THE DRUG BUSINESSÂ is Bohol’s No. 1 criminal problem. It is a major headache.
Over these years, with great media spectacle, scores of drug busts were made Â and criminal cases have been filed. The result -as acknowledged by Â the authorities themselves Â is 2 (two) convictions.Â Not a big fat zero but two. That is not encouraging, civic leaders here agree.
But theÂ police have to follow the legal procedures; some of them until lately were also- not master of the same. The Judges have to rule on evidence and legal niceties. For how long can our society continue to pay this high price of democracy-while the drug menace bares its fangs in public as if to taunt all of Â us-Â Come and get us, if you can.Â
Every one and his lola know what city and municipalities are drug-infested. Some of us Â even have the infamous surnames of the Drug Lords and Ladies of the trade, some of them still scot free. But-we Â cannot plant evidence,remember ? Law 101. Â Â
But the drug players Â themselves have apparently Â invaded the heart of our political institutions. In the Capitol , three sachets of Â shabu were found at the ente room of the Sangunniang Panlalawigan, the highest law-making body in the province. There is no escaping its two Â implications: Â that there are drug Â users in the Â Capitol or the drug gangs are so powerful they can – have both the access and the audacity- to plant the prohibited substance and discredit Capitol -who has declared war against drugs. A drug test of government employees has been ordered as a matter of course.
On Valentines Day- broadcaster Â Chairman Mau (Maurito Lim) Â was gunned down in broad daylight -right beside the 60-year old bastion of community journalism along Inting Street- Â perhaps to display the level of impunity the drug players Â seem to say they can muster. Among others, Chairman Mau was an anti-drug crusader. His alleged gun man Jovane C. Orenia was collared in a drug buy bust operation days after . No drug connection?
In many countries, the drug trade is so powerful- they control the politics of the place -resulting in the pejorative name ofÂ Â narco politics community.Â We cannot escape hearing Â ugly rumors that the pernicious drug Â trade cannot live long without the tacit or overt cover of the political and police authorities.Â That the “cat and mouse” drug chase is just a charade -to earnpogiÂ points but the Â granite conviction to put an end to the drug industry is not really there. It is just a charade, as Matt Monro sings.Â How sad ,indeed, if true.
But, of course, the political season is in the bud and every machinated propaganda can be unleashed to dilute whatever political capital people in office have.Â A great deal of discernment -nay, even common sense- is required of all of us. To separate facts from propaganda.
But there is a big finger, as well, pointing to the community at large and its leaders. Because of the porous entrances to our province and given how lucrative the drug business is (and therefore not lacking in Â a supply of Â the “merchants of death”)- what can Â be controlled is the “demand” side of the economics. But what are we doing?
Where are our parents? Do they know where their kids spend their money? Do they in fact know where they are -or are they too busy with their own worldly pursuits to care – until it is too late ? Where are the barangay officials who are supposed to be the first line of defense against criminal offenders? Sitting on the job?
There is a sense of helplessness -soon to graduate to not-so-quiet desperation – evolving among our people.Â And desperate situations call for desperate measures. A survey by station dyRD’s highly popular “Inyong Alagad”, for instance, Â revealed 93% of those surveyed want the death penalty to Â be imposed on drug offenders who are convicted.Â The problem is -where are the convictions?
This is the point where the issue of the “vigilantes”Â Â comes into play. That is a Spanish word Â referring to a person of group who imposes the law without authority of the State since the State is unable to arrest, convict and jail a criminal .Â In nearby Davao, it is common knowledge that the feisty mayor Rody Duterte openly supportsÂ the extra judicial execution of the dregs of society.
One such suspected vigilante victim is Â William Tan VelezÂ 34, year old Â Cortes resident who was gunned down along Tamblot street Â last Thursday. He was arrested last year, posted a bail bond and was allegedly back into the drug business. The callers of the Â radio program lamented Â that this is an example of Â the vicious cycle of the trade: arrest, release and back to the bad business again.
And he is not alone. There have been successive killings of late -most of which were declared by authorities as “closed cases” -in the sense that they were Â deemed as situations stemming from a Â “business rivalry” between drug gangs. If this is a certainty- why are there Â no suspects named or hunted?
We still recall the execution of one, Gerry Bunados, 45, killed in a hail of bullets in his Toyota in 2013- a man suspected to have Â reportedly been Â liquidating drug peddlers and informers. Who did him in?
Is vigilantism soon to be institutionalized in our province? Will it be a final answer- grudgingly approved by a sickened and tired Â public- to put the barnacles on the drug menace?
If this is true in Bohol, the province is not alone. To this day, suspected vigilante killings of criminals are prevalent in Quezon City, Cebu City , Toledo City and Carcar. For a time, Dumaguete City was dubbed the vigilante capital of the Philippines.Â Of course, Davao is King- in this respect.
It is, of course, Â hard for us to condone with this extra-judicial killing as a means to make the law stick. Ideally, we would rather have a government Â run by laws than by guns.
But in the face of all these frustrating realities, we Â also do not have the moral courage to chastise those who Â cling to desperate measures to protect our very lives, our families and the future.
May our Lord Â God forgive our intransigent thoughts.
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