Book of Lemmas Prop 2“law enforcement authorities from 34 countries, coordinated and supported by Europol from its headquarters in The Hague… targeted organised crime groups and their infrastructures across the European Union (EU) in a series of actions in hundreds of locations, with the cooperation of Eurojust, Frontex and Interpol.” (link)  – strangely enough, I hardly noticed anything in the mainstream press in late September 2014, when 1027 were arrested, 599 kg of cocaine, 200 kg of heroin and 1.3 tonnes of cannabis were seized, among other things.

Now maybe, for all I know, Oplan Tokhang is really working in the Philippines with all its shock and awe. But I somehow doubt it, even if I admit that living in Europe for a long time has cured me a bit of the showbiz, action-movie mentality that still seems to dominate the Philippines. But I can imagine that Operation Archimedes will have had typical components of a modern police operation against organized crime – including monitoring communications of high-level suspects and follow the money. Not concentrating on low level users, dealers and local kingpins.

The Philippines of course has an issue with its bank secrecy laws – it could for all we know be a paradise for all kinds of illicit money (link). And if one looks at what happened during the Bangladesh Central Bank heist (link), who knows where the major drug lords supplying the country now have their money? All they might have to do is lay low for now and wait for better days. Does anyone really believe that a major drug lord will have shabu in his home? What is being done about controlling the flow of chemicals (and medicines) that could be used to make that drug?

There are probably two aspects of the drug problem in the Philippines – the local and the broader aspect. The local aspect is that of drug users and especially addicts committing crimes to finance their habit, or because of the mental state induced by drugs. The broader aspect is that of illegal money corrupting society as a whole – which could be handled with better money laundering laws.

Playing cowboys and Indians – plus playground politics, will not solve these issues long-term. But is doing more harm, with lives lost and reputations damaged. Time to think of better solutions?

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20. August 2016