POSTSCRIPT / August 25, 2015 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Why is Aquino quiet on drugs and jueteng?

IT IS INTRIGUING that in the past five years he has been in office President Noynoy Aquino never expressed concern or initiated concerted action against the multibillion-peso twin problems of drugs and jueteng.

In his annual State of the Nation Addresses, his last one on July 27 lasting more than two hours, he delved into even the most mundane topics – but not into the scourge of drugs and the illegal numbers game of jueteng.

The big question is WHY?

We pray that the President of the Republic of the Philippines has not been intimidated or captured by the gambling and drugs lords. If only to reassure the public, President Aquino should speak up and give the score on these problems.

Or, taking off from his administration’s recent pronouncement on the infernal traffic strangling to death the nation’s capital, is the President – like his anointed one DILG Secretary Mar Roxas — of the view that jueteng and drug addiction are also signs of progress?

Some officials swallowed by corruption have tried rationalizing rampant jueteng, endemic even in the President’s own home province of Tarlac, by pointing out that the gambling gives marginal income to the thousands of cobradores(ambulant bet-takers).

What these officials do not say is that they, and some consenting police officers, have gone blind because their eyes had been plastered with regular payola.

It used to be that suitcases of money were regularly delivered to Malacañang, per sworn testimony of the bagman himself.

But note that jueteng has proliferated like weeds, even in the President’s own backyard. Since we see no reason or resolve to stop it, the presumption is that the delivery of hush money to high places continues to this very day.

We beg President Aquino, the only son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, to say it is not so.

Drugs money creeping into elections

THE SAME alarm should have been sounded a long time ago on the drugs menace that has spread to the neighborhood barangays and the schools. Imagine elementary and high school kids on drugs!

Latest alarm is that drugs cartel support has crept into the escalating election campaign.

We plain folk are aghast at the seeming helplessness — or complicity — of the authorities. What else can we conclude when in the top-secured Bilibid penitentiary in Muntinlupa itself the drug lords continue to operate under the nose of prison officials?

Not once but countless times have their operation been “smashed” but they keep bouncing back with a vengeance. The government, specifically the justice department of Secretary Leila de Lima, has lost control?

Filipino drug mules are sentenced to death when caught in foreign jurisdictions. Back here, foreign drug merchants (mostly Chinese) go scot-free even after being cornered with their laboratories, raw materials, and ready-to-deliver packs of shabu.

Maybe the Aquino administration considers the proliferation of drugs as another sign of progress — like it does the accumulation of motor vehicles on EDSA spewing noxious smoke and inflicting economic damage estimated conservatively at P2.5 billion a day?

We leave to the experts to explain the nefarious consequences of runaway drug abuse, how this scourge is slowly killing this nation probably as prelude to the shadow takeover by the drug syndicates.

The statistical and anecdotal data on this problem are available to Malacañang, but nobody in the high echelons of the Executive department bothers, or cares enough. Why is the Father of the Nation not acting on it?

BBL not watered down, but improved

THERE is a misconception that the Senate and the House of Representatives are moving to “water down” the Bangsamoro Basic Law bill that seeks to create a substitute autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.

On the contrary, the Senate local government committee and the House ad hoc BBL committee are refining and strengthening the measure to make sure it passes the test of constitutionality and promotes the aspirations for peace and progress of Mindanaoans.

The original BBL draft based on agreements signed between the negotiating panels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Malacañang (not the government) was riddled with provisions of doubtful constitutionality. It is useless to pass it in its original form.

Another misconception — actually a product of deliberate misrepresentation — is that the panel that sat opposite the MILF negotiators represented the Philippine government. No, the team represented only the Executive branch.

There is confusion between the terms “administration” and “government”. As they are not the same or interchangeable, care should be taken in how they are used. The comprehensive and framework BBL agreements were signed by the Aquino administration, not by the government.

It is only now, after the talks, that Malacañang is bringing in the Legislative branch. There was no prior institutional consultation with the Congress before President Aquino sent his varsity team to talk with the MILF and its Malaysian backup in Kuala Lumpur.

Had Malacañang bothered to consult Congress leaders and Mindanao stakeholders BEFORE the negotiations, the BBL would not have encountered as much resistance as it is now experiencing. The selfish Palace preparation – like its Mamasapano mission planning — was not inclusive.

The Senate and the House now appear of one mind in opposing demands of the MILF and Malacañang for the Congress to pass the BBL without substantial revisions.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr., chair of the committee shepherding the bill in the Senate, supported the position of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. who balked at the MILF demand to restore the 28 provisions that the House committee had deleted.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 25, 2015)

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