Punchline

 Expose drug-using barangay brass

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

 

THE protest rally staged in Balungao by town hall employees and a number of barangay residents last week was most unusual.

It was aimed at the police station and the rally was led by Mayor Philipp Peralta himself, no less, to protest the arrest of barangay officials who were the subject of warrants of arrest and the listing of his allies in drugs watch list.  It appears that the mayor resented the arrest of his political allies in the barangays and want to stop the police by alleging political harassment.

Gosh, some politicos are still not into DU30’s CHANGE and REFORM agenda. The mayor is not even in sync with the strategy of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) – to focus on clearing barangays of illegal drug trade.

PDEA Director-General Isidro Lapeña on Friday, June 30, said, “We have shifted our strategy to the barangay drug- clearing program because this is where the drug problem thrives. Dito ‘yung kalakaran ng droga. Ito ‘yung nakakaapekto sa mga mamamayan natin sa grassroots,”

I couldn’t agree more. The success of the war on drugs on the ground lies in making barangay kapitans accountable.

Lapeña even warned barangay officials who refuse to help in the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign that they will be charged in court for dereliction of duty.

So it’d be foolhardy for Balungao Mayor Philipp Peralta to even attempt to justify his protest over the listing of barangay officials in the drug watch list and the arrest of the barangay officials (his supporters) caught red-handed in possession of illegal firearms.

In fact, the mayor’s rally contra town’s chief of police unwittingly opened himself now to being a person-of-interest suspected of coddling armed groups and drug personalities.

Kudos to P/Sr. Inspector Raymund San Nicolas, OIC-police chief for standing his ground.

*                *                *                *                *

MANDATORY DRUG-TESTING. Alaminos City showed the way when it became the first city in the region to be cleared of drugs because the city’s officials had the common sense and the political will to launch their campaign vs. illegal drugs by requiring all barangay officials to be tested of drug use.

Alaminos Mayor Arthur Celeste certainly knew his stuff when he ordered barangay officials to take the drug test.  Determined to have his city that depends highly on tourism revenues, to be declared drug-cleared at the soonest possible time, he knew that the shortest way to do it was to make the barangay officials cleared and accountable. He was absolutely right!

He, like everyone else, knows that nothing gets past barangay officials, not even a silly domestic spat among couples or a missing dog, above all the identity of those who sell and/or use shabu and marijuana in their respective communities. Ask those who thought they could get away with unpaid bills in the neighborhood store, and they will tell you there’s no such thing as ‘secret’ in the barangay hall.

So, without belaboring the drug situation in all the towns and cities in the province, show me a barangay that’s still drug-infected, and there’s a barangay official (possibly a drug-user as well) protecting it!

It is for this reason that this corner has been calling on Board Member Jinky Zaplan, as president of the the province’s Federation of Liga ng mga Barangay, to stop merely paying lip service to the war on drugs since she filed that resolution in the provincial board last year expressing the Liga’s support for the President Duterte’s war on drugs.

But even as Liga federation president, Ms. Zaplan could not duplicate Alaminos’ Liga’s support for the mayor’s mandatory testing of all barangay officials. Could there be a conspiracy in her town, Sta. Barbara, to protect the illegal drug trade in the barangays there? Her husband is the mayor of the town! 

In Dagupan City, there are still three barangays that remain drug–affected that could only mean there is a conspiracy to keep the drug trade going in those barangays.  It’s time to call out all the officials of Barangays Pugaro, Calmay and Poblacion (Two and Three) as suspects.  In addition, there are already reports shabu trading has resumed in earlier cleared Barangays Pantal, Bonuan Binloc and Bonuan Gueset. (How was it possible for Bonuan Binloc to be easily cleared when it was tagged as the major hotspot of drug trading in the region for at least 5 years?)

Mayor Belen Fernandez and the City Anti-Drug Abuse Council would do well to protect their gains in the war on drugs to follow Alaminos’ example and finally require all barangay officials to be tested for drugs.  

Eleven months into the war on drugs, the provincial government and police cannot actually assume to be winning the war on drugs in Pangasinan for as long as the barangay officials are not cleared of drug-use themselves.

It’s time the provincial board gets into the act by legislating the mandatory testing of all barangay officials if the Federation of Liga ng mga Barangay is not prepared to impose it on its members.

Paging Guv Pogi, PD Ronald, Vice-Guv Ferdie and BM Zaplan! It’s time to crack the whip before more are exposed to be protectors of the illegal drugs under their very noses. 

*                *                *                *                *

LIFESTYLE CHECK ON DEPED OFFICIALS Here’s a fair warning to DepEd officials in the province.

Three former DepEd officials in Western Visayas are now facing trial at the Sandiganbayan for flunking lifestyle check.

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the filing of a petition to initiate forfeiture proceedings for ill-gotten wealth against a former (DepEd) regional director who conspired with his wife and daughter, who served as a former Education Supervisor II and as Data Controller III, respectively.

A mere close examination of their Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) from 2007 60 2007 did them in. They were found to have accumulated undeclared properties amounting to P11.6-M!

In its Joint Resolution, the Ombudsman stated that the value of the discovered properties were “manifestly out of proportion to respondents’ salaries.”

*                *                *                *                *

FAKE SSS CLAIMS. I’ve heard of several complaints about fake claimants of SSS benefits of members but I’ve not had the chance to verify these. Well, true enough, on such case was filed in court by SSS itself and the woman who misrepresented herself to claim SSS benefits of others was convicted recently.

The convicted woman misrepresented herself to the legal wife of a deceased member and claimed funeral and death benefits. Then, she misrepresented herself to be the legal wife of another man.

I’ve also heard of members who were shocked to find out that they could not claim benefits due them because loans were made out of their benefits and have not been paid.

SSS members, especially those have not availed of any benefits, are, therefore, advised to take the initiative of checking the status of their membership and benefits. Specifically, ask if any loan has been applied for in their name.