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.

Friday, March 15, 2019

In this season of Lent, our thoughts go to the prevalence of drugs, as tightly sealed cocaine packs drift to PH shores, now deemed a transshipment point to perhaps South America. T'is the season for politicos' denial of inclusion in Palace's narco-list. Grizzly murder of 16-year old Lapu-Lapu City lass, sadistic beyond description, can only be traced to drugs.

Tightly-sealed packets of cocaine washed ashore in various parts of Quezon and Camarines Norte. Is PH now a transshipment point of this dangerous drug to South America, as some authorities allege?

When the question was posed by President Duterte a week or so ago as to whether he should reveal the names of various politicians involved in drug trafficking, my instant reaction was, such revelation ought not to be rushed by the Palace for a number of reasons.

For one, I felt that this being the thick of the election season, some names might be included who may be innocent, and once a reputation is besmirched, it is almost impossible to retrieve it. Since we are in the midst of election season, some political enemies might take advantage by making false accusations to down an opponent.

I have also wondered if this list of alleged drug-trafficking politicos recently released has been duly vetted---so that no one was included who is innocent or perhaps just set up by opponents to eliminate him. There are politicians who would do anything just to win.


Having said this, I'm sure that some names in the list published by Malacanang are openly associated with drugs by the electorate n the regions involved, and it only shows how deep this menace has become in our society. Drugs come in handy in raising enormous funds, as elections are frightfully expensive in this country---primarily because the pols often have to resort to vote-buying to win, and voters especially in the rural areas expect to be courted with funds---perhaps the one and only time they become the object of attention by their politicians. .

Vote-buying has become so pernicious, which is why graft and corruption by many of those in office seeking reelection cannot seem to be eradicated---the pols have to recover their heavy investment after they win. It's a vicious cycle that seems to get nastier and nastier as poverty gnaws deeper and deeper among our people.


Speaking of vote-buying, I cannot help but recall how, in an earlier era, this was played in a different plane. Not so much buying votes from rank and file citizens as is done nowadays, but the courting of delegates to the political convention which would elect the candidate to represent the party. I had the chance to see this up close in the early '60s, when I was just a couple of years out of the UP---very dreamy-eyed when suddenly thrown amidst hard-nosed politicians.

My Jesuit connections maneuvered to enable me to work for Emmanuel Pelaez who had become  Vice-President to President Diosdado Macapagal. Manny Pelaez aspired to be President as  Macapagal's term was coming to an end. Had Pelaez won it or had Macapagal succeeded in his reelection bid,  the course and destiny of our country might have been entirely different from what it turned out with Ferdinand Marcos---who successfully challenged President Macapagal's reelection bid and later imposed a lengthy dictatorship.

But first Pelaez had to win the nomination of the Nacionalista Party where his rival was no less than the wily Senate President Marcos. It was a battle of titans.


Each of the two rival camps at the NP convention held in Manila Hotel in 1964 had its own stable of political luminaries and soon enough it became obvious that the Marcos camp was out to buy votes right there. Die-hard supporters of Manny Pelaez, especially from the Sugar Bloc, egged him to come out and match the Marcos funds that began flowing like wine at the convention.

Pelaez's followers were just waiting for his go-signal to tap various fund resources to match those from the Marcos camp, but the Veep refused to play that kind of game. He stood pat on his position--- no buying of delegates' votes as it should be an honorable contest among gentlemen, even if his opponent was no gentleman at all.

To no one's surprise---and the great frustration of the supporters of the highly principled Manny Pelaez---he lost in the NP convention. Indeed, had he won the NP nomination, he was heavily favored to be elected President of the Philippines, as re-electionists, such as Macapagal was, were not as favored in Philippine politics. At any rate, in either scenario, the history of our country doubtless would have been very different from the turn it took after Marcos won the NP nomination and the elections of 1965. The Philippines then was on to the long road to martial law and dictatorship.


I had occasion to discuss the depths of the drug problem in our country with a knowledgeable person not too long ago, and I raised the query of how come cocaine has been found drifting to our shores in various parts of the archipelago, notably in Quezon and in the Camarines area as well as in northeastern Mindanao. The cocaine floated ashore in tightly sealed containers and while some such packets found their way into  the hands of the police authorities, it could be assumed that there must be other packages that landed in the hands of those who had meant to obtain them in the first place.

I queried a knowledgeable official about these cocaine packs and he opined these these were likely not meant for the Philippine market, as ours seems limited mainly to the less expensive shabu. The cocaine, he opined, was meant for other countries that use this higher-grade drug and PH appears to be used only as a TRANSSHIPMENT POINT. Meaning, that from here it would be transported to another destination, perhaps in Asia or to South America, such as Colombia. Perhaps the traditional routes to that southern continent has become too guarded, hence new routes have to be devised.


This is totally believable as our shorelines are so porous and it's believed that a lot of corruption still prevails among our law-enforcers--- despite the clean image of PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde--- as well as among local officials.  If shabu is still so handily available despite trumpeted efforts to curtail its entry here and eradicate drug-pushers--- and our shores are now appear to be used for transshipment of cocaine---the future does look frightening indeed for our people, especially for our vulnerable youths.

The very recent grizzly murder of a 16-year old Cebuana lass---that involved a SAVAGERY hitherto unseen in local criminal history--- appears to be the work of a drug-crazed youth. This murder should prove that our society has no option but to tighten up on the war vs. drugs and it needs the cooperation of every concerned citizen. 

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