Time for tokhang?

Time for tokhang?

Being linked to illegal drugs in this country, whether as a trafficker or user, can be hazardous to one’s life – especially if the accusation is being hurled by the president of the republic himself.

President Duterte was borne to power partly on a promise of eradicating the drug menace in six months. Into his sixth year, the war on drugs continues to be a priority of his administration, even during an unprecedented killer pandemic.

The past years have seen thousands of people including teenagers shot dead by police in a brutal crackdown on the illegal drug trade. Nearly all of those slain never faced formal indictments; they were apprehended as suspects and killed ostensibly because they resisted arrested and fought back or nanlaban. Several public officials including politicians and barangay captains identified in a so-called narco list were among those who ended up dead.

So people are wondering if an aspirant for the presidency will get similar rough treatment. Last Thursday, President Duterte created a stir by saying a candidate for the nation’s highest post, belonging to a wealthy family and with a prominent father, is a cocaine user.

Last Friday, the President refused to name the candidate. Nearly all the presidential aspirants, however, denied drug abuse and expressed readiness to undergo a drug test. Vice President Leni Robredo emphasized that such a test must be unscheduled to prevent anyone from preparing for it.

While substance abuse is not a ground for disqualifying a candidate, as the Commission on Elections has pointed out, it will be catastrophic for the country to be led by a habitual cocaine user. If there is solid evidence against any drug-abusing candidate for any post in the 2022 elections, anti-narcotics agents should build a case against the person.

When the suspected drug personality is a wealthy person, will law enforcers apply tokhang – knocking on the person’s door and inquiring about an alleged cocaine problem? How this case is handled will indicate if critics of the anti-drug campaign are correct in lamenting that it has been selective, with poor drug pushers killed, and the wealthy allowed to run for president.