Pubdate: Fri, 26 Aug 2016
Source: Philippine Star (Philippines)
Column: Sketches
Copyright: PhilSTAR Daily Inc. 2016
Author: Ana Marie Pamintuan


When Philippine National Police officials report with a hint of pride 
that some 1,800 people have been killed in the drug war within less 
than two months, and some senators say the figure is still small 
considering the number of drug "personalities" in the country, this 
nation has lost its soul.

President Duterte has amply shown that the drug menace is real and 
alarming in its scale. Whether the pervasiveness of the problem 
deserves those 1,800 deaths - more than half of which, the PNP 
stressed, were perpetrated by vigilantes - is debatable. But the 
debate at this point is lopsided and heavily in favor of the 
executioners. Many Filipinos seem to go along with Dirty Rody's 
Machiavellian belief about the end justifying the means.

This public acquiescence reveals much about our nation and is among 
the most disturbing aspects of the drug war. I've written that this 
acquiescence is fueled by frustration over the slow pace of justice 
and the weakness of the criminal justice system. Yesterday Chief 
Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, in her once-a-year meeting with the 
press, said efforts were being undertaken to speed up the wheels of 
justice, even as she lamented the impunity in killings. She meant 
killings of judges and journalists, not drug suspects.

The drug war has become unduly focused on President Rody's dislike 
for Sen. Leila de Lima, who unfortunately for her is vulnerable 
because of her stint as head of the department with jurisdiction over 
the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

If you ask anti-narcotics agencies, they will all point to the NBP as 
the central command for the illegal drug trade. The same names of 
convicts who are supposed to be running the operations keep cropping 
up. The same former government official's name also keeps cropping up 
as overseer of the operations. So President Rody can validly focus on 
putting a stop to these operations.

It's also not the first time that De Lima's former driver has been 
linked to questionable activities in the NBP and justice department 
when she was its head, although the President was the first to 
identify the driver in public and openly accuse him of involvement in 
a specific illegal activity.

What's new in the "matrix" released yesterday is that Pangasinan has 
been identified as the source of the drugs, with governor-turned- 
congressman Amado Espino Jr., his provincial administrator and an 
incumbent mayor accused of involvement.

Those who have visited the lovely beaches of Pangasinan, particularly 
Alaminos - the area where the drugs are supposed to be brought in - 
may understand how easy it is to carry out such illegal activities, 
especially if local executives are in on the operations. De Lima's 
ex-driver is from the province. Espino, who also faces charges in 
connection with black sand mining, has denied the drug links.

So has De Lima. She's a lawyer and one tough cookie. She's not going 
to allow herself to be "killed softly" as her tormentor has promised.

Dirty Rody's serious accusations against De Lima are no joke, but he 
better make sure he has an airtight case against her in linking her 
to drug deals and corruption.

It's not the first time that questions have been raised about how 
much De Lima knew about the activities of the NBP drug lords. She has 
always denied the ugly speculations. Unless one of those in the so- 
called drug matrix pins her down, the President's accusation is 
likely to fall flat.

President Rody is just being himself, but he may also want to tone 
down his snide remarks about De Lima and her personal life. While 
what he described as her affair with her former driver could have a 
bearing on the alleged anomalies, the snide comments inject a 
personal bias that could adversely affect the ongoing probe of drug 
deals in the NBP.

Already, his battle against drug operations in the national 
penitentiary has been diminished by the timing of his attack on De 
Lima, which coincides with the probe on extrajudicial killings by the 
Senate panels which she and Panfilo Lacson head.

It's said that President Rody became infuriated with De Lima not just 
because of the Senate probe but also over reports that she is part of 
efforts to encourage the United Nations to look into possible 
genocide being committed in the bloody drug war. This is also 
reportedly the reason for the President's open disdain for the UN.

While the President entertains the nation with street slang or 
gayspeak for buggery (chuk-chak), De Lima can forge ahead with the 
probe into the continuing killing spree. This is as much a problem as 
the drug menace, and her concern is shared by others - still a 
minority at this point, but you know what they say about mighty oaks 
growing from little acorns.

Several senators attending the probe are clearly interested merely in 
preening for the cameras and hearing their own voices. They are just 
wasting our time. In the last session, my mother got fed up listening 
to the nonsense from several of the senators and switched to a Korean 

But I've actually heard some possibilities about useful laws that 
might result from the probe, such as better resources for fighting 
the drug menace, so the panels of De Lima and Lacson can legitimately 
claim that the inquiry is in aid of legislation.

Dirty Rody might yet succeed in destroying De Lima. But he also risks 
turning her into a rallying point for opposition against him. And 
regardless of her fate, De Lima might yet exact revenge, the sweetest 
of which is a UN indictment of the government for crimes against humanity.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom