Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

There's a close relationship between poverty, the thriving drug trade and political dynasties---only in "da Pilipins." Solutions include a more upright police force and free education in SUCs that would create better-educated citizens who will be politically and economically independent, not easily seduced or mesmerized by politicians.

The de los Santos couple, parents of the murdered Kian, at dinner in Malacanang with the President

President Duterte's bloody war on drugs was convulsed anew by the brutal murder of 17-year old Kian Loyd de los Santos by three policemen in a dark alley near his home in Caloocan. Outrage gripped the nation and once again the Filipino people are united in grief over this senseless killing. Everyone but everyone has his own analysis of the whys and wherefores of the drug war in our midst---that has triggered renewed attention from the world. 

UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings Agnes Callamard weighed in, as expected, deploring the brutality of Kian's slaying, to which President Duterte replied in typical fashion with expletives aimed at her.

The drug problem has been with us for a long time and seemingly increasing in severity---but it had to take the murder of a helpless teenager at the hands of three law-enforcers to drive home once and for all  the gravity of this problem.  But there is also the fact that it is interrelated with so many other problems facing the nation. Easily there’s the widespread poverty and the corresponding fleeting escape from reality that drugs offer, particularly to the youth.

To be sure, drugs affect both the rich and the poor, but the drug problem of the rich is hidden behind the high walls of affluent villages where pot sessions take place, whereas the drug victims among the poor are more visible to roaming police and easier to collar---and slay.  This is the answer to the query: why is it that only the poor are caught and punished?

A psychiatrist recently spoke to me about multi-tiered homes of the affluent where in one level are the parents and their guests busy playing poker or mahjong, while in another level are the children and their friends lost in shabu---the stuff carefully hidden from the cleaning maid behind the mirror in the bathroom.

All too often, children of the poor who indulge in drugs come from families where one or both parents work abroad as domestics, construction workers or seamen---in order to earn money to send their children to school and ensure a better future for them. In the process, however, the lonely youngsters more often than not cannot hack it by themselves.

Note that Kian’s mother, Lorenza, had worked in the Middle East as a domestic for three years and hadn’t seen her son until she had to come home when he was killed. Kian's concern that night when the police accosted him was his test in class the next morning, and his ambition, ironically, was to become a policeman. He was an exception because he was not high on drugs, as the tests showed. All  too often, kids of OFW parents  live with grandparents who are too old to supervise their grandchildren’s activities. Thus, the drug problem is often coupled with teenage pregnancies, dropping out of school as well as activities that run afoul of the law.

Poverty is a basic reason for resorting to drugs, as the substance helps abate the sense of drift and hopelessness and the neglect of society. And to indulge in this prohibitive and prohibited substance, young people are often enticed to be drug couriers as well. 

But what about the drug lords?  Their problem is tied up with the politics of the area and the fact that selling one’s vote has become a political way of life in our country. Some politicians turn to the drug trade or allow it in order to accumulate funds they will use to buy votes come election time. In turn, people sell their votes due to the poverty of their station and as a form of revenge on their politicians---for the latter's neglect of their constituents throughout their terms. 

It seems that vote-buying becomes steeper and steeper as elections come.  To buy votes for the elections, politicos used to get funds from the DAP and PDAF of old, but since these lump-sum public funds have been outlawed by the Supreme Court, the politicos have to get them from other sources.

 As we have seen in the case of slain Mayor Espinosa of Albuera, Leyte and the Parojinog dynasty of Ozamiz City in Mindanao, they had to resort to the drug trade to accumulate funds with which to buy votes. Hand-in-hand with this practice is ensuring the perpetuation of the dynasty such as the Parojinogs’---something possible only through massive vote-buying and favors on select followers. 

This is where funds illegally raised from drug trafficking and the dynamics of local politics intersect.

In the recent slaying of Mayor Espinosa and the Parojinogs en masse, a police official named Jovie Espenido figured in both episodes. Now President Duterte has assigned this same police official to Iloilo City where Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog is said to be allegedly involved in drug trafficking---a charge that the mayor and his cousin, Senate Minority (LP) Leader Franklin Drilon, have vigorously denied.  

Where will this all end? Until we can produce a truly educated and economically independent populace, the cycle of boom and bust with regard to drugs and political dynasties won’t end.  It is a truism that a well-educated Filipino would undoubtedly manage to be economically---and politically---independent.

Last Aug. 3, 2017, Congress managed to pass an enlightened legislation, RA 10931, “The Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act,” to take effect in school-year 2018-2019. Under this new law, free tuition and other miscellaneous fees for students are guaranteed for some 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) across the country. The Department of Budget and Management initially estimated that this new law would require P100 billion to put into operation, but skeptics feel that it would be come unsustainable over time.

This bill that guarantees free education in SUCs is our only hope to free many financially challenged among our people from the lack of education, which, in turn, spells fewer meaningful work opportunities. This is the sorry lot of the majority of our people. By contrast, a well-educated and economically independent populace, such as is found in the more developed countries, constitute the bulwark of stability there.  No other way to alleviate the plight of poorer Filipinos except to guarantee them free education in the SUCs.

If there are no sufficient funds to jump-start this new law, by all means, let's slash some of the generous “earnmarks” and “allocations” for members of Congress---euphemisms that used to be called "pork barrel" until the SC abolished it. To operationalize RA 10931 for SY 2018-2019 is a must if this country is to stabilize and progress economically and politically.

1 comment:

  1. in addition to RA 10931, how about each barangay sponsor at least one poor but deserving student to college... funding through resourcefulness...in my case I built, manage and maintain a community library in our place... free of use...intended for pre-schoolers, students, professionals and adults... pay forward as one of the lucky pioneering scholars of MSU Marawi...