itself as it tries to fight a war that has been failed by more capable states. Compounding this, drug users are vilified by their fellow citizens, leaving them with little else to turn to except fall deeper into the very social isolation that led them to resort to drugs in the first place.

Drug war. What is it good for? The answer is increasingly looking out to be: absolutely nothing.

 

Addendum

The research shown here is not meant to discount the personal experiences of people with drug-related crime. Rather, the studies here give a wider view of how much blame we should levy on drug use, which is: not that much. The strength of the research by scientists such as Carl Hart is precisely rooted in the controlled environments they create in order to isolate variables and to minimize unforeseen effects of extraneous events such as: the influence of other people and material circumstances of the subjects. These studies allow us to focus on matters that can actually address the root causes of crimes.

Once we have realized that drug use is usually caused by social problems, we can focus on creating programs that allow drug users to reintegrate into society and find productive livelihoods in the formal economy. We have to address why people use drugs, and why people enter the drug black market. As long as we leave people in the margins, they will fight to stay alive, even through illegal means.

The plural of anecdote is not data and Facebook comments do not carry more weight, however many, than a controlled study. For every drug user that rapes or murders a neighbor, there are many more who have done the same and didn’t use drugs, or were drunk from alcohol, which research shows has a stronger link to violent behavior. Singling out all drug users for the crimes committed by some is not very different from targeting all undocumented immigrants in the United States because of their perceived criminal nature.

We are living in a dark chapter in Philippine history. There is an active democide happening at this very moment. Duterte has already functionally dehumanized drug users in the country. Thousands, if not millions, celebrate the murder of Filipinos every night in the streets. But, if we continue to shed light on the great injustice of the drug war, perhaps we can at least make it a brief chapter.

Posted in Politics, Science2 Comments

Ending Fake News From Within

Ending Fake News From Within

If journalists and publishers want to end fake news, they must start with themselves. For far too long certain conventions have been perpetuated that, under scrutiny, have no place in any legitimate journalistic publication.

Stop publishing horoscopes, feng shui tips, and other beliefs definitively disproven by science such as traditional Chinese medicine, crystal healing, cleansing diets, homeopathy, etc. If you must feature pseudoscience, then be critical and get the findings of legitimate science authorities.
Stop making stupid people famous. Banish high society columns where people are featured simply because they were born rich or pretty. Being born rich or pretty is not an accomplishment. If you want to feature someone well bred then feature a pure breed pig, horse, or dog instead. If they are philanthropists then feature their advocacy. If they are tycoons then feature their business success. If they are well dressed then feature the designers. If they travel then feature the destinations. If they are artists then feature their art. Obsessive hoarding, be it any material possession or wealth, beyond any practical need, is a symptom of a sick mind. High society columns are most often amoral, highlighting plunderers and tax evaders, oppressors of laborers and peasants, as if they were worthy to look up to.
Stop showbiz gossip. Judge actors and musicians for their artistry. If they are not true artists then don’t feature them at all. Stop exploiting the private lives of stars and stop being exploited by celebrities who want media attention.
Stop featuring blind item columns and anonymous writers. Everyone must practice accountability and transparency. Journalism is only for the brave and those that can’t name names better shut up.

Stop prostituting the lifestyle section. No upstanding publisher would demand the front page news section or the business section to compromise their journalistic integrity and sell out to make money for the publication. So why demand that of the lifestyle section? The newsmen who most often run publications often look down on the lifestyle section as insubstantial and yet they are the ones who often expect the lifestyle section to sell out and make money for the publication. Cultural reportage is extremely relevant and important. Corruption, poverty, rape, bigotry, and vanity are all perpetuated by flawed culture. Environmentalism, gender equality, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, accountability, honesty, ambition, and creativity are all values that can and should be promoted by arts and culture.

Stop judging by popularity. You don’t publish something because people want to read it and watch it; you publish something because people need to read it and watch it. Stop judging articles by the number of likes, shares, or reads. These are the wrong metrics. If popularity was the basis then all publications would be sensationalist tabloids with sexy pictures, clickbait headlines, and hoax news.

Stop giving equal legitimacy to opposing points of view when this misrepresents reality. For example, It’s not right giving equal voice to a lone dissenter denying man-made climate change when the vast majority of the scientific establishment confirms the existence of man-made climate change.

Be plainspoken. Don’t say he “misspoke” if it was a deliberate and often-repeated lie. Call a spade a spade.

Get real writers and journalists. Don’t get an editor-in-chief because he or she represents the aspirational ideal of your readership or audience—glamorous, accomplished, etc. Don’t get columnists just because they are famous. If they can’t write well or have nothing worthy to say then they have no business in your publication.

Posted in Language, Politics0 Comments

Deconstructing the Most Common Dutertian Arguments

Deconstructing the Most Common Dutertian Arguments

Have you ever posted something critical of the administration? Were you attacked by dozens of online trolls calling you a drug addict or a yellowtard? Did you scratch your head when you got asked questions like “Why don’t you grieve for their victims instead?!!”Well then this list is for you. Here is a deconstruction of some of the most popular arguments/questions that have been used in this drug war so far

1.) It’s ok to kill drug users because they murder and rape: One problem with this argument is that unless you could prove that ALL drug users kill and rape, you’re saying that it’s ok to kill any member of a group because of the crime of some of its members. That’s like saying it’s ok to kill any Muslim because almost all terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims. Another mind altering substance, alcohol, is also responsible for a lot of crimes including murder, rape and a lot of car related deaths. In many countries, alcohol related deaths outnumber drug related deaths but I don’t see anyone carrying banners saying “death to all lasengos”. What we do is prosecute individuals for the specific crimes that they’ve committed while under the influence of alcohol.

You’ll find plenty of documentation proving that users of hard drugs like shabu or meth can be rehabilitated (Robert Downey Jr would be an example) and not all of them commit rape and murder. We don’t prosecute people for the crimes members of their group have committed or crimes that we think they are LIKELY to commit. If a certain person was killed by a drug addict then that particular addict should be charged with murder. Other addicts should be given punishment that’s proportional to the crimes that they have committed.

Furthermore are we saying that it’s ok to kill users of Hard drugs like shabu, or are we going to extend this to users of other drugs like cocaine, LSD, marijuana and ectasy. (even dealers of ecstasy have been targeted recently)? Because if you’d look at the numbers, you’d be hard-pressed to find a strong correlation between the use of recreational drugs and violence. Some of the brightest minds in history experimented with drugs. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Richard Feynman did LSD, Thomas Edison and Sigmund Freud did Cocaine and if I may quote Bob Marley, a strong proponent of the herb, “peace, love and hug all trees mawn” –Obviously a peace loving bloke, although I may be paraphrasing him on that

 

2.) Extrajudicial killings are justified because our crime rate has reached national crisis levels: This, ladies and gentlemen, is a classic example of fear mongering. Not so dissimilar from how Bush justified his war on Iraq or how Hitler justified the actions of his Nazi party. You make the populace think that there’s a grave and imminent threat and you can justify extraordinary measures to counter that supposed threat. Duterte’s chief legal adviser even said that the drug problem is now enough grounds to declare martial law. I’d like to think that we’re smart enough not to fall for that. I hope we are. The murder rate in the US is higher than in the Philippines. Rape cases are higher in the UK. In terms of drug use, we’re not even in the top 10 list.  We are being led to believe that we have an extraordinary situation but data will show that we’re nothing special.

 

3.) Why do you grieve for the criminals who are getting killed by the police and vigilantes? Why not grieve for their victims instead? Does it really have to be mutually exclusive? Can’t you denounce both? In the first place, you CAN’T even really say that victims of extrajudicial killings are criminals yet. They’re only suspects and therefore innocent until their guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal court. Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. Even if you were successful in arguing that murderers and rapists deserve death, it doesn’t justify the killing of suspects unless you could prove that they are indeed guilty of murder and rape. Also, violent crime perpetuated by individuals happens in every country. It’s a sad fact but it’s a given. Violent crime that is openly perpetuated/encouraged by the government against its own people is a lot worse and it happens in states like North Korea and certain African countries that civilization has left behind.

 

4.) Unless youre a drug addict, you have nothing to fear: You can tell that to Roman ManaoisRoana TiamsonJulius RabinaJefferson Bunuan and the thousands of SUSPECTS who got reduced to a statistic without getting to the chance to prove their innocence. As recent events have shown, “Top gear justice” aka trial by the mob is quite unreliable. Just because a lot of people think that a person is guilty doesn’t mean that he is actually guilty.If we treat due process as something that can be skipped, anyone can be a drug addict or a pusher and anyone can be killed. The purpose of due process is to determine guilt through an objective evidence-based process, more or less. It can never be perfect but it will still be more reliable than a subjective process based on finger pointing and chismis mongering.

 

5.) The US has no right to criticize the Philippines because they kill blacks: This argument was not made by a teenage girl but by Mr Duterte himself after he was asked by an American journalist a question regarding extrajudicial killings. It’s like that argument with your girlfriend or boyfriend where you try to dig up every bad thing that you’ve done to each other in the past. It is true that there are plenty of cases of white officers killing unarmed black suspects. If Obama endorsed these killings like Duterte does, then we can say that these acts are state sponsored and we should condemn Obama. But Obama hasn’t praised any of these killings, has never endorsed them and has even condemned some of them. The most that you can claim is that there are a few bad seeds in the American police force (they exist in every country) and that they should be tried. A lot of these killer cops have been tried and convicted.

 

6 Human rights only protect drug coddlers and not their victims:– Contrary to popular Dutertian belief, human rights were not invented by yellowtards or by drug coddlers. These rights predated yellowtards actually. The Universal declaration of human rights were agreed upon and ratified by most of the world’s democratic countries including the Philippines back in 1948 so each individual person can have a chance to stand against even the might of the state. A lot of the rights that you enjoy now are inspired by this declaration. It’s not the job of human rights organizations to investigate every crime that happens in a country. That is the government’s job. Now when governments trample on the rights of individuals, such as the right to due process, that’s when they step in. When Duterte said that the UN had no right to criticize the country’s policy on extrajudicial killigs,he was a bit ill informed. Extrajudicial killings are crimes against humanity according to rules that we are a signatory to. Violators can be tried in the international criminal court.
7.) More people have died during the Arroyo and Aquino administrations: Aquino was in office for 6 years, Arroyo for 9. That’s 15yrs combined or 180months.  Duterte has been in office for a little over 2 months. Even if you could argue that more people died in the previous 2 administrations’ 180months than Duterte’s 2 months, it’s kind of a self-defeating argument, isn’t it? 2400 have already died. More than 1000 are from police operations.  You won’t find that death rate from state actors in any administration post martial law. If we were to take his campaign promise seriously, he’s still 97600 short of his goal.

 

8.) Drug addicts/pushers are not human and therefore not deserving of human rights: This is a very dangerous line of thought and shows how far this administration will go to mentally condition the populace into accepting things that most people would find morally objectionable. History is full of terrible examples of what happens when you dehumanize an entire group of people. Japanese internment camps during World War 2, the Jews under the Nazi etc. But again it boils down to due process. Even if you were right that drug users and pushers are not human and are in fact 3-headed demons, unless there’s due process, you wouldn’t know if the people you’re killing are indeed 3-headed demons or just victims of false chismis… or perhaps victims of cops trying to meet their quota.

 

9.) Hundreds of thousands of addicts have surrendered and only 3000 have been killed. This drug war is working: You can completely eradicate poverty in the Philippines by killing all the poor people …that is until small businesses start collapsing from lack of low-cost labor. If you kill all straight men, you will undoubtedly end all penetrative rape  …until the entire human race goes extinct because it can’t reproduce anymore. You can achieve seemingly impossible things if you kill enough people. but extreme measures usually come with extreme side effects in the long run.
I think it’s safe to say that at least in this period of time, this drug war is working. Whether it’s a long term, sustainable solution is another question. But what cost? At the cost of our relationship with our allies? Our image in the world stage, the dignity of our legal institutions, our economy, the moral fabric of the Filipino people… the lives of innocents which we are now quick to dismiss as collateral damage? The drug problem isn’t the Philippines’ only problem. It’s also far from its biggest problem. We’re being conditioned to believe that a lot of more important things can be sacrificed in the name of this drug war.

 

10.) Extrajudicial killings are justified because due process in the Philippines is lengthy

Our legal process is indeed lengthy and therefore it should be improved not circumvented. Imagine if all the resources that go towards hunting down and killing drug suspects were aimed towards fixing the judicial system instead? We can look at our neighbors for ideas. For example in Japan, judges are given incentives for finishing cases early. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, they have some of the most quickly resolved cases in the world. If you argue that the judiciary is not necessary, you’re moving the conviction process further down the chain …or up the chain or anywhere else other than where it should be. If it came down to your sentencing and your life depended on it, would you rather be sentenced by a judge, a vigilante or a police officer?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are a lot of police officers who are honest and morally upright. But as someone who’s had regular encounters with kotong cops, I can personally attest that not all of them are angelic, incorruptible enforcers of justice. A lot of them can’t even handle our traffic situation without extorting a few hundred pesos from motorists for nonexistent violations. What makes anyone think that they are equipped with the right faculties to become judge and executioner?

 

11.) You have no proof that Duterte is associated with any of these extrajudicial killings: This is probably the most frustrating point to argue against because our dear president flip flops on so many things that he says. He once admitted that he was the Davao death squad only to deny it later. He says he’ll pull us out of the UN only to say later “joke only”. Doesn’t it bother anybody that he gets to spew verbal diarrhea locally and internationally and it’s on us to interpret if he’s serious or not?  Here are a number of things he said that he hasn’t taken back yet:

1.) “I don’t care about human rights”

2.) “If you know any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself as getting their parents to do it would be too painful”

3.) “Drug addicts are not human beings”

4.) “Where will this lead us? Where do I get the billions (of pesos)? My budget is only this much… that’s why in the meantime you have them killed,”
5.)“When I become president, I’ll order the police and the military to find these people and kill them.”
6.) “The funeral parlors will be packed… I’ll supply the dead bodies,”

 

These are direct quotes from him and some have actual video footage. He also promised hefty rewards for vigilantism. (50k reward for every drug peddler killed if I’m not mistaken -Maybe that was also a joke but it seems like there are some who didn’t get the joke and took it seriously).  If not admission of guilt, at the very least you can say that it is incitement to violence, no? But leaning a lot more towards guilt, I’d say. These statements alone should be worthy of condemnation. Not only do they show that our administration is morally abhorrent, it shows that the administration is inciting the population to do morally abhorrent acts. Coupled with the fact that the number of extrajudicial killings of drug suspects in his 2-month term is unprecedented, I’d say there’s at least a positive correlation.
Modern history generally doesn’t favor tyrants who kill their own people, even if they claim that it’s for a better cause. Even if Marcos did a few good things for the country, it will not matter because of the thousands that he tortured and killed. He will never be remembered as a hero, a good president or even just a good man. I doubt if Duterte will reach his goal of 100,000 dead drug suspects before his term is over. But if he does, history will remember him as a tyrant who killed his own people en masse. …and we will be remembered as a generation of people who didn’t just let it happen but actually celebrated it. In our quest to rid our society of its monsters, we are becoming the monsters. What a time to be a Filipino.

***

Originally published on September 14, 2016

Update:

I published this entry on my blog a little over 6 months ago, back when the death toll from the president’s drug war was was just a little over 2000. Now, it’s at 8000 and still rising.

A lot of people don’t speak up because they’re afraid of the backlash from the hardcore. It seems like a lot of the administration’s most hardcore supporters believe that loyalty to one’s country involves absolute devotion to its leader, so much so that they do not criticize their president and they do not allow criticism of their president. Any news article or opinion piece that paints the president in a negative light is immediately branded as dilawan, biased or bayaran. Extreme idolatry tends to kill critical thinking and what we’re seeing right now is a level of idolatry that I don’t think anyone has ever seen in Philippine politics.

The rebuttals that i posted were based on basic logic and common sense so it’s pretty hard to fathom how people who are intelligent in other aspects of their lives could use them. Criticism is relatively muffled compared to the roaring applause but it’s there and I believe that it’s growing. I know that I’m not among a lonely few when I say that I’m frustrated, confused and saddened that a lot of Filipinos are dying violent deaths based on faulty logical arguments.

 

Posted in Politics2 Comments

What We Can Do in the Age of Fascists

As the world watched the meteoric rise of eventual presidents Duterte and Trump, Filipinos could not shake the pair’s family resemblance. Both were seen as clowns who only lacked the ridiculous facial hair to complete the cartoon villain caricature. But, when Duterte cussed and bullied all the way into Malacañang, that should have been a clue to us that Trump would do a lot better than what the polls were saying.

Now that Trump has won despite all the ridicule and naysaying, there has been a lot of finger-pointing and self-flagellation among liberals and Democrats. Chiefly, we shouldn’t have been so smug, painting Trump supporters as racist inbreds.

donald-trump-1547274_640

Frequent users of the SJW epithet were quick to blame progressives for being overly sensitive to the Trump campaign’s overt racism and misogyny. Anti-globalists with particular disdain for the United States pointed to “neoliberalism’s” neglect of the American working class. Political nihilists blamed Hillary’s being a corrupt Washington insider for failing to convince independents to vote against Trump.

It is true to some extent that odious self-righteousness is a turn off and does little to convince fence-sitters. But, just like Ken Bone, people who were on the fence about Trump and about the values he validated weren’t fence-sitters for lack of reasonable arguments for either side. Breaking down the Trump voter demographics, it is clear that his base was not full of people left behind by eight years of Obama.

The median yearly income for Trump voters is $72,000, above the $62,000 median for Clinton’s.  Singling out Trump’s poorer voters, only 14% earned less than $50,000. And, as Trump whipped up anti-immigrant sentiment, a Gallup study showed that his average voter was “no more likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration.”

This false narrative of revenge-against-the-elites should remind Filipinos of the lie that the Duterte vote was an anti-elite, anti-oligarch vote. As with Trump, the wealthier you were, the more likely you would have been a Duterte voter. Rather than being victims of the Aquino administration’s “neoliberal” economics, Duterte’s supporters flourished more than their countrymen. Add to that, among Filipinos living abroad, Duterte and Marcos polled highest.

Rather than an uprising of the victims of capitalism and globalization, the wave of nativism and fascism sweeping the world: from Duterte to Brexit to Trump, is a backlash from the privileged classes: the male segment, in particular. It used to be that men could comfortably make misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments without much pushback. Now, progressives can be relied upon to cast light on what used to be socially acceptable but bigoted behavior. In response, there is resistance from the privileged class against “political correctness,” which has now become shorthand for, “I’m not allowed to speak my mind about people outside my group.”

Progressives have been playing identity politics for much of the past ten years, and it has finally blown up in our faces. We forgot that the ruling class can also play identity politics, and play it they did.

We have to realize that though we think we are right to call out oppression, the other side, well-to-do (white) men, are still the ones in charge. And though we feel empowered as the momentum in the politics of language is on the side of progressives, politics itself is still largely out of the hands of the underprivileged, women, and people of color.

To be sure, moralizing has not worked. Even before the elections, Duterte critics unceasingly reminded Filipinos of the carnage he had wreaked on Davao and would wreak on the rest of the Philippines. Every day now, we see photos of people, generally poor, murdered in the streets. Over 4,000 Filipinos have been killed so far and his support has not wavered. And this is on top of Duterte’s misogynistic behavior. In the US, liberals constantly picked apart Trump’s misogyny and his supporters’ racism and racial resentment.

It may seem to many of us that state-sponsored killings, misogyny, and racism are self-evidently wrong, but 2016 should show us that, no, they are not. And, we should have known this from the start.

We were seduced by the religious certainty of moralizing. Yes, you can probably argue from many moral frameworks how homophobia is wrong or how vigilante justice is a net negative on our social institutions, but politics on either side is rarely about reason, but emotions.

Duterte’s key supporters are richer than their neighbors, and so are Trump’s. They are largely isolated from those most affected by murders and racism, respectively. As long as the oppressed remain hypotheticals to them, they will not empathize.

Like Harry Potter’s Dudley Dursley complaining about having 36 presents when he had 37 last year, the privileged classes are lashing out against having fewer words to say and, dare I say it, fewer pussies to grab. It doesn’t matter what you think is fair. If the privileged classes experience the insecurity of their status, they will reliably lash out in the way they have in electing Duterte and Trump.

Schadenfreudists have been satisified in calling liberals smug, and saying that Clinton/Roxas/Poe/etc. offered no alternative, while Trump/Duterte at least offered something new and different. And yet, schadenfreudists have offered no alternatives either.

So, what is left for progressives to do in the face of obvious oppression? If calling bigots bigots and fascists fascists does not work, do we just let Duterte call diplomats white monkeys and faggots (the more appropriate translation of “bakla” when said in contempt)? Do we just let him ogle the Vice President’s legs and cat-call reporters? Do we just let him threaten our right to due process? Do we just let American racists tell non-white citizens to go “home”?

I believe that there is room for multiple approaches. And though we shouldn’t stop pushing back against fascism and call it out when we see it, we must also recognize that it is not a given that our opponents share our values for fairness. This is a lesson we should have learned when we were on its receiving end from religious conservatives. They call contraception murder and secularism immoral. To them, these issues have consequences as heavy as heaven and hell. But, these concerns are incomprehensible to secular progressives.

Some people have called for constant dialogue, though I think that this is not as effective as it makes us feel better about “going high.” What is left to say on the matter of state-sponsored murders? What is left to say on the matter of barring Muslims from the US? I believe that the strongest argument against the fascistic urge, rather than play their winning strategy of populist dishonesty and demagoguery, is quiet perseverance.

We organize. We defend our institutions, our environment. We stop congratulating ourselves over recognizing our faults. We have to fight against the normalized fascism we already see in the Phlippines and will soon see in the United States. And, critically, we have to do better than Hillary Clinton. We have to do better than Mar Roxas or Grace Poe. We have to offer something better than status quo.

Trump’s and Duterte’s voters did not vote against a better future. They believed they were making the best choice available. And, I am sure both administrations will improve on the previous in some, perhaps many ways. Nevertheless, a vote for a fascist is a vote to define who gets to share and who does not in that better future.

Yes, quiet and continued perseverance is not sexy. It’s not noisy. And it’s not going to promise anything big by 2020 or 2022. But, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. In the long view, the world is only getting better. Let’s not forget that over a million people more voted for Clinton than Trump and Duterte won by plurality, not by majority. We just have to make sure the world exists long enough for it to get even better.

Posted in Politics, Society0 Comments

The President Asks, What If There is No God?

The President Asks, What If There is No God?

In a recent speech, President Rodrigo Duterte raised the question, “What if there is no God?” He asked this in light of criticism of his stance on the war on drugs and the reinstatement of the death penalty, particularly to those who argue that only God can take a person’s life.

As freethinkers and secularists, we applaud the President’s recognition in that speech that not all Filipinos believe in a god. This might be the first nod toward non-believers by any sitting Philippine President in history. He also raised the valid problem of suffering in a world supposedly designed by a benevolent god.

Perhaps the Filipino public might begin to ask themselves that question, “What if there is no God?” How differently would we organize our lives if there were no God? How would our values change as a society? How much importance would we place on social justice in this life, rather than postponing it to a supposed afterlife?

We believe that it is about time that non-believers were recognized as equal citizens in this Catholicism-dominated country. Despite the Constitutionally protected separation of Church and State, too many politicians have used their belief in God to justify their policies, with Senator Manny Pacquiao leading the charge.

However, we also decry the misuse of atheism and agnosticism to promote non sequitur conclusions. President Duterte raised the issue of God because he believed that the death penalty would be his answer to the absence of a god judging the living and the dead.

We disagree that imposing the death penalty follows from the lack of justice in an afterlife. On the contrary, the highly likely execution of innocent citizens would be exponentially more despicable in the absence of an afterlife. There is no undoing the execution of an innocent life. There is no consolation for the wrongfully executed. In the United States, whose system of criminal investigation is already much more advanced and scientific than the Philippines’, an estimated 4% of defendants on death row are still wrongfully convicted.

And even when we are certain of a person’s guilt, the application of the death penalty should take into account its probable disproportionate imposition on the poor since the drug trade is often a refuge for those abandoned by society to fend for themselves. There is also little evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against crime, when it can also serve to escalate and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

If there is no God, if there is no afterlife, justice in this life is of supreme importance. There would be no God to sort out the dead. Only we can provide justice, and there is no justice without due process.

Posted in Advocacy, Featured, Organization, Politics, Religion, Society1 Comment

Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

Dealing with Duterte Supporters | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about dealing with Duterte supporters. We discuss the best ways to deal with political disagreements and whether it is right to judge people for political opinions.

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

Duterte Catcalls | FF Podcast

Duterte Catcalls | FF Podcast

This week, Sharmila Parmanand joins us to talk about Duterte’s recent catcalling incident. We talk about freedom of expression and what we should expect from the President of the Philippines.

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

FF Podcast 106 (Audio): Flores de los Alleged Criminals

FF Podcast 106 (Audio): Flores de los Alleged Criminals

FF Audio Podcast 106 - Flores de los Alleged Criminals

We talk about the suspected criminals paraded around in Batangas. We also discuss the basic right to due process and why it’s necessary for a functioning society.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Politics, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

FF Podcast 104 (Audio): 2016 Elections Post-Mortem

This week, we talk about the results of the elections. We discuss “moving on” and the next steps for the Philippines during the new presidency.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Politics, Society0 Comments

2016 Elections Post-Mortem | FF Podcast

2016 Elections Post-Mortem | FF Podcast

This week, we talk about the results of the elections. We discuss “moving on” and the next steps for the Philippines during the new presidency.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Society, Video0 Comments

Candidate Duterte and the New President Syndrome | FF Podcast

Candidate Duterte and the New President Syndrome | FF Podcast

This week, we wrap up our election series with Candidate Rodrigo Duterte. We lay it all out in this final episode before the elections. We also talk about the New President Syndrome and why participating in politics doesn’t end on election day.

 

Links
https://www.hrw.org/report/2009/04/06/you-can-die-any-time/death-squad-killings-mindanao
http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/apr/18/the-war-on-drugs-has-failed-time-to-stop-fighting-and-start-thinking
http://opinion.inquirer.net/94123/ones-walk-away-davao
https://youtu.be/kuq_uf9vN_8?t=59m50s

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Politics, Video3 Comments

FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

FF Podcast 102 (Audio): Candidate Poe and Strategic Voting

This week, we continue our series on presidential candidates with Grace Poe. We talk about whether her inexperience is an asset or a problem. We also talk about voting strategically.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Politics, Society0 Comments

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