Punchline

War on drugs, a communication failure

 

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

AS the war on drugs progresses, the war’s critics and detractors have been busy discrediting it in mainstream and social media daily, and I must concede they have been effective to a great extent.

Ironically, the war’s thrust and aims are now being questioned, ignoring what the country had to deal with when drug lords and dealers, protected by barangay officials and politicians, operated with impunity.

It has to come to a point where murders and homicide cases that were normally reported as crime notes in national and local media are now being sensationalized and attributed to the war on drugs.

For all the success and positive impact of the war on drugs, the government now finds itself constantly on the defensive.

With little or no official data being dished out by the government on the progress of the campaign contra illegal drugs in local and national levels across the country, the critics are having a field day pelting anything and anyone that suggests a violation of human rights, any homicide and murder case that involves cops!

Consider how they extrapolate EJKs – without any factual records, they conjure up estimates, i.e. 3,000 cases after 3 months, after one year, their ‘official’ estimate is now 10,000! (And yet, the Commission on Human Rights admit investigating only 555 cases).

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WANTED: COMMUNICATION PLAN. The present dilemma of the government proves one thing: the war on drugs can no longer proceed merely as a police and law enforcement business.  It must be fully supported by a comprehensive communications plan for both internal and external audience whose implementation should be directed by one accountable office.

The crucial point that a communication plan must address is: Do people know and understand that the war on drugs is not about tokhang and killing but a strategy not only to constrict supply and demand of illegal drugs but to rehabilitate victims and reorient communities?

 How many really know that many towns and cities across the country are already being carefully validated to be certified as drug-free? 

When I wrote about the progress of the war on drugs in Pangasinan and posted it on my Facebook account last week, FB regulars residing outside of Pangasinan thought it was about the only good news they heard about the war on drugs, others were in utter disbelief!

PH and the world are missing out on the many truths and facts about the war on drugs.

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ENDLESS DEMOLITION. If our calculation is correct, the deadline set by Dagupan Mayor Belen Fernandez to City Agriculturist Emma Molina to demolish all existing illegal fish pens and fish cages, lapsed last week, in time for the former’s return to the city after her trip to the US.

Frankly, I found the announcement of a new deadline strange since we were given the impression early this year that save for a few illegal fish pens, all have already been demolished. I refrained from making any further comments since to defer to the mayor’s firm declarations.

But the city hall’s press and photo release about the new deadline surprised me initially although I had actually half-expected the proliferation of violations of the city ordinance to happen sooner or later.  How?

Firstly, the city agriculture office (CAO) never fined the owners and caretakers of illegal fish pens, nor filed a single complaint in court against habitual offenders since Mayor Belen assumed the mayoralty post in 2013. Why?

Secondly, CAO never did what it threatened to do – to compel owners of illegal fish pens to voluntarily demolish their illegal structures or be made to pay the costs of demolition by the city government.  Nobody was made to pay. Why?

Thirdly, the city council has always turned a blind eye to the reports of continued operation of illegal fish pens. The “august body” never found it necessary to have the reports probed even by a committee. Why?

Fourth, my sources confirm that a number of fish cage owners are being tolerated by the CAO to construct fish cages beyond the specifications cited in the city ordinance. Why?

And lastly, as many in city hall and in the fishery industry attest, CAO Emma Molina isn’t reporting the whole truth about illegal operations in the city’s rivers and tributaries to the mayor. But why the mayor continues to believe and sustain her is the first wonderment in her administration.

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MORE OF THE SAME. Back to the new deadline announcement that showed CAO Molina personally directing the demolition of illegal fish pens and cages, last Saturday, I chanced upon a fully loaded truck unloading sacks of commercial fish feeds at the foot of the Tanap Bridge on Bonuan Catacdang road.

Why, and where to? I thought Ms. Molina had already demolished the illegal fish pens by deadline? Why would feeds still be delivered if there are no more fish pens that need them?

Note: I also saw a truck unloading some 30 sacks of fish feeds along the De Venecia Highway to a waiting motorboat in July. Was the delivery intended for the illegal fish pens in Pugaro that residents attest never stopped operating?  

Anyway, given the pattern we’ve been seeing, we can expect the same influential suspects reconstructing their structures if these were not spared this time, re-stocking their pens with frys, polluting the rivers, knowing they will not be touched until they are able to harvest and earn a hefty profit without paying the city government anything – no fines, free cost of demolition! It’s the same situation for oversized fish cages. 

Guess who’s protecting them?

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60 YEARS VS. 11 YEARS? The PUNCH was unwittingly flattered by Dagupan’s ‘Aksyon Radyo’ decision to adopt our undisputed claim as “Pangasinan News Leader” since 1999, as its own!

By all accounts, The PUNCH was the source of important news and credible commentaries since 1956!  Your Sunday PUNCH was also the first community newspaper in the country have its online edition.

We made the claim because we knew it, and our readers and advertisers confirmed it. Even our worthy colleagues and competitors conceded it.

And we do know that our Fire Player Gonz Duque, himself conceded this a long time ago when he started to write a column in The PUNCH in 1999.

We called the station’s attention but Aksyon Radyo (I am told) insists it has preferred claim over the tagline since it was not patented. Hmmm…Ok. I wonder what brought this about?

More importantly, what can it show for this claim? Its 11 “legendary” years of operation as ‘Pangasinan News Leader’? I’m certain it can claim a lot, lot more for its 11 years, but not our tag for our over 60 years of delivering the news!

Nonetheless, we congratulate Aksyon Radio for completing 11 years of credible and outstanding service to Pangasinan.

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