The war on drugs here is being won


By Ermin Garcia Jr.

THE war on drugs in Pangasinan is definitely being won!

While there are only 6 towns and 1 city that have been declared drug-free as validated by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), there are already 35 towns, out of 48, already awaiting validation by PDEA!  And this early, Pangasinan PNP is confident the whole province can earn the status, hopefully the first province to be declared drug-free.

Even as we leave it to the established protocol to officially declare all towns and cities drug-free, what is already undeniably clear is that a big majority of communities in the province have already been made aware of not only of the dangers posed by illegal drugs, but by serious efforts of government to lick the drug trade.

This has never happened in the past. In fact, drug syndicates lorded it over our communities for too long, particularly during the PNoy administration. Policemen and barangay officials freely mingled with the drug pushers with out fear of being accosted by anyone. Even churches of various sects found nothing wrong with receiving donations from benefactors protecting the drug trade.

But the best news about the war on drugs in the province (and in the country) is that most everyone feels that their communities are more peaceful than ever.

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POLITICALLY MOTIVATED? However, what I do find distressing are persistent efforts of the Catholic clergy in Pangasinan, trying everything to discredit the campaign against illegal drugs.

While the same sector was shamefully quiet during the Aquino administration when drug syndicates were able to operate with impunity, it refuses to give the present government the littlest benefit of the doubt that it is doing what it can to protect families from drug syndicates.

Nothing was heard from them loudly protesting the growing spread of illegal drugs in their dioceses, not a pipsqueak three years ago, not today.

Sure, the bishops and Catholic laity leaders were always on hand for photo ops to witness signing of pledges condemning the illegal drug trade but nothing tangible ever came out of their pledges of support.

Personally, I find the decision of the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese to post pictures depicting alleged extra-judicial killings on the St. John Cathedral’s perimeter fence, utterly appalling if not hypocritical, at the very least.

While I do respect any and all criticisms of the war on drugs from all sectors, I find it hard to believe that the series of protest activities being initiated by the clergy against the war on drugs, particularly extra-judicial killings, stems mainly from a morality point of view.

The indications are there that the archdiocese’s activities were, in fact, politically motivated. From all appearances, the archbishop, has been talking, acting and writing like one of the politicos opposed to President Duterte.

Let me cite a few instances.

The political opposition has been spreading the abject lie that EJK victims already number 13,000! The archbishop has been mouthing the same knowing too well that there is no data supporting it. For the record, there were some 3,000 deaths so far recorded during police operations, not 13,000. Not even the Commission on Human Rights has the data to support the 13,000 claim!

Then, the archbishop was clearly shoring support for then embattled Vice President Leni Robredo, she who shamelessly embarrassed the country by openly criticizing the government overseas, when he invited her as commencement speaker for 15 (?) graduating seminarians at the St. John Cathedral. The cathedral was naturally filled to the brim with students of Catholic schools in the archdiocese to listen to her, not to witness the graduation of 15 seminarians.

Then, like most politicians, his special guests during his installation as archbishop were members of the Aquino presidential family, who unabashedly admitted to his being a close family friend.

 I believe the archbishop should be free to act and speak out and criticize President Duterte, very much like what Cardinal Sin did to then President Marcos.

Note, however, that Cardinal Sin detested Marcoses for their insatiable greed for wealth and power. He minced no words in decrying the Marcoses’ abuses but did so strictly directly to the media and not within the purview of the liturgy. In contrast, Archbishop Villegas has been issuing and making statements that clearly tend to undermine government, and these are read during celebration of Holy Masses.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz was credible because he spoke out against the evils of illegal gambling from his office, not from the altar, invoked facts not speculations without any hint of political color or influence.   

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ZERO POLICE VISIBILITY.  The strict enforcement of the helmet law in Dagupan City is becoming a joke.

When speeding young motorcycle riders freely roam the city at night without crash helmets on, it shows how little motorcycle riders regard the enforcement of that law. By speeding through the quiet streets, the riders without helmets are actually taunting the law enforcers to catch them if they can.

Respect in any form is earned so unless the Dagupan City, not just the POSO traffic enforcers, make their presence felt 24/7, sadly, the respect for the law by riders can never be imposed, if not earned.

Without the police checkpoints and roving patrols at night, the city streets are quickly becoming a dangerous place, what with speeding riders taking over jurisdiction of the city’s streets, from Tapuac to Arellano Streets.

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DRUG TESTS FOR BARANGAY KAPITANS. The Espino government has to do more for the war on drugs if it wants the province’s eventual status as drug-free sustainable. 

Unless and until all barangay chairmen are made to undergo drug tests by the PNP Laboratory, there is no saying that barangays will remain drug-free for long.

The drug trade was once a profitable activity in the barangays and both PDEA and PNP have data on barangay officials who were involved as protectors, pushers and users. Understandably, elected provincial officials are reluctant to call out the drug personalities among them since the incumbent barangay officials can make the difference for them in 2019 elections.

But with the postponement of the barangay elections, the same barangay officials who dipped their fingers into the drug trade will continue to hold sway in their barangays.

Note that a number of provincial Liga ng mga Barangay chapters have already manifested their full support for the war on drugs by submitting themselves to drug tests, without exemption.  So far, the province’s Liga have not gone beyond paying lip service to the country’s critical war to save families.

Gov. Pogi’s leadership will make that difference in this effort. Can he make the Liga ng mga Baragany do his bid to take the drug tests like he did?

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