POSTSCRIPT / January 13, 2009 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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‘Among Ed’ is eyeing presidency? Dios co!

CLARK FIELD — State prosecutors, plus one justice undersecretary, who had been told by President Gloria Arroyo to go on official leave should not feel bad stepping aside while the drugs mess in their offices is being sorted out.

Their being temporarily out of the way will preclude any suspicion that they could influence the results of the in-house investigation of the mishandling of the celebrated case of three “Alabang Men” hauled in for alleged drug using and pushing.

Their going on leave, as it is with being preventively suspended, does not mean they are guilty of anything. This is just a precautionary measure to protect the integrity of the process.

While she is at it, the President should also tell comedian Tito Sotto, chairman of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to also go on leave from the “Eat Bulaga” TV show to be able to devote more quality time to his PDEA job.

* * *

INSIDE JOB: Despite the ongoing “internal” inquiry by the Department of Justice, I reiterate the suggestion that President Arroyo seize the moment and stab swiftly into the very heart of the Drug Menace that is slowly engulfing the country.

The department headed by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez would not be credible investigating its own people. As I have said, it looks and smells like an inside job.

The President should form immediately an independent Commission to study the problem in phases. There could be, first, a quick no-nonsense investigation of the Alabang case, followed by an in-depth probe into the social cancer. 

* * *

TWO PHASES: The commission could include a respected retired justice, a law dean, a church prelate, youth and parent groups’ representatives, the PDEA chief (once he disengages from TV inanities), and a military-police officer of proven integrity.

The initial phase of its work could focus on the Alabang buy-bust operation and review the more significant drug cases that had been filed but dismissed despite the preponderance of evidence.

Immediately after, the Commission can segue into a second phase, which is a deeper and broader study of the Drug Menace leading to the adoption of a comprehensive anti-drug strategy.

* * *

OVERVIEW: The Commission’s output will include a detailed description of the flourishing P500-billion-a-year market, the drug cartel’s order of battle and foreign links, extent of drug addiction and official corruption, and recommendations for subduing the monster.

If remedial legislation is needed, it would be certified to Congress.

Parents are alarmed that the government does not have a comprehensive anti-drug strategy. Agencies involved in monitoring and fighting the vice cartel seem to work independently of, sometimes against, one another.

The mishandling of the Alabang buy-bust operation exposed the sorry disarray of anti-drug forces and the palpable corruption in some key agencies. 

One infuriating sight is that of operatives hauling off truckloads of drug-processing equipment and material — and later seeing the case being thrown out by prosecutors for alleged lack of evidence or some minor procedural oversight.

* * *

DIRTY TRICK: That was a dirty trick played last Sunday on Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who was maliciously reported as facing possible impeachment just because the Supreme Court has not promulgated a decision on a congressional election protest.

Those who handled the story (not in the STAR) knew there was no solid case to begin with, but still blew it up as a banner. It was unusual that the story, whose top play implied that it was the most important item of the day, carried no by-line.

Being criticized in media is part of the job description of government officials, who are told by the Supreme Court no less that their only consolation is the “balm of a clear conscience.”

* * * 

GMA DRAGGED IN: Trumpeting a clearly twisted story against the chief of the Supreme Court — the remaining bulwark of citizen’s rights — is the height of irresponsibility.

As expected, politicians hungry for Front Page mention jumped on the non-story and recklessly theorized that Malacanang must be behind the move to impeach Puno because of his being an obstacle, they said, to this and that sinister plan of President Arroyo.

Press release writers of politicians may want to also go on leave and take in some fresh air.

Needless to say, this column is not a commentary on the election protest which is the subject of the decision being awaited by partisans.

* * *

PANLILIO AIMS HIGH: It says here also that Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio has admitted that he may run for President in 2010 “if God wills it.” Pati Dios sinasali na sa usapan!

I consider Among Ed a friend, and I wish him success despite the obstructionism of lesser provincial officials refusing to allow somebody who is not one of them to lord it over their perceived realm.

But Among Ed for president? Huwag naman. As a friendly advice, the priest-turned politician should first prove himself in Pampanga before he presumes to reach beyond. He should first hone his political skills.

Other unsolicited advice:

* Please convince your Vivian Dabu to resign as provincial administrator (or go on leave along the line drawn by President Arroyo for DoJ functionaries).

* Be discerning when being prodded by theoreticians (who are neither voters nor taxpayers of Pampanga) from far-away Loyola Heights to try the intoxicating drugs of national politics.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 13, 2009)

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