As a doc who worked in clinics serving rural poor in the US, I am aware of how drug use numbs the brains and destroys families because mom is too high to care for the kids while dad is high and too careless to hold a decent job. And in drugs I include alcoholism, although unlike Marijuana alcohol has a fast “half life” and so does not sedate the brain for days or weeks after stopping chronic use.

I have little tolorance for the 1960’s spawned drug use to feel good and get high.

Yet in hurting people, the difference between using drugs in order to live a normal life by prescription versus taking drugs to escape and feel good is sometimes a fine line, but we docs do it all the time. Yet without counselling or even deeper therapy, the danger is that drugs will numb the brain so the patient never confronts the real problem, which is often confronting sexual abuse or the courage to leave the toxic environment. Indeed, encouraging drug use is one way to stop people from getting organized to change things, whether it is in Dicken’s London or with desperate housewives.
So one of the newer undercurrants of poverty in the Philippines are those old numbing standbys, meth and pot. Yes, they are illegal, but here the laws are loosely enforced. Yes, there are honest hardworking cops here, but not enough to enforce every law, which is why every store has a security guard with a rifle outside, and every rich person lives in gated communities, and those of us who don’t either have vicious watch dogs or (illegal) guns. (We don’t have guns, since none of us can shoot. But we do have Poochie to guard us…he bites).
Many of the crimes here are felt to be due to illegal drugs.

Marijuana is grown in the mountains of Northern Luzon. Like the poor in Colombia who grow cocaine to benefit their families, those in the mountains of northern Luzon often are seduced into marijuana growing to make ends meet. It is the “green gold”, in contrast to actual gold mines or Yamashita’s gold which is also rumored to be found in mountain caves. Yet this doesn’t mean that the poor wish to legalize drugs . They may grow the stuff, but don’t want their kids to use it.. (Like in the US, it is those who don’t see the social problems of drug use are the ones who shrug and say legalize it.)

The problem for these families is economics. Yes, they can live like their ancestors, simply and frugally, but the young don’t want to…so where do they find money to buy clothing and radios and a decent house? Selling rice and vegetables? Not really. After all, we can grow rice cheaper here in the plains, and who wants to buy highland onions when it is cheaper to ship them from China than to drive them over poor roads to Manila? Those in Banaue rice terraces can sell their rice at three times the normal price as a gormet item, but even with that and the tourists, there just isn’t a large enough market for 60 peso/kg rice when our local rice is 24pesos, and we can import rice from Viet Nam even cheaper.

Hence the temptation to grow “green gold”.

So like Capone’s Chicago, the tentacles of drug (and gambling) money go deep and make the local climate of corruption worse, since it involves some in the police, the army, and of course unnamed local politicians/businessmen who rarely get exposed.

And with marijuana plantations hidden in the mountains, there is a danger to those who stumble across the fields.

When I used to hike in New Mexico, we were warned to stay on the hiking paths to avoid the large marijuana fields hidden in the mountains.

So I was not shocked when I heard the rumor that the American Peace Corps volunteer Judith Campbell’s death last month might have been drug related, when she strayed off the path and stumbled onto either a drug field or drug dealers. Is the rumor true? Who knows? But the hints that drugs might have been involved is hinted in this news story:

Ganir said that while they have verified that Duntugan had an enemy, they want to see why Duntugan reacted so violently. “Base sa statement ng witness, meron silang alitan. Isip niya that time ang kagalit niya … Tingnan natin kung may history ng marijuana o bawal na gamot (Witnesses said he indeed had enemies so we want to see if he has a history of drug use),” he said.

And this article says no fingerprints on her possessions were found, and that the victim’s blood was not found on his old clothing. In the Pinoy rumor mill, reading this between the lines means the reporter hints of a coverup:

Juan Duntugan, the possible suspect behind the killing of US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell, remains as such despite the absence of fingerprints and blood from the material pieces of evidence examined by the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory.

So is Duntugan the killer? Is he the only killer? Was it an accident? Was he high on Shabu (meth)? Or is Duntugan the fall guy for the murder by several men? Did Judith Campbell stumble on a drug deal, meth lab, or (more probably) marijuana field, and was she killed by those guarding the fields to stop her reporting the incident?

Who knows. You see, if you keep asking questions, you then go into things like who was benefitting from the drug money. Politicians? The local communists? Those involved withh the Muslim “insurgents”? Rich businessmen?

Even in New Mexico, I never saw a reporter brave enough to look into these things, so during election season when pesky politicians and reporters in Luzon are being killed why should we expect any local reporter asking such questions to live long enough to find the answers?

But like any good story where the truth is covered up, the rumor mills go on and on…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her webpage is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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