The lavish and savage lifestyles of the Colombian cartel are followed in the Netflix hit Narcos, which shows the government’s response and America’s intervention in a country crippled by narco crimes and narco terrorism.
The show centers around the infamous Pablo Escobar, the leading force of the Medellin Cartel, a drug trafficking business that controlled over 80 per cent of the cocaine shipped to the United States. At the height of their success, Escobar was one of the richest people in the world. His wealth extravaganza is played out in Narcos with more than just his material things, but how disposable money was when he burnt $2million to keep his family warm. His wealth and criminal reign was also a reign of terror that lasted nearly two decades and was responsible for more than 4,000 deaths. At the height of his terror campaign was the bombing of a jetliner in 1989 that killed more than 100 people; this was played out on screen at the end of season one. The government’s retaliation brought about Colombia‘s bloodiest years. The war against Pablo Escobar wasn’t limited to just the government. Vigilante groups like Los Pepes carried out murders on drug carriers related to Escobar, suggesting that the Colombian Government were willing to adapt to corrupt methods of justice to rehabilitate the country.
The harrowing and surprising facts that follow the series make Pablo one of TV’s greatest villains, and highlight the brutality of drug crimes to a new millennial age that focuses on ideology terrorism.
But with this education and interest in the brutality of drugs and drug wars, our focus on 21-century terrorism is still directed by the media’s coverage of the Middle East and the war of ideas, of Al Qaeda, of Hamas, and of ISIS. Perhaps this is because they have directly affected us, with terror campaigns placed in just about every Central European city.
The missing story here however, is the war on drugs in the Philippines.
Shocked at Escobar being responsible for the death of over 4,000 people, in just two years, the Philippines’ present drug war has an even higher body count of an estimated 12,000 deaths.
Although the Philippines has a long history of poverty and drug issues, the latter became the most damning issue on Duterte’s agenda when he was elected in 2016. Previously Mayor of Davao, he had spent seven terms cleaning up the district with his controversial methods on handling drugs, with vigilante groups like Los Pepes in Narcos as firing squads. He won despite promoting his controversial programme and therefore believes he has a mandate to pursue the war.
For Colombia, removing drug lords would improve the prosperity of the country. When it comes to the Philippines, the last two years have witnessed one of its bloodiest periods.
But what is the issue with drugs?
Durete declared in his campaign speeches that there were three million drug addicts in the country. However, the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board estimated that there was a total of 1.8 million drug users. Though the exact number may remain unknown, the problem is still considerable. Durete’s hardline stance that if you are even a suspect of dealing or consuming drugs, you should die, is surely a breach of human rights. But the drugs are a crippling problem for the country, and one that the Dangerous Drug Board stresses is something that plagues the poor most of all.
The Philippines’ poverty problem is two-fold. First, is that the country is prone to natural disasters. The Philippines geographical location is situated on the typhoon belt where most of the Earth’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur — most recently and devastatingly was Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 that killed 6,300. Because of this prevalence for natural disasters, there isn’t enough time for the country to rebuild.
Second, the Philippines has a history of inconsistent politics. It has been in and out of martial law, with corruption and political oppression rife — the former averaging 92.09 from 1995 until 2016. Without political stability the Philippines has failed to use its resources for riches, and now in 2018, when most of Southeast Asia has progressed, one in four Filipinos are living in poverty.
Poverty and globalization may create an environment conducive to drug trafficking and crime throughout the Philippines, but that is not the full story. Poverty and globalization have allowed for the buying and selling of not just drugs but people, with Filipinos being forced into domestic work, as war soldiers, and most famously for prostitution. The Philippines has become an international hub for prostitution and commercial sex tourism. Globalization has allowed for even developing countries like the Philippines to have easy access to the internet, breeding a phenomenon of webcam pornography. Amongst its subjects are children, having to perform sex acts online. Not only is the drug war creating an unsafe and inhumane country, it is also neglecting another grave issue: poverty.
Durete came to power pledging anti-poverty measures, promising to ‘transform the Philippines to a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society’, with plans of multi-billion pound public infrastructure transformations and the intention to cut taxes in the hope of attracting foreign investment. But all this ignores the local farmers, fishers and rural workers who dominate the Philippines, leaving them in the cycle of poverty.
Durete, hasn’t been and probably won’t be the last dictator of the Philippines. In an ideal world, there ought to be an international intervention that stops the drug war. NGOs like the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have condemned Durete’s actions; however, political leaders and mainstream media have turned a blind eye.
The British have kept their focus on the break-up with the EU. The Trump administration is interested in North Korea and now Russia over the alleged chemical attack in Syria. Perhaps the Philippines, a small country over the South China Sea, seems irrelevant to the superpowers and mainstream media compared with more immediate threats such as ISIS, the continuing refugee crisis or nuclear power fallout. Quite possibly, the Philippines provides little incentive for intervention until it can make a strong case on Netflix. But ultimately, the world is leaving the Philippines and its people in the shadows of despair.