[STANDPOINT] Illegal drugs and the NIMBY mindset

Nov. 11, 2021

In the aftermath of the withdrawals from candidacy and refiling done yesterday (November 9), chat groups are abuzz with quips about Davao City suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

And if one connects this to the November 6 PDEA and NBI raid on a birthday party gone wrong, the pun seems intended. But I argue that the scope of application of the pun has to be expanded and then reconsidered.

Although it’s been claimed that the war on drugs is a nation-wide effort, the Brgy. Pindasan raid and the succeeding events highlighted the NIMBY (not in my backyard) mentality: that ultimately the problem does not concern the people of Davao because it lies with another locality (in this case, Mabini, Davao de Oro). Never mind if many of the persons involved are associated with Davao City—people who grew up in, lived, or worked in the city.

Is NIMBY the operative thinking behind why the 17 who were detained claimed that the actual partygoers numbered about 50 all in all and that many of them were allowed to walk away?

Has containing embarrassment and fallout that may come from having prominent names publicly associated with illegal drugs become the overriding consideration?

Unfortunately, the NIMBY mindset that rejects, denies, or ignores anything considered undesirable from within one’s turf falls flat in the face of the reality that when it comes to social and environmental problems, we all live downstream.

Challenges like illegal drugs and their effects are not easily contained by politico-administrative boundaries. At one point or another, we all feel the consequences dahil ang sakit ng kalingkingan ay dama ng buong katawan.

The November 6 raid and its aftermath should be an opportunity to uphold the law, lest they become additional proof that the war against drugs of the current administration is really a war against the poor or those who have no economic or political connections.

The following underscore the importance of fairness in the different aspects of our lives:

– In Do No Harm, giving different values to different lives is not consistent with the principle of fairness

– The national long-term vision statement that is the AmBisyon Natin 2040 refers to “a clean, efficient, and fair government”

– Even law enforcers who strive to consistently apply the rule of law are demoralized every time someone is given special treatment by virtue of their status or affinity

– A good sense of self includes a sense of fairness, along with humility, honesty, sincerity and respect, according to the NCCA study on Filipino values; and

– No less than our very own Davao City hymn reminds us that “tayo are Dabawenyo/na tapat at totoo.”

We cannot claim success in addressing a social ill—illegal drugs—and yet, in doing so, further weaken democratic governance institutions and processes.

Unless the real objective is to use the former to allow draconian measures that enable the consolidation of power in the hands of a few. In which case, illegal drugs would only be a straw man intended to hide a bigger monster.

The people of Davao deserve better than be deluded by the view that we no longer have problems with illegal drugs. We cannot be obsessed with protecting political and public image at the cost of lives—both the lives who are not provided access to comprehensive remedies to address addiction and those who had been summarily killed.

A simplistic take on the drugs problem that demonizes those involved may make for good optics and edgy soundbites—going by the 2016 elections, they can even get one elected.

Davao City has a Drug-Free Workplace Ordinance that requires, among others, service-oriented businesses to prepare and submit a three-year Drug Abuse Prevention Plan and conduct random drug tests. While one can say that the city should do more, do better, or do things differently, without a comprehensive, grounded, progressive, and compassionate understanding of the matter and what have been done in response, we will end up just doing anything.

But if we are not careful, we might be manipulated by those who know how to tap into our fears and deep-seated need for security in order to advance and perpetuate their own interests.

Illegal drugs aren’t just a matter of law and order; they can also be approached from the lens of public health. It’s high time we investigate other more effective and life-affirming approaches to drug addiction and illegal drugs.

Whatever our take on illegal drugs, one thing is clear, not in my backyard or NIMBY—which is, in a sense, withdrawal—just won’t cut it, kasi nga illegal drugs are obviously still in the Davao City collective backyard.

And also because—pun intended—BIMBY:

Because social

Ills that are not adequately addressed

May come back to

Bite us in the

Years to come—and more viciously.

Victoria Mags Z. Maglana is a development worker, peace advocate, and convener of Konsensya Dabaw. She is a candidate for Davao City’s first district Representative contesting incumbent Paolo Duterte.

comments powered by Disqus