Exploiting the plea bargain option

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

THE recent revelation of Dagupan City Police chief, P/Lt. Colonel Abubakar Mangelen Jr. that drug syndicates have been exploiting the plea bargain process offered to arrested drug pushers and users, is a serious cause for concern as evidenced by the series of recent arrests of drug personalities who availed of the plea bargain option.

The plea bargain offered by the courts enables the drug offender caught with less than .05 gram of shabu (and marijuana?) to be released to the barangay chairman provided the arrested or surrendered drug suspect agrees to join a community-based rehab program and reports regularly to the barangay. 

Like the law exempting 15 years olds and below from criminal prosecution, here is another rule in our judicial system that saves drug pushers from being detained and tried, the added rule on plea bargain for drug offenders provided another legal loophole in the war on drugs.

It has been easy for the arrested offender to get off the hook by leaving the barangay and move to another which does not know of his case.

To correct this, I suggest that PDEA/PNP should send out notices to all barangays about drug suspects in city/town who availed of a plea bargain.

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FINALLY, SHARED RESPONSIBILTY.  It certainly sure looks like the handling of the peace and order in Pangasinan is in good hands, with P/Col. Rederico Maranan at the helm

His plan to engage mayors and vice mayors in the six Districts for a series of conferences is a step in the right direction, and he started it last week with Fourth District mayors.  He is taking the peace and order issue to a shared responsibility level literally as it should be.

For too long, our police and local government officials have been talking about peace and order issue in governance mindlessly, using the phrase as a subject for mother statements and little else.

For too long, talks of peace and order have been largely an affair between mayors and their chiefs of police, with no real objectives but to keep rate of criminality low… even “low” is relative.

I hope this advocacy making a peace and order a shared responsibility will be institutionalized. It has to be because crime and drug syndicates have already succeeded in building networks not only in Pangasinan but across the country.

We are looking at an endless and more violent war against drug syndicates, narco-politicos at the barangay level, guns-for-hire for assassination, secessionist-terrorists, illegal gambling, loose firearms, environmental degradation, illegal fishing, etc.

While the basic objective and concern must be the protection of families, an allied critical concern is safeguarding our government. 

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GOV’T IS WINNING WAR ON DRUGS. There are two situations today that should instruct even the UN Human Rights Council that the government is winning the war on drugs. 

First: All jail facilities in the country are already overly congested with arrested drug personalities awaiting trial. Second: DOH’s drug rehabilitation centers that were turning out to be white elephants are now teeming with drug users seeking rehabilitation.

What the protesting church leaders, Commission on Human Rights and Human Rights Watch should instead do for drug dependents whom we all consider as victims, is to seek the help of foreign governments to provide funds to build more jail facilities for arrested drug suspects and more rehabilitation centers for increasing number of drug dependents.

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ILLEGAL FISH PENS AND FLOODING. The decisive action taken by Dagupan Mayor Brian Lim on the illegal fish pens, demolishing 17 fish pens after the seven-day notice lapsed is very encouraging for the fish cage operators that are strictly complying with the ordinance.

Even the motivation for the demolition is for the revival of the Dawel River Cruise is to us a positive indication that the Lim administration is going to protect the city’s rivers. But above all, if illegal fish pens are allowed to proliferate again like it did in 2012, efforts to dredge the river continuously to minimize flooding in the city will come to naught.

Without a doubt, the proliferation of fish pens in the past was one of the major factors that seriously contributed to the siltation in the city’s main rivers. And, only the continued dredging will mitigate flooding problem, but if any one favored illegal fish pen owner is allowed to operate with impunity, the desired effects of the dredging operations can easily be negated and the city government will only have itself to be blamed for unforeseen extended flooding in the city streets.

 I sincerely hope this is not lost to Mayor Brian and his team.  

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