By BELINDA CUNANAN
The question on everyone’s mind, including Sen. J. V. Ejercito’s: why can’t PH protest in stronger terms drug-trafficking from China? PH reputed to becoming a drug-transshipment point for other continents.
In a recent weekly radio program Cecile Alvarez and I conducted over DZRH we raised with six-termer representative and former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez that even as the administration wars on drugs—with a number of young people getting killed in the process—the bigger issue ought to be “to close the faucet on drugs from China and entry points down south” before these drugs destroy our youth further.
Last Saturday, Senator J. V. Ejercito went on record in the Inquirer as suspecting that “China is purposely turning a blind eye to shipments of illegal drugs to the Philippines.” Sen. Ejercito likened our current situation to the Opium Wars in the 18th century, when China’s Qing dynasty battled opium-trafficking by foreign traders, mostly British.” Unfortunately, the drug situation appears to have progressed and knowledgeable officials now intimate that the Philippines is becoming a transshipment point in Asia and on to other continents.
Reports from US sources indicate that 70% of drugs into our country come from China, but there is also the production of the prohibited drug in Sabah, with repacking done in Mindanao. Reports further say that some Sulu leaders are involved as importers as well as “runners,” with the trade going on in places such as the National Penitentiary, through some gangs.
Report about drug shipments through our porous southern backdoor gained credence when it will be recalled that earlier in the still on-going war in Marawi, so much drugs were captured by Philippine Army troopers from the retreating enemy (whatever happened to those captured drugs? Were they destroyed?). This was apparently how the war in the south was being partly financed.
In his recent musing on this issue, President Duterte claimed that there are “malignant forces” out to sabotage his administration by attributing the recent killings of youths allegedly into drugs, to the police force which is directly under the Chief Executive. Mr. Duterte last Friday instructed PNP Director-General Bato de la Rosa to look into these “conspirators,” opining that the series of murders of minors during police crackdowns on narcotics are being done “intentionally,” to disgrace his administration.
To date there are said to be some 54 youths who have been killed under the supposed police anti-drug war—quite apart from the more celebrated cases involving the murder of Kian de los Santos, 17, Carl Arnaiz, 19 and Reynaldo de Guzman, 14 (police claim that the DNA of this youth found floating in the river in Nueva Ecija does not match those of his supposed parents). Yet Mr. Duterte thinks that all this could be a series of sabotage moves against his administration—to whip up vehement anger against it.
To be sure, in our murky politics these days, such allegation is not an impossible claim, but it does seem quite remote inasmuch as the President’s opponents in the LP no longer control the state security forces. On the contrary, he appears to have developed a warm relationship with them in his 14-month presidency.
What may have greatly influenced all the recent killings could have been the directives from the President to the police in months past to exterminate drug-addicts, coupled with his assurance that the executing lawmen would get presidential pardon right away. Mr. Duterte could actually have been playing with fire in this regard. According to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, some 54 youths have already perished in the drug war, in addition to the three young people who were recently murdered. There is now so much public uproar over these killings.
The churches have come out denouncing the brutal campaign against drugs. Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David, in whose diocese the slaying of Kian de los Santos occurred, was quite emphatic in protesting the direction of the anti-drug campaign. Then too, in a recent uncharacteristically strong pastoral letter, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle stressed that “We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal. We cannot govern the nation by killing. We cannot foster a humane and devout Filipino culture by killings.”
The latest cleric to weigh in on recent killings was Archbishop Florentino Lavarias of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, who urged the faithful last Sept. 8, Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to pray for the poor as well as for officials and policemen under attack for the bloody war on drugs.
Complicating the problem is the fact that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an agency established by the Constitution to be imbued with sufficient independence, seems to be on the way to being emasculated by the Duterte administration, which treats it with ill-disguised contempt. The administration has refused access of the CHR under Chair Chito Gascon, a P-Noy appointee, to records of recent slayings. The police argue that they need authority from the President—but at this point he doesn’t seem disposed to granting it.
This is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution that assure political independence to constitutional commissions such as the CHR.
One hopeful indication, though, that the Palace might be seeing the light regarding the country’s serious drug problem is the statement of Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella—that the government is doing a “MAJOR RETHINKING” of its war on drugs, after the death of the three minors allegedly implicated in drugs.
The Liberal Party came out with a statement backing up the CHR investigations: Said the LP: “if the government is serious about solving (the drug-related killings), then it should allow an independent, impartial body—the Commission on Human Rights—which is constitutionally mandated to conduct investigation of these killings, so as to be more credible to the public.”
During the Senate hearings on Kian de los Santos’ murder, the PNP, probably reacting to public outrage, initially promised to turn over the records on Kian to the CHR, but to date Malacanang still has to give the go-signal. .
On the other hand, Senator Grace Poe is in the right direction in filing a resolution before the Senate seeking an investigation into the recent “gruesome deaths” of the three teenagers. and into the PNP modus operandi. This inquiry, especially into the workings of the PNP regarding drug control, is badly needed indeed.