We are united as one

It is an inauspicious start for the Year of the Rat. Taal volcano, the world’s smallest but one of the Philippines’ most active, has been spewing forth its fury since Jan. 12, and as of Tulay deadline, there is no end in sight. More than 100,000 evacuees are crowded in evacuation centers. The sight of animals left behind by fleeing residents is as heart-rending as what’s happening in Australia’s bush fire.
Relief goods are pouring in. A system should be in place to avoid duplication since there are so many in need. Three young people in their 20s lost their lives when their car accidentally bumped the left rear portion of an Isuzu Tractor Head at dawn after they delivered relief goods. Policemen, firefighters, coast guards and soldiers are doing a heroic job rescuing and evacuating people.
The Filipinos’ bayanihan spirit is very much evident. We are in for the long haul and more help is needed. We are one family, one nation under God. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for each one of us. We will overcome the odds, we will win the race if we work together.
As we settle into 2020, let us take stock of the past year to correct mistakes, rectify shortcomings, improve and continue positive accomplishments and be prepared for what the next 12 months will bring.
Traffic woes remain one of the biggest problems, and we definitely have to prepare for worse before the traffic situation gets better. The ongoing infrastructure projects – construction and widening of roads, byways and bridges – are vital. The new mass railway transit routes promise to bring great relief. But they bring a lot of headaches: The construction pace is simply too slow. Commuters and motorists have little choice save to grin and bear it, hoping that construction crews will work faster so the pain will be over soon.
The Department of Public Works and Highways doesn’t seem to realize how much revenues are lost each day the work slows down. Even if the government pays contractors higher fees for overtime or three shifts of continuous work, the great benefits that redound to the economy in terms of lesser income losses will more than pay for the extra expenses.
Someone somewhere failed to see the bigger picture.
The failed anti-drugs war
President Duterte’s war on drugs has only managed to curb the supply of methamphetamines by less than one percent of annual consumption, proof that it has been a bloody failure, Vice President Leni Robredo revealed in her report released to media on Jan. 6.
She explained that vast quantities of the highly addictive drug were available because seizures had barely dented the supply.
“It is very clear, based on official data, despite the number of Filipinos killed and the budget spent, the volume of shabu supply curbed didn’t exceed one percent,” Robredo told a news conference.
Archie Gamboa, newly appointed chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Aaron Aquino, director-general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), both vehemently questioned Robredo’s report that concluded that the anti-drugs war was a colossal failure.
But they are not just contradicting Robredo, but also their own boss, the President.
“Drugs will not end at the end of my term. It might just be worsened,” Duterte said back in August 2018. In fact, the President claimed the number of drug addicts may have doubled from four million to possibly eight million, a figure that puzzled even the PNP. Just before the May 2019 elections, he admitted that he could not control drugs even if he ordered the deaths of these drug addicts. If that was not an admission of the failure of the anti-drugs war, I don’t know what it is.
Aquino said Robredo’s report was “a mere political attack.” But he never gave a counter-argument on what was wrong in the report or why is it inaccurate.
For his part, Gamboa claimed Robredo’s comparison of the figures was “not even mathematically acceptable.”
“Why question me?” Robredo retorted. “Why not ask the police?”
Apparently, she used numbers given to her by the PNP, PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).
Robredo’s computation in the drug war report is accurate, said Peter Cayton, professor at the University of the Philippines Statistics Department. The only way the math could be wrong was if the government data she used were intrinsically wrong.
Three years since the killings started, raids and arrests of drug couriers continue, but the amount of shabu on the street doesn’t seem to diminish. Some of them probably came from the missing 11 tons of shabu worth P6.4 billion that slipped through the Bureau of Customs.
Meanwhile, we hear little of drug lords and kingpins being arrested.
Shooting the messenger
Duterte’s supporters did not substantiate their statement that Robredo’s findings were wrong.
How I wish that instead of shooting the messenger (Robredo), our government, for once, would read her recommendations, all of which make sense and would certainly redound to the success of the anti-drug campaign.
It is sickening that Duterte supporters failed to examine her findings fairly and instead flatly rejected them and branded them “political attack.”
What is wrong with going after drug lords as a priority rather than the poor sando and tsinelas drug users?
Robredo’s recommendation was: “Scrap ‘Oplan Tokhang,’” focus on the arrest of drug lords.
“Instead of chasing or killing drug peddlers in street corners, we need to pursue the source of drugs, the big suppliers. They are the real enemy, not the ordinary people,” she said.
It makes sense to give priority to high-value targets who finance, import and distribute the drugs. Rumors are rife that these kingpins are well-connected to government officials. Someone somewhere ignored the big picture.
Robredo made another recommendation: “Establish accurate and updated baseline data on the number of drug users and pushers.”
It is hard to say the anti-drug campaign is successful when no one knows how many are really involved in the illegal drugs business. Even if the government agencies do not have accurate figures, at least there should be baseline data.
Duterte said there are six million to seven million drug users. The DDB put the number at four million and the PNP at two million. These numbers are so far apart, which one is correct?
In the same way, no one, neither police nor the Department of Social Welfare and Development, knows how many orphans of victims of extrajudicial killings are now out of school and vulnerable.
When one parent is killed, the plight of the young ones left behind was callously called “collateral damage.” It is unclear what the government does to help these youngsters, suddenly bereft of parent and support.
The children left without a breadwinner have to fend for themselves and are often unable to go back to school. Under these circumstances, we are looking at a whole new generation of young kids who can become potential criminals.
How can that be a successful anti-drug campaign? How can that be considered getting rid of crime?
Someone somewhere does not see the big picture.
As JC Punongbayan, a UP student finishing his PhD in Economics, said: “For too long, Duterte’s war on drugs has hidden behind a veil of fear, lies, and misconceptions. It’s high time for facts and statistics to pierce that veil.”

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