The exchange of accusations between the Brodett clan members has made the “Alabang Boys” controversy look even messier with many side issues cropping up, pretty much like a telenovela with complex subplots featuring assorted characters. But fascinating as the revelations are — such as revenge being the motive, a marijuana-using mother, a mentally unstable sister-in-law; an undisclosed “mistah” bribing a PDEA official whose humble beginning must have made him biased against the rich — people must look at the whole issue with objectivity and not be swayed by emotion and conjecture.
Was the buy-bust operation and the subsequent arrest legal and by the book? Is the evidence against the “Alabang Boys” admissible? Was the resolution for the dismissal of the case valid? Is there tangible proof of bribery? Who did the bribing? Are the suspects really big-time drug pushers with international connections? These are questions that must be answered. But when one starts putting the issues and the people involved under the glare of publicity, then things can really get out of hand. It would be difficult to resolve these issues with impartiality because those involved would be more concerned about making themselves look clean to save their reputation. After all, the opinion of people can be colored by hearsay, their conclusions tainted by perception rather than facts or clear evidence as provided for by law.
No doubt everybody is being fried without the oil, so to speak. But what is becoming clear in this whole tangled drama is the need to review the law regarding illegal drugs and fixing the kinks in the system by drafting legislation that would put an end to the perennial conflict between PDEA enforcers and DOJ prosecutors. The proposal of Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Tito Sotto to deploy DOJ prosecutors in PDEA specifically for drug-related cases makes a lot of sense. This way, state prosecutors could coordinate more closely with PDEA agents and advise the latter on legal aspects such as how arrests should be conducted, whether operatives can jump over the fence of a suspect’s house without being charged with trespassing, and other possible technicalities so that charges will not end up getting dismissed later on.
Aside from encouraging PDEA and DOJ people to work closely with each other, Tito’s proposal will put an end to accusations that state prosecutors are bribed to dismiss the case, and counter-accusations that PDEA agents are bumbling idiots who are not familiar with legal procedures. Even the 2008 US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report has noted that “pervasive problems in law enforcement and criminal justice system such as corruption, low morale, inadequate resources and salaries, and lack of cooperation between police and prosecutors also hamper drug prosecutions.”
The publicity surrounding the “Alabang Boys” has caught the attention of international drug agencies like the US Drug Enforcement Administration which is closely watching developments and monitoring how this will be handled by the government. No doubt this will affect Philippine relations with other countries since drug trafficking and terrorism are closely related, whose repercussions are far more serious than people think.
Drug trafficking is a transnational crime, and the Philippines has been pinpointed as an international transshipment point. Traffickers find our porous borders, un-patrolled shores and uninhabited islands a haven for their illegal trade. According to the 2008 US-INCSR, the Philippines is a source of methamphetamine (shabu) exported to Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the US, and that chemicals for manufacturing illegal drugs are smuggled into the Philippines from China and India.
In any case, it’s about time we realized the enormity of the drug menace in this country. The report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes citing the Philippines as the country with the most number of drug users in South East Asia — estimated at 6.7 million — makes the Philippines a very attractive market for international drug traffickers, many of them from China and Hong Kong. With the number of Filipinos now estimated at 92 million, the figures could get higher and the situation worse considering that the youth comprise more than 40 percent of our population. Some sources even claim that close to 10 million Filipinos are drug addicts, with majority belonging to the 14-25 age bracket.
I personally know of young people whose lives were destroyed or worse, are now six feet under because of drugs. Pushers and traffickers mostly target people from well-to-do families, celebrities and others who can afford the stiff price of shabu, ketamine, Ecstasy and other illegal substances, but they also go for students and lower income groups. Statistics show that up to 80 percent of heinous crimes like rape and murder are drug-related with perpetrators usually high on drugs. That’s why people are beginning to rethink their position regarding the reimposition of the death penalty especially for convicted drug traffickers. Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia carry the death penalty for drug trafficking — and it’s a no-brainer why the number of drug-related crimes in these countries is low compared to the Philippines. Though they’re behind bars, traffickers — especially big-time ones — could still operate and even have an opportunity to expand their network when their cellmates are released.
At the very least, this whole messy and scandalous affair is focusing attention on the major problem of drugs that has plagued us for so many years. This is far more serious than most people think, and the government and the country’s entire leadership must have the political will to fight this growing menace. Everyone must not lose sight of the fact that the drug problem is slowly destroying this country and gradually eroding our reputation by giving us the dubious honor of being known as Asia’s drug capital.
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BABE’S EYE VIEW
By Babe Romualdez
Updated January 11, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines — The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has released “clarificatory guidelines” on random drug tests to “allay public apprehension and clear alleged human rights violations” over tests the government will conduct in schools across the country, DDB chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said on Monday.
The tests, originally scheduled to begin Monday, have been postponed to Wednesday.
In a statement, Sotto stressed that random drug testing is “preventive rather than punitive” in nature and are aimed at preventing illegal drug use among students and rehabilitating those found to be drug users.
The DDB guidelines lay down the objectives of the drug testing and how this will be conducted, as well as the different ways students found to be drug users will be treated.
“Random drug testing for students is considered by the government as entirely a ‘health’ issue and aims to provide services, to those who will be tested positive for dangerous drug/ use that will help the student stop further use and abuse of the substance,” the guidelines said.
“The drug testing program and results of testing shall guarantee the personal privacy and dignity of the students and shall not be used in any criminal proceedings,” the document added.
Sotto emphasized that the results of the drug tests will be confidential.
Also, he said, a “first time positive confirmatory drug test result shall not be a ground for expulsion or any disciplinary action against the student.”
But for drug dependents, “the school may impose the appropriate sanctions against the student as provided for in the school’s Student Handbook and the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools,” and allow re-enrollment after rehabilitation, Sotto said.
Students who test positive will be required to undergo three months of counseling, in coordinating with parents, by a Department of Health-accredited facility.
The government expects to conduct random drug tests in all 8,455 secondary and 1,726 tertiary schools nationwide.
Vocational school students and tertiary level faculty members will also undergo the random tests.
Results of random tests in 2007 showed that 39 students, or 0.5 percent of those tested, were positive for illegal drug use.