COMMENTARY

Breaking promises in Philippine drug war: The House Speaker knows best

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SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez seems to be taking a long time in pushing through with his intention to subject members of the House of Representatives to a drug test.

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It has been almost a month since he announced in a media forum that he was “seriously” considering to make congressmen, presumably including himself, undergo such test to prove that they are free of any harmful stuff that could affect their only and mandated job of crafting laws, in aid of legislation, of course.

He should thank his lucky stars that President Rodrigo Duterte, in his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, did not announce that he would order all members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to be tested for shabu or whatever their drug of choice may possibly be, if they are into it at all anyway.

The President could have rubbed it in but, of course, he apparently did not want to embarrass Alvarez, whose rather vague plan for the drug test for all congressmen and senators has all but been overtaken by events.

Meanwhile, drug users have been surrendering en masse especially in Metro Manila; drug pushers are suspected to have been killed summarily by authorities; at least one “drug lord” has been identified publicly, although the President is seen keeping his trump cards on other suspected drug lords close to his chest and alleged coddlers—at least five of them—from the police hierarchy have been paraded in the media.

At the rate the Duterte administration is purging the population of junkies and their suppliers of their favored drug, it perhaps will be too late for the legislators in the House to cleanse their ranks of possible drug addicts, if any, if leaders of the chamber continue to seemingly procrastinate on the matter of the drug test.

In August, the administration’s crackdown on the drug menace will have entered its second month, giving Alvarez 60 days more at least (150 days more at most) to deliver on his intention to weed out drug users in the House of Representatives and elsewhere, based on the three to six months that the President had given himself to rid the country of the menace.

Flushing out the addicts, if any, among the congressmen would be easy because there are only more than 200 of them, easier if senators (just more than 20 of them) are made to take the drug test. Early this month, Rep. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte made up for the House being apparently turning into a bystander in the war on drugs by filing a resolution that seeks to make mandatory drug testing for all members of the chamber and their staff.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, apparently taking the cue from Barbers, as well as 13 of his staff, underwent a drug test on July 13 even as he at the same time filed a resolution urging strict implementation of mandatory drug test for government officials and employees.

Zubiri cited such test being administered on people in the “Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and so we senators and other high government officials should be first to be tested in order for us to be setting an example for those in other government agencies.”

Right, the bill or bills seeking to restore capital punishment would come from Congress, and their proponents, like Caesar’s wife, should be above suspicion that they are not window-dressing their proposals to derail the restoration on purpose to save themselves from the needle or the rope, as the case may be.

It is not as if our dear members of the House of Representatives would set a precedent if they took the drug test now.

In November 2010, or more than five years ago, 18 members of the 15th Congress subjected themselves to a random drug test.

Tested were Vicente Belmonte, Jr., Winston Castelo, Elpidio Barzaga, Jr., Susan Yap, Carmelo Lazatin, Al Francis Bichara, George Arnaiz, Leopoldo Bataoil, Jesli Lapus, Emil Ong, Romero Federico Quimbo, Raymond Palatino, Mark Sambar, David Kho, Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, Milagros Magsaysay, Trisha Bonoan-David and Rodolfo Fariñas.

If some of them are still around and are members of the 17th Congress that opened on July 25, they could take up Barbers on his resolution calling on “all lawmakers, their staff, consultants, officers and all employees of the House to take periodic [mandatory]drug tests.”

Fariñas, in late June, said making the test mandatory “would violate the rights of the individual members” as he opted for “voluntary” drug test, which is neither here nor there, where expected results are concerned.

This is a free country but the hard truth that may be a little too bitter for the lawmakers to swallow is that if Alvarez does not deliver on his intention to make congressmen take the drug test, Duterte may just force the Speaker’s hand to do it now, not next week or next month, but now.

Why must the President do everything when he has more than enough on his plate and did he not say early on that he would need all the help he could get to make “change” possible?
Change, like charity, begins at home, in this case the House of Representatives.
Okay, boys and girls of the 17th Congress, form two lines, quick.

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1 Comment

  1. The quick action of Senator Zubiri to undergo drug testing including his 13 staffs showed his love of country and care for the Filipino people.
    Hope other officials will do the same.