In a recent Op-Ed Section article in The New York Times, César Gaviria (pictured above), president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994 and the secretary general of the Organization of American States from 1994 to 2004, titled his work “President Duterte is Repeating My Mistakes.”
Mr. Gaviria shared with readers his experiences in Colombia with his anti-drugs campaign when he was president, reminding Filipino authorities, specifically, President Duterte of the pitfalls of such difficult campaign.
The former president wrote in his lengthy article the following relative to the Philippines, “While the Filipino government has a duty to provide for the security of its people, there is a real risk that a heavy-handed approach will do more harm than good...extrajudicial killings and vigilantism are the wrong ways to go.
“…bringing the army in to fight the drug war, as he (Duterte) now suggests, would also be disastrous. The fight against drugs has to be balanced so that it does not infringe on the rights and well-being of citizens.
“Winning the fight against drugs requires addressing not just crime, but also public health, human rights and economic development…The application of severe penalties and extrajudicial violence against drug consumers makes it almost impossible for people with drug addiction problems to find treatment.
Instead, they resort to dangerous habits and the criminal economy.
Indeed, the criminalization of drug users runs counter to all available scientific evidence of what works.
“Taking a hard line against criminals is always popular for politicians. I was also seduced into taking a tough stance on drugs during my time as president. The polls suggest that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs is equally popular. But he will find that it is unwinnable. I also discovered that the human costs were enormous. We could not win the war on drugs through killing petty criminals and addicts…
“A successful president makes decisions that strengthen the public good. This means investing in solutions that meet the basic standards of basic rights and minimize unnecessary pain and suffering. The fight against drugs is no exception.”
President Duterte had one-word response to former President Gaviria.