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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, March 14, 2018
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with Matè Espina

Drug-free Bacolod

Rock & Refuge

Despite the war on drugs that has left thousands dead, the drug problem persists all over the country and Bacolod and Negros Occidental are not spared with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) declaring all 62 barangays in Bacolod not free of illegal drugs.

Just last month, PDEA also tagged Negros Occidental as more “alarming” than Panay with regards to illegal drugs affectation at 82 percent, including Bacolod. That’s pretty high and shows that drugs are present in about 542 barangays out of 662 all over the province.

Local government units are scrambling to come up with programs to show they are serious with their fight against drugs and here in Bacolod we saw the recent launching of “Rehabinasyon,” an inter-agency program for rehabilitating the nation.

This was at the heels of the DILG-led MASA MASID (MamamayangAyawsaAnomalya, MamamayangAyawsaDroga) Task Force just launched last month. This is also different from Operation Tokhang which is police-led or has it been dismantled in the wake of alleged EJKs?

And then of course you have your BADACs (Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council) and CADACs at the city level and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else will come up with another program akin to all these just to show they are serious in their campaign against illegal drugs.

At the national level, the bill allowing the police and the Criminal Investigation Detection Unit (CIDG) to issue subpoenas to drug suspects silently passed Congress, saying this will be primarily used against the rich and the “well-learned.”

I have no issue with that as we can clearly see that among those apprehended by the police, the wealthy are almost always freed on bail immediately and even exonerated due to some technicality as they can afford the best lawyers in town, while the poor and ignorant users and pushers rot in jail.

Just look at some of the high profile cases we had here in the past two years, scions of political and rich families freely roaming around again after getting apprehended in a sting operation.

And then voila, you have the DOJ junking drug charges against alleged drug lords Peter Lim of Cebu and Kerwin Espinosa and the Senate freeing former Customs chief, Nick Faeldon who was also embroiled in the P6 billion shabu shipment from detention at the Senate halls since last year for contempt.

That’s why, despite the initial glee in the launchings of supposed anti-drug programs, these turned comical in the light of these new information and sends a wrong signal to big drug lords that we are actually in lalaland.

It even makes our police and the President, who publicly displayed Peter Lim early on in his term, a laughingstock…..or should I say, we are being made one?

The subpoena powers given to PNP and CIDG ar said to be reserved for very high profile personalities, notwithstanding that the PDEA and the NBI can also serve these subpoenas, so why more powers? Are our enforcement agencies not sharing information with each other? Is this supposedly a competition of sorts? Or are we suspecting these other agencies not doing their jobs properly? These are but some questions being raised along with fears that these powers will be again abused.

I agree with our local officials that there is a need to strengthen community involvement and if so, why not just revisit the implementation of our BADACs and CADACs and see if they are indeed performing. After all, there is a corresponding budget supposedly for their operations.

Those barangays that are in the top priority in drug infestation must be asked to explain, be sanctioned even and for our police to make these areas their priorities too.

Just August of last year, Barangays 5, 24 and 41 in Bacolod were declared “drug-free” by our CADAC, yet just this week, PDEA said no barangay is free from illegal drugs. CADAC has to explain how it was cleared and what measures were placed that did not prevent drugs from coming back.

In Calabarzon, they have a simple deterrent, although we do not know yet the efficacy of this measure, by sticking on signs on homes that are “drug-free.” It’s a simple act but may yet prompt neighbors to frown upon families who stick that on their doors despite the general knowledge that there is a user or pusher there.

At the provincial level, a manual on “Moral Transformation Towards a Drug-Free Province” was launched late last year with the Negros First Federation of Ministerial Association, Inc. (NEFFMA) as prime movers.

The aim of these religious leaders is to “restore decency and love” using words from the Bible as a “tool and spiritual guide towards moral recovery.”

I am not religious at all but I’d take this last option as a better one compared to the alternatives being offered by the national government which is, at the very least, confusing and contradicting.*


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