Punchline

Mayor Belen is mom to city’s children

 By Ermin Garcia Jr.

GREAT things are continuing to happen in Dagupan City.

The city government finally earned the coveted Presidential Award forChild-Friendly Municipalities and Cities (PACFMC) this year after being cited as a national finalist and regional awardee for the past years!

Take a bow, Mayor Belen Fernandez! This is proof that if there’s one issue that her political detractors cannot ever raise against her administration,it is that she didn’t take good care of the city’s children (and yes, the senior citizens too). Mayor Belen always had, and will always have a soft spot for children and elders. That I’ve seen in her.

This is one social aspect in the city’s development that none of the city’s past mayors focused on. In Mayor Belen’s case, the plight and development of the city’s children is clearly a priority sector for her in the city.

Her political legacy will surely have an impact on today’s young who will become the city’s leaders in the next decade because it is they who witnessed and experienced the brand of political leadership that nurtured them in  their youth.

Again, congratulations Mayor Belen and to your Balon team!

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ATTY. GENES IS GONE. On a sad note, I received the news from City Administrator Farah Decano that her illustrious father, Genes, passed away at the UST Hospital early morning ofDecember 7.

Atty. Genes was our easy choice as Sunday PUNCH’s Ombudsman when we were required by the Philippine Press Institute to appoint one in the early 90s. As Ombudsman, it was he who decided whether our articles were fair and objective. 

Then it was only logical for us to ask him to defend us against the libel-harassment cases thrown our way. Being one of the few experts on libel law in the province, all the cases he took on were dismissed.

We’ve had great times bonding even on just the few occasions I consulted him at his home. He was a great teacher with a keen sense of humor and was very generous sharing his experiences in arguing legal cases. Having learned facts and scenarios I picked up from him,it amused me that there were some who actually thought I was a lawyer when discussing legal issues.  He would get a kick out of it every time I shared those incidents with him.  

I will sorely miss his thoughts, teachings and his presence.

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NEW PARADIGM FOR WAR ON DRUGS. It is time for PDEA to rethink its drug-clearing program at this time.

It is public knowledge that active illegal drug-trading has resumed since the government’s ‘Tokhang/Double Barrel’ campaign was shelved.The initial phase of the drug-clearing program was effective because it provided a tool to measure the support that the war on drugs was getting from local governments.

Under the ‘Tokhang/Double Barrel’ campaign of the war on drugs, it was also possible then to engage and encourage drug personalities to surrender and take part in the rehabilitation process. But without Tokhang, the engagements were no longer possible.

The reality about the illegal drug trade that we must accept is that it is a way of livelihood. It is not even a health issue that bleeding hearts want us to believe. It’s livelihood for the unskilled and jobless, for those who need to support their habit, and for those think it’s the easy way to earn to support other habits.

Note our news item in this issue about the 25 persons arrested indifferent places, among them in towns and cities already declared drug-free.  The report was reassuring that the provincial PNP remains focused on the campaign but at the same time it showed the very irony of the drug-clearing program of PDEA-PNP.

No town or city (except perhaps Sto. Tomas town) that can claim that no one in the towns/cities will ever think of continuing or adopting the drug trade as a livelihood.

Ergo, our government must pull all stops in the campaign.

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BADACs IN THE FRONTLINE. I believe the Duterte administration finally found the way to a more effective campaign in the war on drugs if the restoration of the ‘tokhang’ strategy is not possible.

DILG Usec. Martin Diño, who was in the province last week to address the barangay kapitans and SK leaders, hit the nail on the head when he underscored the importance of the role of Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC) in the war on drugs. With it came his warning to his audience about misusing their positions to protect the drug trade and the importance of keeping their active.

Why BADAC? It is the mechanism that supports the enforcement of our drug laws. It’s foremost mandate is to draw up and update its watch list of drug pushers and users in their respective barangays. It is the list that supports key efforts of law enforcers in their intelligence operations and eventually plan entrapment activities and basis for applying for search warrants.

In brief, the key strategy is to recognize and focus on the barangays as the frontline of the campaign, where drug trading takes place. It is in settlements in barangays where drug syndicates dig in to keep their operations running.   

I’ve since advocated that theDILG should flex its muscles in the grassroots level by making barangay and SK officials finally accountable in no unmistakable terms. It’s finally happening.

As in all levels of governance, accountability and transparency are the keys to good governance.

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CARROT & STICK. But who will oversee and supervise the BADAC as watchdogs in the barangays?

I believe that duty and responsibility now lie with the DILG provincial/town/city directors. Hopefully, we have reformist local DILG directors. Alas, I have not heard of local DILG directors in the past who gave a hoot about the existence of BADACs. In most cases, the local DILG directors functioned mostly as “close friends” of the city/town mayors.

 It’d, therefore, be useful if Mr. Diño can reorient the local DILG directors about their new important tasks with the similar warning that they face the same administrative cases if the BADACs under their jurisdiction are reported to be inactive as can beg leaned from the series of arrests made in the barangays and absence of drug watch lists.

Meanwhile, the Municipal/City Anti-Drugs Advisory Councils can find themselves useful if they can provide the logistical support to the BADACs that need help and regularly  coordinate police support for the BADACs. 

MADACs/CADACs can adopt a stick and carrot policy for the BADACs.Ex. 3 buy-bust arrests in a month’s period will result in the recommendation to local DILG director for 45-day suspension. No arrests each month in barangay with monthly updated watch lists should earn for BADAC members free lunch with the mayor.

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