Narco Politics by Chemical Disenfranchisement


“Narco-politics” has been mentioned not a few times in the context of Philippine politics. In all mentions, it describes how campaign funds coming from “drug lords” ensures the continuity of the flow of drugs into the community where the elected official’s campaign funds were largely contributed by the drug lords. The contribution makes them beholden to the drug supplier in the same manner that they are indebted to the other big contributors be they legitimate businessmen or otherwise. Jueteng operators are also another source of campaign funding that ensures unhampered operations of the betting game in the turf of the elected official.

But there is another way illegal drugs, Shabu in particular, can influence the results of an election. To appreciate how it can affect the results, two things must be understood: 1st, that Shabu is by far the number one choice of drug of the vast majority of illegal drug users in the country and that its prevalence is such that it is safe to say that everyone has or has had a neighbor, a relative, or a friend that is known to use it or to have used it at one time or the other. The other thing to understand is the effect of the drug on a person. To begin with, it is highly addictive meaning the use of it for just a relatively few times in succession can already instigate a craving that if not satisfied, will produce the withdrawal symptoms identified with Shabu. The different types of narcotics produce different withdrawal symptoms. Many are familiar with stories about withdrawal from heroin or other opiates wherein the person undergoes cold sweat from severe physical pains including diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, sometimes all at the same time.  Withdrawal from alcohol and barbiturates causes hallucinations among other things. With shabu, the most obvious symptom is continuous long hours of sleep from a sleepiness that is almost impossible to resist. There is also the “lethargic” symptom (low-bat), and irritability, but days of uncontrollable sleep is the most pronounced.

There is another aspect to the drug that needs to be mentioned that has to do with its supply and that is the centralized control of its availability by a “force” that is a combination of  big drug lords and top officials of drug enforcement agencies and some members of the PNP who are themselves, engaged in, and profit from, the trade. This “force” could, if it wanted to, cut off supply in a particular community overnight, literally, so much so that within 24 hours, only trickles of it will be available and at a very high price as the law of supply and demand kicks in. This is a fact known to drug pushers in every level, from those that trade by the kilo to the hundred peso neighborhood pusher

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Now, this is how Shabu can affect the results of an election: first, whoever will utilize the scheme must have  command over those that control the supply and more likely than not, it would be the politicians in power. The politician/official would give strict orders to his top cop to stop the flow of supply in areas where he is likely to lose. Conversely, he will ensure a steady supply in areas where he is likely to win. If the supply is cut off in a given area a day or two before elections, the voters dependent on the drug will find it difficult to muster enough energy to go to their voting precincts and line up to vote come election day when the withdrawal symptom would have kicked in. Not only that: the addicted tricycle drivers, jeepney drivers, and other persons designated to bring the voters to their respective precincts, will likewise be temporarily indisposed either because they are asleep or too lethargic to move beyond their homes. The result will be a low voter turn out in the areas deprived of the drug and that could be a barangay, a municipality, a city, a province or even an entire region. In the areas where the drug is readily available and perhaps even lowered in price, voting will experience a high turn out which presumably would be the area where the politician giving the order is confident of winning. On a national level, if only, say, 5% of registered voters that were meant to vote for a specific candidate are unable to vote due to the implementation of this scheme that will cause the chain of events as described to occur, that would translate to a loss of about 2 million votes for the affected candidate.

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If this scenario of “chemically disenfranchising” voters seems implausible in spite of the facts aforementioned above, perhaps we should add here that according to PDEA and PNP officials, and confirmed by United Nations figures as seen on their stats of illicit drugs worldwide, the sale of Shabu in this country has reached 200 kilos (200,000 grams) a day worth P1B in the streets. That’s the daily trade of the illicit drug industry in the Philippines — P1 Billion a day. (A British filmmaker, Martin Butler, who traveled all over the Philippines in 2007 interviewing shabu addicts , believes the figure is actually closer to seven million Filipino shabu addicts.)

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