Punchline

Unprecedented political antics

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

 

THE quiet town of Balungao is being shaken up by political forces as a consequence of the Double Barrel campaign of the Philippine National Police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency as ordered by President Duterte.

Double Barrel Reloaded keeps a close watch on high value targets in the illegal drug trade and loose firearms – the two top peace and order issues that rankle the nerves of Balungao’s politicos (from mayor, to the councilors to the barangay officials)! To their consternation, PNP has designated an uncompromising police officer as the town’s chief of police, a situation perhaps they have not been used to.

That the tension in the town is palpable, is therefore, understandable. This is noted not only by residents but by visiting local media as well.

The protest rally organized by Balungao Mayor Philipp Peralta after the flag ceremony last July 3 was without precedence and it caught not only the unsuspecting police chief P/Raymund Nicolas by surprise but residents themselves.  To be sure, there have been many accounts of spats and differences between town/city chief executives and police officials in the past yet they remained as civil as they could, choosing to let back-channeling settle their differences. (This was the case with Guv Spines who had his own run-in with then P/Sr. Supt. Marlou Chan as OIC-PD at the provincial police). We’ve certainly not heard of a mayor publicly excoriate a chief of police via a protest rally until the Balungao episode.

What I thought was an even ill-thought, ill-advised reaction was the decision of the members of the town’s Sangguniang Bayan to declare their chief of police as persona non grata for the flimsiest reasons: alleged violation of administrative protocol. I’ve always thought that anyone who deserves to be declared persona non grata is one who was vindictive motivated by corruption, goaded by incompetence and stupidity.

But how did that apply in the case of Mr. Nicolas?  All he reportedly did was to enforce/implement the letters of the law. He arrested barangay officials (whom the mayor and the councilors obviously want to remain untouchable) because the courts issued the warrants against them. He arrested a top drug personality in the town’s drug watch list because he was identified by Barangay Anti-drug Advisory Councils. So what gives?

Did the politicos actually expect Mr. Nicolas, a professional, to play dumb, mute and deaf to crimes being committed in their towns so they can always be assured of the political loyalty (?) of the criminal barangay officials?

I expect the tension in the town to rise further because PDEA, the lead agency in the war on drugs, wants to focus on cutting the demand supply in the barangays.  If the mayor and the councilors want to be reelected with the endorsement of the Duterte administration, they would be well-advised to leave the police chief alone to do his job. Or they can keep up with their antics and risk being chastised publicly with p@#*!

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WANTED: CODE OF CONDUCT. Wonder no more why fake news and fake accounts (trolls) abound here.

It’s official! Filipinos are now among the world’s top Internet users and ironically, in spite of having one of the worst and slowest internet service in the world!

The data provided by Internet World Stats and the Int’l Telecommunication Union – the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies, country reports and Facebook., as of March 31, 2017 indicate:

  • PHL ranks No. 15 worldwide in absolute number of Internet users, with some 54 million Filipinos browsing the web, or a penetration rate of 52 percent of the population.
  • Those ranked just below the PHL are Italy, with 51.8–M users; Vietnam, 49.7-M; Turkey, 46.1-M million; South Korea, 45.3-M; and Thailand, 41-M.
  • Akamai Technologies Inc.’s State of the Internet Report as of the first quarter of 2017 tagged the PHL’s 5.5 Mbps average connection speed as the slowest in Asia Pacific, compared Thailand’s 16 Mbps,Vietnam’s 9.5 Mbps, Malaysia’s 8.9 Mbps and Indonesia’s 7.2 Mbps.
  • PHL ranks No. 100 worldwide in average connection speed. South Korea is No. 1 at 28.6 Mbps. Paraguay is No. 148 at 1.4 Mbps.

We don’t need more data on the status of Pangasinan as a web user to prompt our congressmen to file bills and support the enactment of laws that will improve and expand access to Internet.

The cable television and computer technology were the game-changers in the 20th century, The Internet and smartphones are the game-changers in this century!  For as long as a community is without free Internet access, they will be left behind.  But the misuse of Internet can also damage one community, sector, family or individual with one click if web users do not help to keep its use in check.

I sincerely hope the Metro Dagupan ICT Community finds itself able and competent to help establish and promote a code of conduct in the use of social media among users in Pangasinan.

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HUGE LESSONS. These days, more news are coming out of war-torn Marawi City being sourced from the evacuees themselves.  Of course, the continued growing concern is the dismal support reaching the evacuees.

A more curious development is the expression of regret and lament, despair and hope among the evacuees. The growing sentiment is the regret they have, taking the presence of armed men for granted, the lament that their local government failed to protect them, the despair they feel for their future, the hope that someday soon they will see the last of Muslim extremists in their midst knowing now how easy they could destroy their lives overnight.

It has begun to dawn on evacuees that they were wrong to feel safe in the company of Muslim extremists and that their own reluctance to tell on the latter’s growing presence was partly to blame for the destruction of the city.

This is a lesson for any community that continues to be in denial when confronted with and by the presence of would be troublemakers.  Life cannot be expected to go on as usual if the community does not stand up to protect itself.

Similarly, out here in Pangasinan, the drug menace has been with us for more than a decade but we took it for granted, believing that for as long as one was not affected, it was someone else’s problem.

In hindsight today, if only we had acted then as we are doing today, perhaps there would be less broken families, no bloody deaths and no one gets threats of elimination and intimidation from any sector.

If we are wont to protect the next generations, let us remind them constantly – Learn the lessons of Marawi City and the war on drugs.

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JUST DO IT! So much and too much have been discussed, argued and debated in media and during the public consultations about the planned transfer of the Dagupan City Hall.

It’s time for Mayor Belen Fernandez and his allies at the city council to bite the bullet. The longer they take to that leap of faith, the divide and chasm will get wider emotional and ugly.

Those against will never change their position so the longer the decision and action are made, they get more opportunities to make more dents and score more political points when they shouldn’t.

Embrace the Nike way –  Just do it!