QUITE a number of issues surfaced during the Talakayan Sa Borongan held in Borongan last August 3, 2002. Foremost is on illegal drugs. Mostly, representatives from the Philippine National Police admitted that they were aware of the problem but can hardly do anything about it. They can and they have, in fact, already identified the local drug lords. But it goes only as far as that. There are so many reasons why the police can only do so much, so justified the PNP representative. If even Manila cannot solve the problem of trafficking of illegal drugs, how can Borongan? The law is toothless. Or how could you arrest, for instance, somebody who stands taller than the law itself. And all that crap. Let Manila solve first the problem. And the rest of us in Samar will sing a tune and watch illegal drugs go by.
A couple more issues emerged during the Talakayan Sa Borongan, a media forum organized by Samar Times. Intended to assist in the development efforts for the whole island of Samar, this forum will be held every quarter in each of the three provinces. Somehow, it will offer Samareños a round table where there should be a mutual exchange of information and public opinion making everyone of us, Samareños, a partner in the business of integrally developing ourselves. Most likely this forum may also be a preventive measure for some media practitioners themselves who may have exacerbated the obstacles to developing Samar due to financial and political come-ons.
Come to think of it, illegal drugs and all its horrible consequences may be one of the major barriers to developing Samar. In the last couple of years it has reportedly compounded the escalating peace and order problem of the whole island. Back home, I do not dare to walk the streets of my small town anymore after dark. My folks caution me not to, anyway. Damo kono iton mga adik ha kalsada. Bisan la hin-o kinokursonada. The more notorious one in Dolores was the group of drug addicts who raped a girl and slashed her private parts. She was on her way home from school when she was dragged to a nearby rice field at the outskirts of the town. A lot more of cases followed after this (a girl found the next morning at the elementary school with stab wounds; another one unearthed by a dog near the beach, and so on). All this became so frequent and ordinary to cause alarm and concern. Except by the devil himself, these gruesome rapes and murders could not be done by anybody else but by drug addicts.
The amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act (Republic Act No. 6425 otherwise known as the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972) has already been passed by Congress and is waiting for the signature of the President. The amendment would lower the threshold to 50 grams for ice (shabu) and 10 grams for opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine and the stimulant “ecstacy”, as well as half a kilogram of marijuana. This bill provides that possession of threshold volumes of illegal drugs would automatically deprive suspects of the right to post bail. Legislators think that this Bill (SBN 880) is the toughest anti-drug legislation in Asia. But let’s see how tough is the implementation.
Of late, I got across a report that the Philippines is fast becoming a drug capital in Asia. In an overall global standing, our country has been lined up together with Columbia and Mexico as centers of illegal drug trafficking. In its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report in 1999, the US State Department identified the Philippines as a destination market and transshipment point for methamphetamines (one of which is locally known as “shabu”) as well as a significant producer and exporter of marijuana. There are strong suspicions that in the Philippines, drug money is able to influence public policy and, thus, making it a narco-state where drug syndicates are able to corrupt government officials. I wonder if our local politicians know about this.
(Samar Times, September 2002)