Spent the week doing the rounds of local government executives. I thought it would be interesting to know what they, as the ones most expected to worry about the illegal drugs problem being ferociously addressed personally by President Digong Duterte, are doing about the matter. Here are two to tee off the series.
Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada plans to propose to President Duterte the solution to the drugs problem that he implemented way back in 1993, when he was vice president of the country and concurrent head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC). Called DARE (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education), the program was a classroom-based approach, which he claims has proven effective in addressing the drug menace in 43 countries around the world.
DARE is Estrada’s way of contributing his share in what he terms as an all-out war of President Duterte against illegal drugs. In a meeting at the Manila Hotel recently of the Board of Directors of DARE Philippines Association, Inc., of which Mayor Estrada is the chairman, he expressed deep concern over the spate of killings related to illegal drugs. He called the drug menace a national epidemic from which the children must be saved.
“What we need, aside from strict law enforcement operations, is an effective and sustainable drug use prevention program to save our youth from the influence of drugs,” Estrada said after the meeting.
Citing statistics, Estrada put the number of drug dependents in the Philippines at more than 2 million. He said the illegal drugs trade value now stands at a staggering $8.4 billion.
According to a statement from the Manila Public Information Office, “DARE employs experienced police officers.
They go to classrooms teaching one-hour, once-a-week DARE lessons to Grades 5 and 6 students, their parents, principals, and teachers. The classroom instruction for each school is completed within three months.”
By the DARE method, children are early on taught knowledge, skills and attitudes by which by themselves they are able to combat the drug menace.
When Mayor Estrada first assumed the Manila local executive post in 2013, he immediately implemented the DARE program in the city. For school years 2015-2017, Estrada said 27,000 Grades 5 and 6 students are targeted to undergo the program. For this purpose, 16 more members of the Manila Police District will undergo a 10-day, intensive DARE Officers Training (DOT). The lessons taught in the training program include child development, classroom management, teaching techniques and communication skills.
The officers’ training course will be conducted by eight DARE American mentors led by Scott Gilliam, a retired Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officer and now officer-in-charge of DARE International.
“Prevention is better than cure,” said Mayor Estrada. “Through DARE school, children get to learn the effects of drugs at an early age and thus, learn not to be involved in them.”
Where there are no illegal drugs users, there won’t be any illegal drugs pushers – there won’t be anyone to punish with extrajudicial killing.
Simple as that.
But one real problem here is that, as things stand, there are already illegal drugs users and illegal drugs pushers. Mayor Estrada admits, there are more than 2 million illegal drug dependents in a lucrative trade with value already running at $8.4 billion. And Duterte’s extrajudicial killings are taking a lot of justification from the situation.
Figure out, then, the Erap DARE.
In the first place, Mayor Estrada implemented the program back in 1993. The fifth and sixth graders at the time should have become 18-year-olds by 2001. How many of them have become part of the more than 2 million illegal drugs dependents by now? Or put it another way, how many of them have not become illegal drug dependents by now?
DARE, no doubt, has its outstanding merits, as proven by its achievements on the international plane. And it can be a part of the solution to the problem at hand. But the true solution is still out for Erap to dare discover.
No, no in Angono
Duterte has come out in the open taking responsibility for all the killings that occur in a continuing manner. But a great many of those killings are attributed to the infamous riding-in-tandem gunmen. Are these gunmen law enforcers? Or are they vigilantes as are those that have made Davao City a hub of extrajudicial killings?
In any case, under the principle of devolution, local executives are the ones most expected to be directly concerned with the problem. But there’s this general impression by keen observers that mayors are completely acquiescent to Duterte’s policies and actions on the issue. Either the local executives are really involved in the illegal drugs trade, as Duterte has read their names from a list, or they are simply so intimidated that they won’t say no to whatever their chief says.
Angono, Rizal Mayor Gerardo Calderon has a level-headed assessment of the presidential binge of killing drug addicts.
“It’s half okay, half not okay,” he says. “It has exposed the real extent of the problem that has gone unattended to over the past administrations. What the President is doing is, he is telling us this problem has been with us for so long and nothing has been done about it. Now he is doing something about it, and that’s what’s okay. He is showing the nation that the problem can be solved.”
So what’s not okay about what Duterte is doing?
Calderon answers with another question: “How sure are we that those that get killed are real culprits?”
The mayor seems to strike at the heart of the issue. It’s one thing that criminals are meted swift justice, it’s another that those punished are ascertained to be real criminals deserving of punishment.
Angono is a small town at the foot of Sierra Madre, which has gained the reputation of being the art capital of the Philippines. Home to the world-famous 3,000-year-old Angono hieroglyphics, which are a United Nations-protected cultural heritage, it also prides in having produced two national artists, Botong Francisco for mural painting and Lucio San Pedro for music.
“I won’t allow illegal drugs to besmirch the good image of our town,” Calderon said.
In the ongoing governmental drive to rid the country once and for all of the narco problem, he is practicing restraint, confining himself to what he terms as “intervention,” whereby those caught engaged in the illegal trade, whether pusher or user, are made to engage, instead, in rehabilitative activities that harness their energies for productive purposes.
When he first became mayor of Angono in 1998, illegal drugs were already a problem. The town, being straddled between north and south of Rizal, had naturally become the transshipment point of banned substances. In the beginning, Calderon resorted, too, to such methods as “naming and shaming,” but over time he realized this wasn’t going anywhere by way of permanently solving the drug menace. He persevered in his “intervention” approach, and now into his second three-term stretch as chief executive of his town, he confides that among his constituents has evolved an intelligence network that tracks down drug pushers and users even before they can take roots in the community. Add to this the following incentives for intel info providers: P10,000 for tipsters on pot sessions; P50,000 for info on big pushers.
Extrajudicial killings? He shakes his head, “Di ko gagawin ‘yan.”
(Tomorrow: Terror Tony)