PANGASINENSES (Pangasinan residents), especially the wealthy families, are not throwing lavish parties this Christmas. There will be none of those feasts in houses bedecked in tinsels and ablaze with lights. There will be special food but no tables groaning with excesses that usually mark such celebrations of yesteryears.
And for sure, there will be no loud singing, wild dancing and drinking until the wee hours of the morning. For the village youth and even those in the urban areas, joining parties especially in the evenings could spell danger.
The young people are avoiding such celebrations for fear that their lives will be snuffed out by vigilantes with their eyes trained on the rewards rolled out in the government’s war on drugs.
In Dagupan City and nearby Mapandan town, most of the barangay (village) officials and non-government organizations (NGOs) have cancelled Christmas parties because they fear that some drug personalities under close watch by the police who attend the festivities may end up being gunned down.
“We are afraid of what will happen during the party because the vigilantes could sneak into the crowd and start shooting at drug suspects,” a barangay official who asked not to be identified, told The Manila Times.
“Parents have warned their kids to keep away from parties during the holidays,” he added, as he noted that, owing to strict orders from higher authorities, the anti-drugs campaign is being waged without let-up in the barangays.
Another village chairman revealed he called for a meeting with youth leaders, school teachers, senior citizens and NGO leaders as early as November 24, to discuss the holding of Christmas parties which they expect to hold every year.
To his surprise, he said, only 22 of his village mates attended the meeting and decided against holding such celebration, citing unanimously the danger of the war on drugs.
On November 26, the barangay chairman and members of the council went house to house to personally invite them to a meeting on December 2. Seventy-six of the residents showed up but each one of them thumbed down the holding of Christmas parties.
They said Christmas parties can only be held once killings related to illegal drugs are stopped.
‘Like Martial Law’
Police have confirmed the negative reaction of townsfolk, saying that so far, they haven’t receive any request for security for such celebrations.
The Manila Times also learned from the treasurer’s office in Mapandan that there have been no application received for permit to hold dance parties during the season.
A survey conducted from December 5 to December 18 by the Citizens Movement Against Crime, Corruption, Illegal Drugs and Gambling, Inc. headed by Prof. Salvador Singson-de Guzman, also confirmed that most out of school youths and students on vacation are afraid to hold Christmas parties.
Their common apprehension is the non-stop killing of alleged suspects in the illegal drugs trade.
According to de Guzman, compared to the first week of December last year when there were a lot of scheduled Christmas parties in the villages, this year the celebrations (if there are any) are simple and only held within the family circle and small groups of friends.
The situation here today is like martial law during the time of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, de Guzman observed.
There are no more dance parties in the villages because people particularly the youth are no longer seen strolling in the streets at night, planning dances, beauty contests and singing competitions because they are afraid to be caught in the crossfire during raids. They are also apprehensive that they could be suspected of using drugs or may be in someone’s drug watch list.
“You never know,” one teen party organizer said.
A report by the police provincial office obtained by The Manila Times showed Dagupan City recorded the highest number of people killed in the anti-drug operation with more than 60 suspects.
In Mapandan, six drug suspects have been killed according to chief of police, Senior Insp. Samuel Gamaliel Arcano. The latest was the killing of a notorious drug pusher identified as Tomas Serafica, alias Parker, on October 16 in Barangay Aserda.
Meanwhile, The Manila Timeslearned that no drug killings have been reported in the four cities and 44 towns from December 15 to 21.
A police officer said they are happy with this report because the unknown killers have apparently stopped and may be giving the drug suspects a chance to be with their families for the Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations.