Pubdate: Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Source: Manila Bulletin (The Philippines)
Author: Genalyn Kabiling
Bookmark: (Corruption - Outside U.S.)


President Arroyo ordered yesterday justice officials and state
prosecutors implicated in the bribery-tainted release of three drug
suspects to go on leave as she pledged to bolster the campaign to
eliminate the illegal drugs trade in the country, which she called the
"cancer and menace" of society.

Bothered by allegations that drug suspects could bribe their way to
freedom, the President declared that "no one should be spared" in her
administration's efforts to sanction those who betray public trust.

"Today, I instructed Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez to require leave
of absence of all officials and prosecutors of the Department of
Justice alleged to have received bribes in exchange for the release of
suspected drug dealers from certain rich and influential families,"
she said in a statement issued from Cebu City.

"The full force of the government's powers to act against those who
betray public trust should be applied swiftly and unequivocally, more
so in this case which include illegal drugs - society's cancer - on
the one hand, and supposed pillars of the justice system on the
other," said Mrs. Arroyo, who traveled to Cebu to launch today an
infrastructure project.

The President asserted that she would not tolerate any "breach" in the
government's "determined war against the menace of illegal drugs as
well as narco-politics on a broader level."

"We are witnesses to the tragedy that befell countries that have taken
a pause on their war on illegal drugs," she said.

The latest presidential directive was issued amid the furor spawned by
the bribery-tainted drug case involving three young suspects coming
from rich families.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) had earlier questioned
the Department of Justice's dismissal of the drug case involving the
so-called "Alabang boys" as well as the bribery attempts on government
officials to release the suspects.

The President also declared that the government would reinforce the
crackdown against drug traffickers as she expressed concern over the
problem, both as the country's leader and a mother.

"From a public realm, I state this: Our war on drugs should be
vigilant and unrelenting. It should not be compromised. From a
personal realm, I state this: I am a mother who is bothered by an
alleged conspiracy to let loose on our streets new pushers of illegal
drugs. What if they lurk on my street?" she said.

Mrs. Arroyo denounced the illegal drugs trade, saying it not only
destroys lives, especially those of the Filipino youth, but "saps the
strength of the nation" as well.

"Illegal drugs sap the strength of its young victims, their vitality,
their joy and their enthusiasm. Directly and with extreme prejudice,
they also sap the strength of the nation," she said.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the President may take up the
government's reinforced campaign against illegal drugs in the cabinet
meeting set on Tuesday.

Dureza reiterated that the President remains opposed to the imposition
of the death penalty amid growing calls to restore capital punishment
to deter drug trafficking.

"Death penalty is a policy which has been rejected by our government,
not only the Palace, Congress, and the Church," he said.

He noted that the President already signed the law abolishing the
death penalty in the country a few years ago.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde had earlier said the
President still opposes the death penalty in line with the pro-life
stance of the Catholic Church.

Remonde said the President is a "good daughter of the Catholic Church"
who doesn't believe that capital punishment is a deterrent to crimes.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin