Drug syndicates feed on the vulnerabilities of the poor by offering them a product that gives temporary distractions from the drudgery of life and at the same time, serve as the immediate hand against state security forces who harass them and sometimes, even extort monies from them. We often hear of drug lords being praised and being worshipped like matinee idols by the poor who see them as living Robin hoods figures.
The relationship then of these syndicates and the addicted masses can be described as a dependency, not just because of hallucinogens, but based on economics, and security. Those who are at the bottom rung of society get the least amount of government services. Drug syndicates prove their importance to the community by filling in the vacuum. Often, they extend economic assistance to the poor, providing much needed funds in terms of loans and employment opportunities. Unemployed segments of the youth serve as valuable components in the syndicates’ supply chain.
Poor communities recognize the extrinsic value drug syndicates provide for them. Their swift brand of justice attracts those who do not have enough monies to exact justice and likewise, those who are harassed or harangue by state security forces often call upon syndicate members to provide them comfort.
In some communities, drug syndicate members serve as community rules enforcers, especially those in far-flung towns and cities. Syndicates serve as invisible governments for individuals who, due to their economic conditions, most often get the brunt end of almost everything.
Thus, it is not the product that ties drug syndicates and communities together– it is a relationship based on tangible economic, social and security-related benefits. Entangling the link which defines the dyad of syndicates and communities is the one thing that government must first address, before anything else.
Syndicates must be exposed for what they really are–leeches that feed on the blood of the poor and the weak, and opportunists who assume the social role which government is supposed to do.
Realizing this, we find that solutions to the drug proliferation problem assume two natures: first, deprive these syndicates of their mass bases by government intervention, especially in economic and social matters which affect the lives of community members. Heighten the presence of health workers in communities. Devote more time in assisting drug dependents during their harrowing addiction phase and provide job opportunities to community members.
Second, government must treat these syndicates as enterprises which existence depends on the laws of the market. Hence, producers would not dare produce supply without assured markets and financiers also depend their funding based on returns.
What this administration did was the opposite. Instead of marshaling communities to their side, state security forces alienated these poor communities thru Oplan Tokhang. Tokhang disrupted the lives of the poor with a series of violent actions meant to dismantle the syndicates’ grassroots machinery. Termed as “clearing operations” it failed to destroy the machinery because of continued community support.