July 29, 2016

Duterte’s Drug War: Where's the Logic in 400 Deaths?

Philippines, a killing field? Here’s for the 0.2% [Star], before they foam at the mouth.

In barely a month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted into staggering and unprecedented 420 alleged narcotics-related killings since June 30 [Inq]. Most, if not all, of these killings are blamed upon Duterte. After all, it was he who started the fight, right?

"Shoot him and I'll give you a medal," Duterte said, according to its the wire service, the [Washington Post] reported.
(FEATURE IMAGE:  The corpse of a person executed "Encintado" Style. The reader will find out in the succeeding sections why ThinkingPinoy chose that image.)

ThinkingPinoy (TP) admits, Duterte’s words don’t help him a lot in his public relations campaign. What caught TP’s eye, however, is the phrase “according to its wire service”. That Washington Post article was based upon a news wire from the Associated Press (AP) Philippines.

In this article, TP will examine the facts surrounding these 420 deaths and put them under the microscope.

Just for 15 minutes of fame?

The first question is: "Is 'Shoot him and I'll give you a medal' the only thing he said at that time?

The answer, as usual, is "No," so what exactly did Duterte say?

Duterte, speaking to a crowd in a campaign rally, said:
“Feel free to call the police, or do it yourself if you have a gun… In an arrest, you must overcome the resistance of the criminal. And if he fights… (if) he fights to (the) death, you can kill him. Just follow that. Only if your life is in danger and the criminal is armed and hostile, shoot him, and I will give you a medal.”

Duterte’s speeches in all his campaign rallies follow essentially the same outline, so it’s safe to say that he said pretty much the same thing throughout the campaign season.
Duterte basically encouraged the public to (1) seek help from the police, or (2) carry out a citizen’s arrest, or (3) kill the criminal if criminal is armed and hostile to a point where the citizen’s life is in grave danger.

Quick Question: Is this even legal?

In a 2006 speech, former trial court judge and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said [PNP]:
Under the Rules of Court, Rule 113, Section 5 [LawPhil], a warrantless arrest, also known as "citizen’s arrest," is lawful… when an offense has just been committed, and (a citizen) has probable cause to believe, based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances, that the person to be arrested has committed it.
So there’s legal basis for Citizen’s Arrests. Duterte’s words were not an outright order for a regular citizen to magically turn from a person who minds his own business into a Rambo-Terminator love child.

Context and Money

If that were the case, then “human criminal rights” advocates should also advocate for additional funding for mental health institutions. Because the idea of regular citizens throwing away a relatively quiet existence to turn into a vigilante, just for a medal, just for 15 minutes of fame, is just crazy.

That wire, however, conveniently ignored the words surrounding that sentence. As to why, it’s best to ask the Associated Press, though one thing’s for sure:
A controversial statement that’s more open to interpretation attracts greater internet traffic, and greater internet traffic means more revenue.

Money talks. It is a source of conflicts of interests among journalists [TP: Dear Karen Davila].
Take for example journalist Karen Davila’s 2012 interview with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario regarding the South China Sea arbitration case. Davila failed to ask del Rosario how Philex Petroleum’s business interests affected the decision to initiate proceedings. This is despite the fact that del Rosario is closely identified to the company having been part of First Pacific since early 2000s, leaving it for the foreign affairs stint, and rejoining it shortly thereafter

This would’ve been a classic case of incompetence, if not for the fact that Davila admitted four years later that she bought Philex Stocks at that time, stocks that could have already been in her possession prior to the interview. Why would Davila open a hydrocarbon-rich can of worms when it’ll hurt her investments?
But it’s not just about money, it may also be about cognitive bias [TP: Duterte’s P Guevarra].

Take for example Rappler’s article “Rodrigo Duterte’s 386 P. Guevarra Property”, where Rappler subtly insinuated, based on their inside source, that Duterte’s skillful exploitation of legal loopholes allowed him to hide ill-gotten wealth – the San Juan Property in this case – from public scrutiny.

After a bit of sleuthing, ThinkingPinoy found out that the controversial property was bought using Duterte ex-wife Elizabeth Zimmerman’s funds. With the annulment of their marriage, their assets have become separate and unrelated.

But Rappler decided to publish the story without so much as an SMS inquiry to the Duterte camp. Rappler will never admit to incompetence, so it can only be attributed to cognitive bias. If Duterte gave a convincing alibi, such as the one stated above, the article would’ve been less interesting or worse, less of a fit to the Rappler’s prejudices.

With that said, the reader may be thinking, “On the drug-related killings, anybody can easily fling allegations of cognitive bias and conflicts of interests.”

ThinkingPinoy concedes, hence the following sections.

Duterte killed them and that’s it?

ThinkingPinoy admits that the first suspects on these drug-related killings will be the Philippine National Police (PNP), and it has been mentioned and quasi-analyzed countless of times by tens – if not hundreds – of news outlets. The problem, however, is that most of these news outlets have forgotten a basic logical concept: the process of elimination.
The “Process of Elimination” is a method to identify an entity of interest among several ones by excluding all other entities. For example, suppose a Phenomenon X can be caused by Reasons A, B, C and D and nothing else. Reason A causes Phenomenon X if and only if Reasons B, C, and D have been invalidated.

Now, let Phenomenon X be “420 drug-related deaths in July 2016.” Reason A is a given: “Summary executions by Duterte and the PNP.” We will let that sit there for a bit while we ask the question:
Are there any other plausible explanations?

After all, it’s the question that Philippine’s Big Media companies seemingly deliberately fail to ask. #KumaKarenDavilaBa.

REASON B: Cleaning up evidence

Before he assumed office, Duterte said some policemen may be killing their accomplices in drug trafficking to ensure they will not be implicated in the criminal activities [Star].

The administration is now investigating suspected policemen, with the tip-off point being Duterte’s shocking speech where he publicly accused five police generals of having links to the illegal drug trade [CNN].
Narcopolitics is alive and well in the Philippines, with incidents reported in as far back as 2001 [Star]. Former Interior Sec. Joey Lina even acknowledged this in 2002 [Star]. Since that admission, it is incumbent upon the government to do something about it, but it simply ignored the issue.

In May 2010, authorities were planning to investigate Liberal Party (LP) National Treasurer and Quezon Governor Rafael Nantes after the discovery of a drug transshipment and manufacturing base on Icolong Island in the province [Balita].

Nantes died in a chopper crash a week later.

LP bet Noynoy Aquino won the 2010 Presidential Elections, and nothing was heard about Icolong Island eversince. ThinkingPinoy did a google search for “Icolong Island” news articles published after Aquino’s inauguration on 30 June 2010. There were none [Google].

Fifteen years after Lina's admission, the government anti-drug agency PDEA admitted in February 2016 that "they have no data to gauge how serious is the threat (sic) of Narcopolitics in the country.[MT]"

An LP-led administration with "uninvestigated" drug links made sure it stayed that way.

What’s the point?

Duterte won the presidency with the suppression of drug trafficking as one of his campaign’s pillars. His decades-long track record also shows his “hate for drugs”. In short, this is a president who’s hell-bent on neutralizing the drug menace.

If I were a public officer who’s into drugs, I might as well cover my tracks before that Mindanawon sits in Malacañang.

And by “cover”, TP means “kill his underlings”.

If you want to learn more about Philippine Narcopolitics, you may check “TP: PNP Generals and PH Narcopolitics.”

The Duterte Administration has already pointed out this angle yet it seems that Philippine media men conveniently ignored it.

REASON C: Falling profits.

This month, PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said in Filipino, “Drug dealers are killing each other because some fail to pay their dues. That’s why some drug lords in Bilibid call their hitmen and order these dealers killed. [GMA]”
SIDE NOTE: Under the previous administration led by Pres. Aquino, the New Bilibid Prison turned into a shabu (meth) laboratory, as the present administration investigates alleged “Shabu Tunnels” where inmates cook meth for sale and distribution outside the facility [Inq].

Let’s take a look at “Drugs, Crime, and the Justice System” by the US Department of Justice’ Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [BJS 1992]:
A reputation for violence is the dealer’s best guarantee that his business transactions will be accomplished as agreed upon… Those who do not pay what they owe can expect to be disciplined violently or killed… Dealers often fail to pay because they were cheated or robbed or the drugs and/or money was confiscated by law enforcement.

Now, imagine what would happen,  or has happened, after the PNP burned on July 15th 180 kg of shabu (meth), worth Php 1.77 billion [MT]. Many Bilibid VIPs wouldn’t be very happy with their sales agents.

Did Philippine media explore this possibility? No, so far. It's too complicated for them, perhaps.

REASON D: Inter-Cartel Violence

Illegal drugs is a lucrative industry and “early adopters”, such as the first several of the nine Chinese drug cartels [Star], have benefitted the most as they operated with negligible competition. The problem? When competitors want a slice of the pie.

There are eleven major drug cartels operating in the Philippines, and they can be classified under three categories:
  1. The Sinaloa Drug Cartel, hailing from Mexico [MT]
  2. Nine Chinese Drug Cartels, hailing from Mainland China [Star]
  3. The African Drug Cartel, hailing from the Western African Continent [MT]

Hence, the logical question to ask would be, “Have they started to kill each other to gain larger territory?”

Bloody inter-cartel violence rooted on territorial disputes is not new. Let’s see how the the Sinaloa Cartel works [DailyMail].
In 2015, Israel Hinosa revealed he killed members of rival drug cartels under orders from the top honchos of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, for as little as $30 (Php 1,500) per assignment. He was addicted to heroin and crystal meth, and he would indulge in these drugs to numb post-assassination psychological trauma.

Hinosa was a “sicario”, a desperate individual who became ruthless killers for the narcotrafficking industry and in his case, for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sicarios were an integral part of the mass murders ensuing from the Sinaloa Cartel’s declaration war on the Juarez Cartel in 2007, where more than 20,000 people in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico lost their lives in the next five years.

Yes, 20,000 people were killed in a span of just five years because of the war between the Sinaloa and Juarez Cartels. Since 2006, over 100,000 people have died in Mexico because of the inter-cartel wars [WaPo]. The Mexican cartel wars were so bad, they deserved a movie with an A-List actors Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin in the cast [IMDB].

And who happens to also operate in the Philippines? The Sinaloa Drug Cartel.


Masking Tape Executions

The way many of the recent drug-related deaths were carried out shows a pattern:
A dead drug pusher lies on a pool of blood, wrapped in duct tape (masking tape), and with a conspicuously placed sign showing “I’m a drug pusher” or something to that effect [Inq].

Is this some newfangled method of a hyped-up police force? That’s what many news outlets would like to suggest. A deeper search, however, shows that masking tape executions has already happened several times in the past:
  1. June 2008: Five (5) in Nueva Ecija and Bulacan in [NPT]
  2. July 2008: Three (3) in Ifugao [PIA]
  3. Jan 2009: Two (2) in Batangas [ABS]
  4. Feb 2011: Two (2) in Navotas [ABS]
  5. April 2011: Two (2) in Sampaloc, Manila [GMA]
  6. June 2011: Three (3) found separately in Quezon City and Manila [GMA]
  7. Aug 2011: Three (3) in Quezon City [GMA]
  8. Sept 2011: One (1) in Navotas [ABS]
  9. June 2012: One (1) in Batangas [TFC]
  10. Nov 2012: One (1) in Manila [Star], another (1) in Quezon City [Inq]
  11. April 2013: One (1) in Quezon City [Abante]
  12. Aug 2013: Two (2) in Bataan [HGL]
  13. Oct 2013: One (1) in Makati [TV5]
  14. Aug 2013: One (1) in Manila [Abante]
  15. Nov 2013: One (1) in Manila [PROGUN]
  16. Jan 2014: One (1) in Bataan [HGL] and another (1) in Caloocan City [ABS]
  17. March 2014: One (1) in Quezon City [Star
  18. March 2014: One (1) in Pasay [MT]
  19. April 2014: Two (2) in North Cotabato [Preda], another (1) in Quezon City [PP].
  20. May 2014: One (1) in Malabon [News5]

ThinkingPinoy believes 35 corpses [T.Y. Sass] should suffice for Big Media's witch hunters, but in case they want more, there’s [THIS], [THIS], [THIS], [THIS], [THIS], [THIS], and [THIS].

Masking tape executions happened frequently in the past, and all within the Aquino administration. That is, the problem of wrapped-and-labeled executions, instead of a Duterte invention, is something Duterte inherited from Aquino.

The question, however, is who did it?

Mexican Drug Cartel “Best Practices”

Masking tape executions are a trademark of the Mexican Drug Cartels. Mexicans call these masking tape executions as “Encintado”, a term referring to a dead body found suffocated in packing tape [Kirchner 2014].

Quoting from the “Dying for the Truth: Undercover Inside the Mexican Drug War”:
The hooded men brutally beat the woman and wrote on her clothing: “I am an extortionist at La Linea’s service”. The woman was found dead…her head encintado (suffocated in packing tape) and riddled with bullets.
Image taken from Dying for the Truth: Undercover Inside the Mexican Drug War
If Big Media still isn't satisfied with that, here's six more corpses [BB]:

These are six semi-naked encintado corpses with signage that reads:
Eso les va a pasar a todos los extorsionadores, roba carros, violadores, dedos, chapulines. Atte. El nuevo Cartel de la Sierra

Translated in English:
This will happen to all extortionists, carnappers, rapists, snitches, rival drug dealers. Respectfully, the New Sierra Cartel.

And who operates in the Philippines? The Mexican Sinaloa Drug Cartel.

Is it possible that the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, which hails from Mexico, is simply applying its “Best Practices” when it expanded operations to the Philippines?

Now, let’s take a look at Inquirer’s recent front page image:

LAMENTATION A weeping Jennelyn Olaires hugs partner Michael Siaron, 30, a pedicab driver and alleged drug pusher, who was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen near Pasay Rotonda on Edsa. He was one of six killed in drug-related incidents in Pasay and Manila yesterday. RAFFY LERMA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Learning more about Mexican cartels is too much work, so let’s just blame it on the government, right? Simply blaming Duterte is easier. It requires a lot less thinking.

The Bottom-line

Let's recall:

The “Process of Elimination” is a method to identify an entity of interest among several ones by excluding all other entities. For example, suppose a Phenomenon X can be caused by Reasons A, B, C and D and nothing else. Reason A causes Phenomenon X if and only if Reasons B, C, and D have been invalidated.

In this article, ThinkingPinoy enumerated four possible reasons behind the 420 drug-related deaths:

A. Duterte’s fault, a.k.a. Rappler’s and Inquirer’s favorite
B. Public officials trying to clean up evidence
C. Drug lords killing non-performing drug pushers
D. The Sinaloa Cartel trying to establish authority locally
Hence, the logical question would be:
Has Big Media shown that Reasons B, C, and D are invalid?
No, it has not.

Then logical follow-up question would be:

So why did Big Media choose Reason A?
There are four possible answers: 
  • Low neuron count,
  • Journalistic incompetence,
  • Cognitive Bias, or
  • Conflict/s of Interest.

TP would've employed the "process of elimination" on these four, but this article is running long.

However, let TP end this article with this:
Dear Big Media, respect is neither demanded nor bought, it is earned. And at the rate you're going, this is bad news.

Aika, anong masasabi mo, puwede na ba 'to? (ThinkingPinoy)


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