"The Vice President needs all the support she can get."
Since the designation of VP Leni Robredo as the new anti-drug czar, the media has been abuzz with a lot of opinions as to why the VP accepted the appointment. Surprisingly, it is officials from the administration who were more welcoming than many analysts who are downright against it because of the magnitude of the undertaking and her simplistic approach towards the problem. To think that she has not even started to buckle down to work yet.
Maybe these people have very little confidence in the VP. Nonetheless, they should chill a little and give the VP some space. Let us not forget what she said when she announced her acceptance of the job. She said that as far as she is concerned, her primordial consideration is to stop all unjustified killing in the drug war and that if she can save just one life, it would have been all worth it. Since then, there has indeed been no reports of any fatalities in the anti-drug war. This is obviously due to the fact that there has been a pause in police operations since her appointment. Once it resumes, there is no saying what will happen next. In this kind of war, it is too much to ask that no one will die because anything can happen in any police operation more so if it involves illegal drugs. What is important, if I am reading the mind of the VP correctly, is that no one who do not deserve to die should die.
To help accomplish this, a simple procedure could be implemented. Any police personnel involved in any shooting that results in the death of a suspect should be temporarily grounded until cleared in a post operation investigation to ensure that the killing is justifiable. If the shooting is found to be unjustified, then the officer involved should be charged.
This kind of system is not new. It is being done in the United States and other countries and has been found to be effective in ensuring that all legal protocols are followed in the conduct of police operation. The reason why there has been a lot of outcry from critics of the anti-drug war is that many of the so-called “nanlaban” incidents—where suspects were killed because they allegedly resisted—did not undergo post-operation investigation to either clear or charge those involved.
The VP’s activities the last few days have also given us a glimpse of how she intends to pursue her intentions. Briefings are necessary when anyone starts a new job together with meeting with any agency whether local or international involved in illegal drugs for familiarization. Her meeting with people who have law enforcement experience like Senator Ping Lacson may not have been universally accepted but not necessarily a bad idea. What is a bad idea is the invitation of Aaron Aquino, the Director General of PDEA for her to join an anti-drug police operation. What was Aquino thinking? For the VP to gain police experience so that she will get the feel of how it is to be in the field? Her job is to be able to provide leadership and the general direction on how to accomplish the objectives that she has set for herself and not to lead police operations.
It is interesting to note also that the Office of the President appears to be willing to give her a wide latitude and support including the scrapping of Oplan Tokhang. She also said that the intensity of the anti-drug war will be as vigorous as before, minus the unjustifiable killing of suspects. In addition, education and rehabilitation which have taken a back seat in the past will be strengthened. One important thing that she announced is the validation of all past collected data like the number of drug users in the country and the exact number of people who have died as a result of the anti-drug campaign, whether justifiable or not. In the past, we simply relied on what President Duterte was saying. No one among his subordinates had the courage to contradict him. Those who did were fired simply for providing figures different from what the President mentioned. This is extremely important because after more than three years and thousands of lives lost, we have to know what has been accomplished which will serve as a bench mark for future operations, data gathering promulgation of new policies. Whatever happens in the succeeding months, we should all wish Vice President Robredo and her team all the best. Let us also hope that her law enforcement arm regardless of their misgivings will give their utmost cooperation in order that the anti-drug campaign will succeed.
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Visitors to Baguio might have noticed the significant reduction of gasoline and diesel prices. It used to be that gas prices in the City were about P5 more than the prices in Rosario, La Union and about P7 or P8 more than Metro Manila prices. Prices now are about three pesos less which is a lot and a welcome relief. Unfortunately, this appears to have no significant effect on public transportation fares and the price of goods. The reduction of gas prices was due to the efforts of the new sheriff in town, Mayor Benjie Magalong. He recently met with the Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the Secretary of Energy to seek his help and in no time at all, the local gas dealers, were forced to reduce their prices. This while only five months in office. It is something that his predecessor failed to do in nine years.