17jan31-Tokhang extension eases ‘kill’ pressure

POSTSCRIPT / January 31, 2017 / Tuesday
Tokhang extension eases ‘kill’ pressure
By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

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“AY SALAMAT!” we said in relief when President Rodrigo Duterte said on TV Sunday night that he was extending to his last day in office in 2022 the deadline of his bloody campaign against drug trafficking.

The extension will help ease the pressure on the police and the vigilantes to “neutralize” (euphemism for “kill”) drug dealers and users within 6+6 months. This will also give the President time to refine his approach to solving the drug menace.

During the election campaign, then Davao City mayor Duterte promised to end the narcotics scourge in six months – or he quits. He did not resign, because last September, after realizing the enormity of the problem, he asked for another six months ending in March this year.

Now the final extended deadline for the killing spree – assailed by local and foreign critics — is June 2022.

In September last year, we noted in Postscript that the President’s promise to stop crime in just six months was pressuring the police to kill X-number of suspects by his 50th day in office, his 100th, and so forth, in a bloody race to meet the quotas by deadline time.

The Commander’s shoot-to-kill order (if the suspect fights back, kuno) has seen many police officers committing their first murder, executing suspects whose guilt has not been established and who in some instances were even begging for their lives.

Ordering state forces to accomplish the IMPOSSIBLE task of wiping out crime and criminals in six months dehumanizes armed personnel, degrades the presidency, embarrasses Filipinos before the world, and invites censure.

Foreign observers must think Filipinos are a nation of barbarians, and so lecture their President, who ironically is a lawyer, that “allegations of drug trafficking offenses should be judged in a court of law, not by gunmen on the streets.”

Experts have stressed the public health aspects of drug addiction. The administration’s failure to cope with the hordes of detained drug users is dramatized by the jampacked jails and rehabilitation centers. Some detainees have slid back for lack of proper intervention.

While neglecting rehab requirements, the President has started to make good his promise to the police and the military to double their salaries. Maintaining their morale and loyalty has priority over rehabilitating drug addicts?

Right to life being inherent in the human person, those who believe in the sanctity of life are not likely to withdraw their call that suspected illegal drug users be given a chance to be heard before being silenced on the spot by a bullet.

There are various circumstances that a police officer must sort out in his mind a split-second before pulling the trigger on a suspected drug-user/pusher who is still presumed innocent under the law.

Unfortunately for the officer and his quarry, that decision to kill had been made for him in advance by his superiors acting as God handing down a summary last judgment.

Another killer lurks: Air pollution

I’M TYPING this column through teary eyes. No, the tears are not because our Maxine Medina failed to win the slippery Miss Universe 2016 crown, but I suspect because of pollution in the air.

Aside from watery eyes, I have been sneezing and coughing intermittently. I manage to keep writing only by sheer force of habit – and deadline pressure — in the same manner that I’m able to claw my way through chaotic traffic mainly by reflex honed over the years.

Re my sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and teary eyes, it so happens that the owners of the giant mall beside us in Quezon City are busy constructing another concrete structure just 60 meters from our low-rise condo unit.

We’re trapped. The din and dust of the construction is so overwhelming, and there is simply nothing that we the mall’s neighbors can do about it. The fine dust is on top of the residual brownish blanket of dirty air perpetually hanging over the metropolis.

(Have you noticed that Filipinos who had spent some time in, say, the US of A, come home to Manila – and start coughing within one week?)

On air pollution, btw, the Rotary Club of Makati operates an air quality monitoring system in Metro Manila as a public service. It has so far four stations whose readings are available 24/7 through its Internet website airtoday.ph or Android app.

The stations are at EDSA-Muñoz and the Lung Center, both in Quezon City; at UST-España in Manila; and on Ayala Avenue in Makati.

Air quality in the four sites follows a consistent pattern. Lung Center-QC shows better readings while UST-España has the worst. EDSA-Muñoz has the second poorest air quality, and Makati places third.

Project initiator Eddie Yap, Makati Rotary president RY 2015-2016, told us that air readings last New Year’s Eve spiked to hazardous levels at UST-España and reached very poor levels at EDSA-Muñoz and on Ayala Avenue.

The UST-España site showed the dirtiest air with readings spiking to 264 micrograms per cubic meter air (ug/m3) for particulate matter (PM10) and 212 ug/m3 for fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Yap said these readings are 428 percent and 748 percent over standards for safe air set by the World Health Organization.

He said that air quality reverted to average only after 10 hours at UST-España, eight hours on Ayala Avenue, seven hours at EDSA-Muñoz and six hours at the Lung Center.

The monitoring system employs advanced Germany-made outdoor-type all-weather instruments that measure both PM2.5 and PM10. Readings are taken continuously day and night and wirelessly transmitted to a server where the data are analyzed and shared with the public through health advisories via the Internet and smartphones.

That is just monitoring. Data collected are wasted unless used. What is the government doing to improve the air quality?

(First published in The Philippine STAR of January 31, 2017)

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