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Mar 04

The Long View: Do not enter

The Long View
Do not enter
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:34:00 03/03/2010

RECENTLY THE US STATE DEPARTMENT, IN ITS international narcotics control strategy report (which helps congressional oversight with foreign aid) cited our government’s own apprehensions (as voiced by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over the possibility that drug money might affect the outcome of the May elections – or, for the cynically-inclined, at least provide a pretext for a post-election crackdown on selected targets.

In 2008, the blog Third Wave began to warn of the influence big-time drug lords would have on the 2010 elections. In January 2009, Mon Casiple and editorials in this paper and in the Negros Chronicle pointed out pretty much the same thing. Last July, Babes Romualdez tipped off his readers about America’s concern, conveyed through CIA chief Leon Panetta, about drug money being used to finance terrorism. At the time, Romualdez estimated illegal drugs to be a $7.5-billion-a-year industry; the State Department report estimates it at $6.4 billion to $8.4 billion annually.

But that’s just one hissing head of a many-headed hydra menacing the elections.

In 2008, political scientist Paul Hutchcroft pointed out that “As Philippine elections have become increasingly costly, they have encouraged politicians to become more creative in raising funds, whether through the promise of legislative and regulatory favors, real-estate scams, involvement in gambling syndicates, or links to drug lords and the underworld. In a surprisingly candid moment, Speaker Jose de Venecia said of the system: “It’s the drug lords and the gambling lords … who finance the candidates. So from Day One, they become corrupt. So the whole political process is rotten.” In February 2009, when spectacular bank robberies were hogging the headlines, I recalled Alex Magno’s reminder that the primary sources of political funding are: (1) Drug money; (2) Gambling money; (3) Quotas on customs and internal revenue bureaus; (4) The Philippine National Police.

Aside from claims of police connivance in protection rackets, there are also allegations that warlords use political office to extort tribute from syndicates. The Ampatuans have been tagged as this type of warlords, but PDEA’s Dionisio Santiago remains tight-lipped, saying only that the agency had received reports about politicians in alliance with drug traffickers. Fr. Eliseo Mercado has gone as far as to state there have been four G’s operating in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: guns, goons, gold and Gloria: with President Macapagal-Arroyo’s patronage allowing the Ampatuans to become paramount warlords and untouchable so that no one could do anything if, indeed, they’d been acting as protectors of various syndicates – from smugglers, kidnappers to traffickers.

Since May 2005, the President and her family have faced accusations of being on the take from gambling syndicates. Her response was to brazen it out, knowing full well who matters, politically. Early last year, as speculation mounted about her possible run for the House of Representatives, her increasing visitations to Pampanga included her conspicuous presence at the birthday party of Lilia Pineda, wife of supposed jueteng lord Bong.

By last June, Pampanga Mayors League (PML) president and Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda could boast: “There is no need for President Arroyo to campaign. We will give her an overwhelming mandate if she decides to seek a congressional seat.”

Now this could merely be guilt by association. After all, Christ befriended prostitutes and tax collectors, and the President likes to quote the scripture. As she has piously intoned many a time, let he who is without sin cast the first stone (translated into more secular language as the administration mantra, “Where is your proof? Bring it to the proper forum,” most recently quoted by Rep. Mikey Arroyo at Pineda’s birthday). The only ones who get a stoning, legally-speaking, anyway, being the destabilizers like that self-confessed sinner, Jun Lozada.

Meanwhile, Chavit Singson – whose initials might as well be the three G’s – publicly agonizes over who should be worthy of his political support: Gilbert Teodoro Jr. or Manuel Villar Jr., neither of whom seems displeased by the news. But then again, the Frankenstein coalition’s national directorate practically glitters with the names of topnotch warlords, while the Nacionalistas aren’t snobbish when it comes to people like their candidate for governor of Batangas, Armando Sanchez, who knows what it’s like to be tagged as a jueteng lord. It all makes that other NP-affiliated candidate (he seems to be officially under the wing of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD but is on the ticket, in one town, of the NP affiliate) Joc-joc Bolante look strictly like a white-collar candidate for an American country club-style prison.

In the end what this means is that the President’s coterie of thuggish friends are fully intent on continuing to throw their weight about, whether in association with her as she solidifies her petty grand duchy in Pampanga, or with the Frankenstein Coalition of her putative official candidate for president, or even with the Nacionalistas. Every time big fishes pose with the President – or presidential aspirants – it serves the purpose of a neon sign flashing in neon letters directed at PDEA and the press: “Do not enter our turf.”

It does not help that candidate Benigno Aquino III has given fair warning that those engaged in smuggling and other syndicated crimes are known to the authorities. Now, they have the time and incentive to rally around whoever seems best poised to thwart his candidacy.

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  1. nick

    Evil men and women in sheep’s clothing seeking the devil, flaunting their nefarious trade, putting blinders on the eyes of the naive electorates to hoodwink them and send them to hell.

  2. iwriteasiwrite

    There is that old saying where there is smoke there is fire. Or more appropriate in this case: If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then by god, It is a duck.

    Illegal monies and campaign contributions will always be an issue until there is (to borrow an oft used American election term) campaign finance reform. And I do not mean such sweeping changes as public/government financing of elections. Something simpler than that: full and transparent reporting of contributions. And limits on spending; whether using personal money or donations.

    Of course most of these issues could be avoided by having a strong judiciary that actually could investigate and imprison drug and gambling lords. Or at the very least keep the criminals in jail.

  3. SoP

    How to stop:
    1. Drugs – go to the source – Chinese laboratories exporting (legally or illegally) ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the raw materials of shabu. Next president should emphasize this and this alone in a meeting with Chinese leaders. Mainland China drug distribution is put in check by million strong Chinese police, but exporting is lex, probably even encouraged and given protection, because they don’t give a fuck about Filipino addicts and profitable to Chinese. The next president should put the Communist Party in an embarrassing position by emphasizing their lax policing of Chinese laboratories. Appeal to the Chinese long memory of being the receiving end of British opium imports and emphasize that Chinese labs are to Filipinos what the opium of East India Trading Co were to 19th century Chinese addicts. Use CNN, BBC, the Asean meeting, to put China in a spotlight.

    Emphasize resources on treatment of shabu addicts, not war on drugs.

    2. Gambling – legalize jueteng, legitimize the big gambling lords, sell them annual gambling licenses (first year gambling license fee should take into account past untaxed gambling earnings from the last few decades), tax their yearly gambling profits, force their operations to be incorporated, put stringent conditions on keeping their gambling license (no private armies, should contribute to charities, “morality clause”-committing transgressions to the revised penal code and special penal laws will revoke license, 3 strikes rule to misdemeanors. any violations by owner, CEO, officers, and directors of gambling corporation will revoke gambling license).

    3. Smuggling – don’t know, show me some fresh ideas.

    4. Corrupt Police – follow 1. and 2. and you’ll kill # 4.

  4. SoP

    Cough medicines should be prescription, not over the counter. I know it’s harsh but if we’re serious about killing shabu production we have to make hard choices.

  5. Carlos V Jugo

    In the case of alcohol, we don’t focus on the supplier(s) but rather focus on the users/abusers. Same should be the case with drugs and other vices.

    The prohibition on drugs increases its price which in turn makes it more attractive for would-be entrepreneurs to enter into the business. Remove the premium that prohibition to drive down its profitability.

  6. Carlos V Jugo

    The last sentence should read ‘Remove the premium that goes with prohibition to drive down its profitability’.

  7. SoP

    That may be true. Alcohol kills and injures more people (through alcohol fueled violence or ill health effects) than shabu. It’s just that the deaths and crimes from shabu are more sensational (shabu fuelled gang rapes and massacres), but still a drop in a bucket compared to alcohol related violence.

    I’ve called for legalization of shabu before, but most reaction I get is shock and indignation. It’s probably because people have bad experience with shabu addicts, who are more dangerous than drunks or marijuana addicts.

  8. Carl Cid Inting

    The combination of weak institutions and poverty will only undermine our social development. It has been a slow, corrosive deterioration from way back as far as I can remember. And it will only get worse, because we never did anything about it. Even when we’ve had opportunities in the past.

  9. SoP

    I don’t know why Alex Magno, de Venecia, or you Manolo should be overly concerned or over emphasize the influence of drug lords in the elections. Philippine drug lords don’t have much money compared to jueteng lords. The drug lords cater mostly to local addicts, unlike, say, Mexican cartels or Chinese drug lords, who pack their dollar bills in pallets and containers (no exaggeration), earned from the North American, Asian and European markets. Sure we are in the top three of per capita use of shabu and many middle class Filipinos toke up on it, but I don’t see the margins and revenues that big for drug lords to be compared to Escobar yet or even the drug lord equivalent of Bong Pineda. Most drug lords in Pinas are based in Mindanao, who use their profits to fund terrorist activities or finance other illicit activities (robberies, kidnappings) to buy arms, so why would they care about the outcome of elections? These people are anti government, so they’re not gonna fund candidates of influence elections on a national level.

  10. mlq3

    Mainly the importance of interdiction: raw materials and the creation of temporary labs seems to easy. more people/families would treat help if there was greater education on risks and more importantly, how to seek qualified help and that it won’t be easy. law enforcers have to be less prone to planting evidence and actually catching pushers. community policing if and when the cops gain a semblance of public trust. in certain situations, curfews.

  11. Carl Cid Inting

    As far as drug lords are concerned, there doesn’t seem a “capo di tutti capi”, Mafiaspeak for a drug overlord, throughout the country. They’re regionally dispersed, and their power and influence is regional as well. They are a motley crew, to say the least, comprised of military and police officers, Chinese operators and their local counterparts, local officials and an assortment of pushers. Muslims are into it as well, whether separatists or just opportunists, and so are the NPA. Since there’s large money involved, drugs will always attract the scumbags out to make a fast buck.

    It’s still a rather helter-skelter operation and doesn’t seem to be as well-organized, systematic and efficient as some people make it out to be. Having said that, it doesn’t mean that it couldn’t evolve into a very efficient, ruthless and pervasive network someday. So far, our crab mentality and our regionalism have prevented a nation-wide cartel from spreading its tentacles nationwide.

  12. ramrod

    I don’t believe anyone actualy has a handle on these drug organization/s, we don’t have any accurate picture of how big this really is – which is the way it should be as clandestine businesses go, “when you are strong, feign weakness.” The less people know about them, the better for them…we can only see the impact on our youth…and they really like it when they are underestimated…

  13. Carl Cid Inting

    Drugs are a problem world-wide, even in the more developed countries. In the U.S. and Europe, cocaine and heroin are prime drugs. In the Philippines, just as in the poor ghettos in the U.S., the drug of choice is methamphetamine, otherwise known as shabu, since it is much cheaper than coke or heroin. Shabu and marijuana are the most pervasive drugs in the Philippines. Both are relatively easy to access. As far as we can tell, the drug problem here is no worse than the drug problem in the U.S.

  14. Ka Ryan

    And so the whole charade of democracy begins its vicious and comic cycle. Once more unto the breach dear friends!

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