Punchline

Mandatory drug tests

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

 

IF there’s anything that makes this year’s barangay and SK elections memorable and significant, it is the introduction of two electoral policies, albeit unofficial:

  • The posting of a list by the PNP that identifies, exposes and discredits incumbent barangay officials seeking reelection who were determined to have been involved in illegal drug trading.
  • The suggestion to all barangay hopefuls to take the drug test and the publication of an advisory that identifies those who voluntarily took the drug test.

Without a doubt, it has set the precedent and the tone that it is finally a political liability to be known as a protector of illegal drug operations.

For years, being a drug syndicate protector and not being made to be criminally accountable has become a major come-on to the dream of becoming a barangay kapitan. With no paper trail of corruption, residents thought there was nothing to stop the kapitan.  Well, no longer.

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MANDATORY DRUG TEST FOR SK OFFICERS. However, what I found seriously wanting in the two initiatives was the absence or lack of emphasis on their application to SK candidates.  While SK officials may not be in a position to protect illegal drug traffickers they, however, can lend influence on the use of drugs.

But it is not too late to correct it.  The SK provincial federation down to the local chapters can and should still be required by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to take the drug test after they are elected.

About a month ago, a former SK chairman in Metro-Manila was arrested in a buy-bust operation by the police. That should show what SK members are inclined to do if they are not checked for drug use early on.   Besides, if there is any one particular program or advocacy that all SK chapters in the province should be asked to pursue and sustain, it is the advocacy to fight illegal drugs.

I hope the provincial board members will see the benefit of passing an ordinance requiring both barangay officials and SK officials.

The author of such an ordinance would already leave a legacy that will be long remembered.

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THE CORRUPT KAPITAN. The time for reckoning by families is finally here. Through the election, families in the barangays will have to decide how they wish to move from here, how to make their communities an extension of their families and vice versa.

For too long, many of our barangay kapitans treated our communities like their own kingdoms, their fiefdoms. They were lawless, particularly when they acted like they were the extensions of both the mayor and the congressman.

So what makes a kapitan easily corrupted and drunk with power? Is it the Local Government Code that enables a kapitan to have the autonomy to govern as the political leader of the smallest unit? No. What the code, in fact, points out is the responsibility of the kapitan to his/her constituents.

Instead, it is our political culture that teaches the kapitan that unexplained wealth and influence are the keys to newfound political power. They see this in our mayors and congressmen who were never made to account for their unexplained wealth, illegal actions and deeds.

It is for this reason that we should vehemently oppose the proposal to make all barangay posts appointive positions, to be appointed by a mayor. It’d be like jumping from the frying pan to the fire!

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ACCOUNTABILITY IS THE KEY. I sense that many now share high hopes that this culture of non-accountability of kapitans will finally end with the country’s experience with President Duterte – that no one is sacred, that public officials should be made to account.

For decades, it was unheard of to fire cabinet officials until DU30 took over the helm of government. In the past, corrupt cabinet officials were terminated for cause but almost always given the privilege to opt for a graceful exit when push comes to shove. Mr. Duterte demonstrated that political will that friends and allies cannot be exempted from the accountability rule.

Today, we’ve seen that for failing to account for own expenditures of public funds, is reason enough to be booted out of office. I do hope that henceforth, a barangay kapitan who cannot explain his overnight wealth, who does not organize the Barangay Anti-Drug Advisory Council, who allows the degradation of environment within his jurisdiction, etc. will now be charged administratively and removed.

So, here’s a heads up for the newly elected and reelected barangay officials who may not be aware. The DILG now has an undersecretary whose primary duty it is to monitor performance of kapitans and to file charges against the corrupt and abusive among them.

Yes, Virginia, we have reason to hope for real changes in our political culture. We are beginning to understand the need to take the principle of accountability seriously, that residents are not powerless against the corrupt and abusive official!

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MAMA…MAMA. Today, May 13, we observe and celebrate Mother’s Day.

I sincerely believe that more than any declared special day, it’s Mother’s Day that should count the most to any family — not Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparents’ Day (and perhaps soon someone will come up with another commercial idea of calendaring Son’s Day…Daughter’s Day…Husband’s Day…Wife’s Day…Sister’s Day…Brother’s Day…Children’s Day and what have you).

Only a mother goes through a nine-month period caring for the unborn and minutes and hours of labor pain. Only a mother nurtures a person to survive from infancy. Only a mother finds true emotional connection to her child. Only a mother is most protective of a child. Find me a mother that cannot keep her family together, and I will show you a broken family.

The bond between a mother and her children is much stronger than that of a wife to her spouse. That’s for sure.

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INVESTING IN THE YOUTH. If there’s any single program in Mayor Belen Fernandez’s Unliserbisyo administration that directly invests in the city’s future, it is her youth sports program.

Outside of the traditional method of growing with knowledge, the extra-curricular activities in schools or outside are what finally make the character of the person.

And, it is in sports that one learns how to cope with defeat and success, to understand the meaning and value of hard work and discipline, to appreciate the importance of teamwork and cooperation, to imbibe the values of honesty and integrity for one’s self-respect, and to promote fair competition and respect for one’s worthy adversary.  Above all, it trains one how to handle leadership.

I commend Mayor Belen Fernandez and the Dagupan City Sports Commission for accomplishing for the city’s youth what past administrations considered as the least priorities of a local government.

They were wrong and Mayor Belen’s vision for the young was long overdue.

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