A nation’s dilemma: Part One

Most people would think that the craziest president in the world right now is Donald Trump. I do not think these people have ever heard of the name of Rodrigo Duterte, the current president of the Philippines. While Trump has done crazy things, like claiming that he would build a great wall across the Mexican border, he has never received a warning about violating human rights from the United Nations. And he never told the United Nations to not f*** with him. Duterte did it and other crazy, stupid things as well.

My nation’s president seems to delight in making obscene and highly inappropriate comments. Aside from giving quite the colorful reply to the United Nations, he has also joked that he would pardon soldiers who raped women by claiming responsibility for it. He also proclaimed that he would pay people 500 USD per communist they killed and has likened himself to Hitler. Hitler, the man who killed over 3 million Jews and was one of the instigators of World War II. For some bizarre reason, this man, who appears to have never heard of the life-saving advice “Think before you speak.” is now the president of my country. While he has irreparably damaged the image of the Philippines with his lewd and brash words, his choice of words is the least of my nation’s problems.

Duterte has spearheaded the “war on drugs” in the Philippines. Other nations would attempt to jail drug users, pushers, and lords and try to stem-off the drug trade through socially acceptable means. Instead of heading to jail, some drug users could be sent to rehabilitation centers, giving them a second chance at life. In the mind of this strange man, a “war on drugs” also means giving the go-signal to kill people who are related to the illegal drug trade. He is firmly entrenched in his stance. When the United Nations came upon his doors shouting “This is a violation of human rights! A crime against humanity!”, he bluntly said, “Crime against humanity? In the first place, I’d like to be frank with you. Are they humans? What is your definition of a human being?”

With this this policy in mind, he mobilized the Philippine National Police to perform anti-drug campaigns, such as “Oplan Double Barrel” – an operation that was performed against high-value drug targets. In addition, he has also encouraged civilians to take up their own arms and to brutally punish these drug personalities.

The result? 12,000 Filipino lives snuffed out in a matter of 14 months.

The Philippine National Police killed 2,555 Filipinos. The other 9,445? Slaughtered by vigilante groups through extrajudicial killings, killings which are performed without any legal or judicial sanction.

A victim of extrajudicial killing left on the streets, dead (the carboard sign says, “I am a drug lord.”)

Now, Duterte wishes to give 42,000 guns to the public in order for them to effectively combat crime and drugs. His harsh and unforgiving anti-drug campaign is still ongoing and has lowered the number of drugs users in the Philippines. The drug personalities are being snuffed out one by one and the public knows better than to start doing drugs, as the fear of being targeted by an extrajudicial killing runs high. In fact, a 2016 Social Weather Stations survey reported that 78% of Filipinos feared that either they or someone they knew would be assassinated via an extrajudicial killing.

Duterte is on his merry way to winning his drug war through the use of fear and violence.

Behold, the President of the Philippines in all his glory, holding a gun

Yet, the anti-war drug cannot solve the dire problem of poverty, a dilemma that affects at least 26 million Filipinos. It cannot build the 30,000 classrooms that children and schools across the nation need. It cannot stop corruption from occurring throughout the government. All it can do is raise a death toll and cause fear. And as history has shown, a leader ruling through fear will not last forever.

In 2022, Duterte’s presidency will end, and a new president will take his place. If this president were to be against such violent policies, such as I am, then where would Duterte’s war on drugs go? To the garbage bin, never to see the light of day again. What would happen to the illegal drug trade? It would probably spring up again and recover, given the right conditions and amount of time. What would happen to all the lives lost, the time and effort spent, the money dedicated to the cause? Utterly wasted.

Everything my nation’s current president has campaigned so much for, gone in the blink of an eye. My nation would be back to square one, with its bloodied hands holding all of its old problems and making space for new ones.

And this is why I can only say, does this war on drugs not sound crazy and stupid?

Until next time.

As expressed by Jose Edelberto de Santiago. Jose is a student of Tohoku University.

Image References:

  1. https://deathpenaltynews.blogspot.com/2017/08/stop-wasting-human-lives-manila.html
  2. https://nypost.com/2018/06/15/duterte-wants-to-give-the-public-42000-free-guns/

Presumption of Innocence

“Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty”. Universal Declaration of Human rights, article 11.

Though it may appear that everything has been said and done regarding the drug-related incident that involved students of Tohoku University last year, the circumstances of the arrests are still a blur. In order to clarify on what grounds the students were taken under custody, the team of The Sentinel contacted one of them for an interview. The student, decided to stay anonymous.

  • According to the police reports, all the students involved in the incident consumed an illegal drug, allegedly cocaine, in parties either in a night club or in the University dorm. Were you actually in one of these? If so, what happened during the event?

“It’s true that all detained students consumed illegal drugs at some point. We did it in the club one night where we got it from Australian guy who was arrested first. None of us planned on doing that, it’s just that we were pretty drunk and at some point he offered us drugs. Also that night, other people who were not found by the police used drugs that he possessed but they were not students and known to me.”

  • When the police took you into custody, were you, at any moment, told the reason why you were being detained?

“It’s their obligation to tell you why they are detaining you and explain it all, so yes.”

  • Were you in possession of any illegal substances when you were detained?

“No. None of the other 6 students possessed or bought drugs. Only the guy who was arrested first and who bought them had drugs when police came.”

  • Did someone, at any moment, told you the charges you were accused of?

“After police arrested a couple of our friends, we suspected we might be next. Also some other students were just brought in for questioning and we were informed that police might arrest us too.”

  • Did the police provide you with a translator?

“Yes. Even during the arrest, and later when I was held in custody, during every interrogation there has to be a translator. “

  • Were you subjected to any form of mistreatment while you were under custody?

“No. Police was nice to me. They tried to help even though communication was a bit difficult due to the language barrier. “

  • Did you have a trial? If so, were you allowed to contact a lawyer?

“We had government assigned lawyers but we didn’t have a trial. On the second day of the custody, police took me to talk to the prosecutor and judge where I admitted that the thing I was accused of was true.”

  • Under what conditions were you left free?

“I believe me and my friends were pardoned by the judge since it was our first crime and it wasn’t anything serious. I wasn’t convicted of anything or paid any fine to be released. Also, I think university assured police that I and my friends will leave Japan after we are released. I also wrote an apology letter to the judge where I stated my intention to leave Japan if released.”

  • Were you officially expelled from Japan?

“I’m not really sure cause after I got out, people from Tohoku University helped me with moving out and all that and after that I went to Tokyo for the airplane. I wasn’t under any surveillance by the police, I met with friends and even spent a day in Tokyo before I left. Also my lawyer told me that we can return to Japan as tourists if we want. Maybe it will be more difficult to get a job and a permanent stay but I don’t think there is a problem to come back and I intend to do that one day.”

As per this statement, the student was treated with respect and kindness while under custody.  However, all of the 6 students were arrested without any physical evidence against them. Whether or not they were presumed innocent is, perhaps, a point open for discussion, but the crux of this matter is if there is no incriminating evidence against someone,  on what grounds is this person arrested?

Disclaimer : The Sentinel is unbiased regarding any incident that takes place within or outside the university. It seeks to state the facts and not take any side. It respects the law of the land but at the same time, seeks to have an open discussion about the same from opposing perspectives.

The Sentinel is not obliged to reveal any details about the interviewee to anyone. No requests regarding revealing of details shall be entertained.

Drugs and controversy in Sendai

The reality, in which all our lives take place, is a complex system subdued to a seemingly chaotic algorithm responsible for creating stories that could deride even the most gifted of writers.  Albeit it concedes, among other altruistic pleasures, joy, realization, and satisfaction; it also leads to their counterparts, deception, anguish, and agony, among other crippling misfortunes. When this dichotomy is balanced or tilted towards pleasures, existence is a perennial gratification. Nevertheless, it can also become an endless punishment when life’s vicissitudes accumulate without enjoyment.  Naturally, for those living in the latter condition, a temporary escape can be the only way to subsist. This ephemeral transition to a blurred reality comes in form of drugs; substances that are able to numb the senses by altering the brain’s chemical equilibrium.

As logic ought to dictate, this dilemma has existed as long as humans have but, interestingly, it is not limited to our species.  From wallabies getting intoxicated on opium, by nibbling on poppy flowers, up to dolphins that have been recorded squeezing a puffer fish, with the intention to make it release a small dosage of trance-inducing neurotoxin, and even without taking into account the consumption of alcohol, observed in several animals, it appears that the dulling of the senses is a natural phenomenon. However, despite occurring naturally, numbing senses and taking hallucinogenic trips for recreational purposes is an extremely sensitive topic in our current society.

Virtually, every sovereign country of the world has laws to punish, the possession, consumption, and commercialization of a myriad of drugs. In some of these nations, the debate on which substances are dangerous enough to be banned, and which can be legally consumed, is on its apogee. Yet in others, like Japan, there is no debate. While some drugs (dangerous and statistically innocuous) are indisputably taboo, from the social and legal perspective, alcohol (responsible of an estimated 6,000 violent deaths on 2017) and Tabaco (linked to several diseases that cause approximately 157,800 deaths yearly) are available throughout the country.

This austerity was brought out into the light when 7 Tohoku University’s international students were linked to drug consumption.  These 6 men and a woman, from ages between 20 to 26 years old, came from 6 different countries, and, except for one, were short-term exchange students who lived at the Tohoku University’s Sanjo-Machi dorms complex. Peculiarly, while all the students confessed to the same misdeed, only 4 suspect’s names were fully disclosed, whereas 3 were kept anonymous. According to the police report, one of them, a 20 year old male originally from Australia, received an international parcel from the UK with 0.98 g of heroin and 6.99 g of MDMA, on last year’s October 29th. This student was taken into custody on December the 6th of the same year; during the raid to his apartment, the police found 0.07 g of heroin and 6.53 g of cocaine.  In addition, he allegedly distributed cocaine, without charge, to all the other 6 students involved in the case. The police stated that the drugs were distributed in the University’s dorm, and in an undisclosed local night club.

Despite the verdict of his trial has not been made public, if found guilty of the imputed charges, he could spend 3 years in an Australian penal facility. The home university of this student refused to comment on the matter. Regarding the 6 remaining suspects, even though they were not charged with possession of any illegal substances, according to the Japanese law, their confession was enough to grant them an expulsion from the university and a consequent deportation. As it could be expected, due to the historical significance of the event, the news became national. A few articles were written in English. However, in contrast with their Japanese counterparts, the discretion, regarding the details of the case, was kept; the names of all the students remained anonymous.

As controversy arose in the city of Sendai, the local Japanese community, despite isolated comments backing up the closing of the university’s dorm, showed support to the uninvolved foreign students of Tohoku University.  Concurrently, the institution issued the following statement, in Japanese: “As the police strive to elucidate the details of the event, we will work thoroughly to strengthen our criteria for accepting international students and provide them with education regarding prohibited drugs”.

Among rumors, gossips, and anecdotes, all conflux on an incident that took place during a trip to Ishinomaki (Approx. 50 kms from Sendai). The Australian student allegedly showed off syringes and a substance he stated was heroin. Others confirm that he was openly stating he was in possession of illegal drugs. Whether these are speculations or not, it was ratified what everyone knows but only a few understand, despite Japanese judicial procedures may seem irregular to some, immigrants are judged by the laws of their new country of residence.

As reported by Manuel Campos. Born and brought up in Venezuela, Manuel is a senior writer for ‘The Sentinel’.