Drugs are bad for you. Society would mostly support stiffer penalties against people who deal drugs and who use them. However, what the Philippines have done in their war on drugs has been totally over the top and has created a totally new problem in the country.

Quick crash course on the problem at hand in the Philippines. Rodrigo Duterte became president in June and since then he has waged total war on drugs. He legalized the killing of drug dealers and drug users. When he came to power he said he would “be happy to slaughter” millions of Filipino drug users and peddlers.

Now, normally I am in favour of heavy punishment for something that a person should not be doing in the first place. I believe that a harsh penalty for something like this is a really good way to discourage the crime that you are trying to stamp out. For example, if getting caught Jaywalking had a year’s prison sentence attached to it, jaywalking would most likely die out. People would realize that jaywalking is not worth a year of a person’s life. The same principle applies here.

That being said, the problems created by Duterte’s policy have far outweighed any perceived benefits. By taking morality and basic human rights out of the equation, Duterte has allowed the rise of paramilitary groups and gangs. By legalizing the killing of drug users and dealers, all a vigilante group needs to do when they wipe out a rival is to say they were connected to drugs and this would automatically make their actions legal. Since the policy was implemented, over 7,000 people have been killed and not all of them had direct ties to drugs. That means innocent lives have been lost simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or someone just felt like going on a rampage, and knew how to make the crime look drug related.

Hopefully the police, the paragons of virtue that the Filipino people employ in order to keep them safe and uphold their laws are above mindless killing. Well they are not. In October, the Philippines’ police force kidnapped South Korean business man Jee Ick-joo. This man had no ties to drugs but was none the less kidnapped, beaten and strangled, not by vigilantes roaming the streets, but by police officers assigned to the anti-drug task force. The anti-drug policy has been put on hold temporarily while the corrupt officers are rooted out. But the problems persist.

T.S. Eliot said that “Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” This is an excellent example of that.  Trying to get people not to use drugs is a good thing. But by trying to do something good, Duterte has denigrated his society into chaos. Not only has he gone overboard with the punishment for drug use, but he also has created a serious vigilante problem inside of his country, as these people answer to no one and wield unchecked power.  The fix is easy. All Duterte needs to do is condemn paramilitary killings and make it a crime. Then he can get back to his war on drugs, hopefully with slightly more lenient punishments while creating a safer environment for his people.

The punishment for drugs should be more lenient. Doing drugs is not a human rights violation, but murder is. Killing someone for using drugs is far too extreme a punishment. If you really want to send a message, make it long years in prison, but killing someone for drug use is too much.  While his war on drugs is not going to end, Duterte is still responsible for the people of his country and he should keep their collective best interest in heart.