Mr. Wataru Kusaku, Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Graduate School of International Development in Nagoya University, claimed people’s punitive attitudes against drug users is not only attributable to Duterte’s penal populism but also to neoliberal governmentality.
Kusaku presented last October 2 his field survey where he observed three municipalities in Western Leyte (Albuera, Merida, and Matag-ob) which he has been immersed since 1999 for non-governmental organization (NGO) activities.
“Moral based” selection
He highlighted the destruction of coconut agriculture by Typhoon Yolanda last 2013, arguing that what occurred in the aftermath of the disaster was not merely a passive marginalization of the poor but rather active “subjugation” of the poor into disciplined lifestyles.
Under the ‘Recovery and Rehabilitation Phases’ of NGOs, beneficiaries for livelihood support programs are selected “moral based,” selecting the right people so “beneficiaries do not waste cash for drinking and gambling”.
According to Kusaku, this was one of the reasons why resentment against the laid-back lifestyle emerged. At the individual and household level, the more people became pressed to work hard under stressful conditions for subsistence, the more they came to resent those who waste precious money for vices.
At the community level, the “grouping system installed by microfinance and conditional cash transfer program has strengthened mutual surveillance among villagers against problematic behaviors.”
Finally, at the structural level, the blame for poverty shifted to the immorality of individuals, which Kusaku explained due to neoliberal governmentality.
New moral subjectivity
Along with the change of livelihood structure, affected people have developed new moral subjectivities as disciplined “good citizens” as shown by their attitudes towards the rise and killing of a drug lord mayor in 2016.
Presenting the statements of the victims’ kins, Kusaka noted their accepting and supportive views of the president and his campaign such as “[o]nly bad people are afraid of [martial law], we surely support it” and “[i]f death penalty is restored, the police do not have to kill, which is good.”
A slightly varying statement from an ex-drug user said: “[k]illing drug lords is okay but killing ordinary users is bad.”
“Life was created by the God, not by [Duterte]. He cannot destroy what the God has created,” he said.
Kusaka concluded neoliberal governmentality created a majority of “good citizens” who discipline themselves for upward social mobilization yet are frustrated by “evil others” at the top and bottom of the society, elites, and criminals.
Reo Okawa, an international studies student, said Kusaka’s presentation was a fresh intake into the drug problem
“It looked into the grassroots problem as to how Filipino’s inclination towards supporting penal populism of Duterte spread, with it having also links to the Yolanda tragedy,” he told Atenews.
The forum “Disaster, Discipline, Drugs, and Duterte: Transformation of Moral Subjectivity in Leyte” is another part of the Social Sciences Lecture Series and was held in the Miguel Pro Learning Commons.