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merchant of death

They were the precursors of bootleg industry during the Prohibition.    But times have changed and liquors are no longer illegal, as a matter of fact it is even a formal part in diplomatic circle as a toast during vin d’honneur.


And then the arms race and the industry of warfare became a million dollar commerce.  Thereafter, narcotic trade came into the picture.  At the onset, even the underworld was divided as far as illegal drugs are concerned.  Mafia groups could not even unite and would even cause rupture in their operations if only to pursue illegal drug trade.  It was however recently when those involved in narcotics business would win in capturing a large consuming audience over and above gambling, prostitution and other worldly vices.


Philippine drug enforcement agencies estimate the illegal drug trade in the country as a one -billion -peso -a -day industry.  It is even greater and bolder than any other commercial venture in the country.  In other countries, like Columbia, illegal drug industry is even more feasible than government contracts.  Drug lords in that country, out of braggadocio, were even offering their government to pay off all its debts!  There was a period in political history when a country would have elected a leader using illegal drug funds, hence the term narco-politics.


Those at the forefront of illegal drug trade in their battle and would clash with law enforcement find themselves at the end of line.  Some would successfully elude the law, some would find compromise and skirt penalty through legal machination and others would bear the brunt of the country’s anti drug laws.  The latter would become recipient of harsh penalties as prescribed by law.


Those who would be sentenced and made to serve time, the so called drug lords, would also be known as the new merchants of death.  They are legally tucked in the bowels of our society, transformed into a stat in prison and made to live along with  the scums and scoundrels of society, at times integrating and leading the pack if only to survive in a homogenous setting.


One day, one of them would brave to have an audience in my office, with me as prison administrator.  I am not in the habit of calling any prisoner.  Doing that would mean that I need something from them.  That is the usual impression.  And so I would require anyone if they have some problems or matters to be cleared which could no longer be addressed by ranking officers, my office is open.  And so there was this inmate whose name sounded foreign who braved to see me in my office.  Foreign prisoners are afraid of prison authorities.


The inmate stood at attention in front of my table, to his right was a prison officer watching over his shoulder.  I motioned for the inmate to sit down.  I always see to it that every time I allow an audience from an inmate, his summary prison record has been forwarded already so that I know his profile already beforehand.


The inmate before me was the dreaded drug lord, haunted and hunted by government agents for years until finally he was bagged, prosecuted and convicted to serve time for life.  That means he will spend the rest of his youthful lifespan in detention.  On that occasion, the one opposite my table, live as he was, is someone referred to as a merchant of death.


But he begged off from the impression.  According to him, “I am just an ordinary businessman.  That is true, I trade on narcotics.  I know it is bad for the body, deleterious to health even.  But the only difference with those whose business is cigarettes, booze and high cholesterol food is the law.  The law decrees that addictive drugs are illegal to be dispensed.  All others, our products limits life, disturb the mind and endanger health.  But who cares.  There are consumers and business principle requires that one should proceed where money is whatever is the situation.”


He continued, “If I am a merchant of death, so is the cigarette salesman, the liquor store owners and even hotels for that matter and those vendors in market place selling pork skin (chicharon)!


Now, how do I make one out of this encounter.  The inmate appeared before my office complaining that there are persons in authority who would badger him every now and then.  His things would be frisked repeatedly.  He would even be cajoled to come across as in buying peace of mind.  In his previous milieu, he was a god, dispensing and distributing drugs to those willing to trade.  He was the most respected in his sphere.  He can procure everything that he fancies.  He can have almost everything from power to influence.  Everyone has a price tag.  He knows the amount of the good and the bad.


Until he encounters one of his kind.  One who intends to replace his godly post in the underworld.  And he is sold in the black market of law enforcement.  Result:  conviction.  He is one among several inmates, who, on a yearly basis, would flock and comprise almost the other half of the entire prison population.  This sector pejoratively called by their kith and kin, this time around, as merchants of death.


And, all he wanted was to serve time, alone without duress and threats.



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