On Mary Jane Veloso, the Death Penalty and the "War on Drugs"
By Reihana Mohideen
Mary Jane Veloso's case has raised some far-reaching questions that need to be discussed by the left and the progressive movement.
Firstly, there's the issue of the death penalty. There are approximately 77 Filipino's on death row internationally and we can be pretty certain that they are not the heads of drug cartels or the corrupt politicians who are in cahoots with them or even the sons and daughters of the elite. As in Mary Jane's case it's the small fry who are the victims -- the mules, poor women and men, desperate enough to be conned and vulnerable to being trafficked.
This is not a coincidence. It's integral to the class nature of the capitalist state that serves the interest of the ruling classes, and the 'justice' system is an integral part of this state. Capitalism is also patriarchal, hence poor women, the majority of the world's poor, are victimized even more cruelly by a patriarchal state.
This is why the left and progressive movement must demand the abolition of the death penalty. In the Philippines today, and the majority of countries world-wide, the 'justice system' serves the interest of the ruling classes and working people and the poor are the victims of it.
French revolutionary Anatole France exposed the hypocrisy of the bourgeois justice system more than a hundred years ago, "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. "
Secondly, there's the problem of the global "war on drugs" campaign. After half-a-century of the "war on drugs" there is now an increasing consensus worldwide that this "war" has failed to protect people or reduce the drug trade. Instead it has increased repression and killed millions of people, built massive criminal empires and wasted billions of dollars.
Even according to the UN secretary-generals’ special envoy on HIV/Aids, to think that a drug free world can be achieved through prohibition and repression is an "illusion".
According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international committee of human rights, legal and health specialists, and a mixed bag of others ranging from former UN Sec Gen Koffi Annan to billionaire capitalists and former heads of government:
- The wholesale drugs market is worth more than the entire global market for cereals, wine, beer, coffee, and tobacco combined.
- Markup is massive — production worth €11.5bn; wholesale worth €83bn, and customer sales €290bn, in 2005.
- Fighting wars — €440m a year for those fighting along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border.
- Between 2008 and 2013, users worldwide increased by 18%, to 243m — one in every 20 people.
- Illegal opium production has increased from 1,000 metric tons to more than 4,000 since 1980.
- Heroin prices have fallen 75% since 1990, even as purity increased.
- The drug control system is unable to cope with the new psychoactive substances being produced daily.
- Money has been diverted from health care and crime fighting.
- HIV and other infections increased.
They argue that it's time to prioritize people's health and welfare first.
This has implications for us in the Philippines. We know that the long arms of the drug cartels are intertwined with big-time corruption in the law enforcement agencies, the justice system and other wings of government and the elite political establishment.
For us the first priority is a war on poverty, the best preventative measure against drugs, not the "war on drugs". A war on poverty entails a war on corruption, synonymous today with elite rule.