"So long as there is demand, there will be supply."
By tradition, Filipinos visit their dead in public cemeteries and memorial parks. As early as Tuesday, families of the dead have trooped to these places, putting up tents, spending time together, remembering their loved ones and also having some fun.
This practice was handed down to us by the Mexicans with whom we traded.
My family never missed going to the La Loma cemetery where my parents were buried. When the Loyola Memorial Park became available, we buried their bones there. It is also there where my wife’s family is interred.
Years ago, however, we stopped going to cemeteries on Nov. 1 because of the terrible traffic. Now we visit the dead on their birthdays and anniversaries. Anyhow, we remember them every day, wherever we are.
I notice that Filipinos have the nasty habit of leaving trash behind when they visit their loved ones. I find it disgusting.
* * *
It should be clear by now to President Duterte that so long as there is demand for illegal drugs, syndicates will always be there to provide supply —especially given out porous borders.
With three to four million drug users nationwide, that’s a lot of demand in any language!
The problem is that the President is looking at it as a law and order problem. The police kill addicts and pushers. But this approach won’t work because drugs are a health issue more than anything else.
So long as there are drug abusers and addicts, demand will be there. Customs knows this so well.
The solution then is to cut off that demand by rehabilitating drug abusers and addicts at community-based rehabilitation centers. I can say this because I worked for years as vice president for DARE Foundation under Bob Garon.
In other countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, the government does not go around killing drug users. Instead they impose the death penalty on those responsible for the entry of illegal drugs.
In Colombia and Peru, the government goes after the cartels and syndicates.
Here in the Philippines, together with putting up rehab centers nationwide, the government should go after narcopoliticians who make the distribution of drugs possible.
Through this, I think the President can minimize the menace. The question is whether he is listening.
* * *
Malacañang is now obviously aware that the President’s order for the military to take over the Bureau of Customs is unconstitutional—the military cannot take over civilian functions and the President cannot just replace Customs personnel without due process.
Now Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo says the President was just talking about intimidation, not a takeover.
President Duterte, being a lawyer, should have been advised on the unconstitutionality of what he wanted to happen because it would affect his credibility. For the President to backtrack now would tell us he really says words he does not mean.
We understand his exasperation at the rampant smuggling at the bureau. Indeed, even good men appear to be swallowed by the corrupt system.
Now we hear the new Customs Commissioner Leonardo Rey Guerrero vowing to institute reforms at Customs. It’s the same old line.
But can the bureau ever be free from smuggling and corruption? I have covered 10 administrations in almost 70 years of journalism. Everyone promised to eradicate corruption—everyone failed.
I have spoken with businessmen on what could be done to address the problem. The answer they give me is privatization.
Leave everything to the private sector, they say. This could be done with enough political will.
* * *
I have long been urging the government to turn its attention to the deplorable state of our jails, particularly at the New Bilibid Prison.
I saw photos released by Reuters—and my heart sank. Inmates have to take turns sleeping because there is not enough space. They are not animals! If there is an ultimate violation of human rights, this is it. And then, the inmates have to make do with a P50 daily food allowance.
The relocation of the NBP has been planned under previous administrations, but up to now, nothing has been done. It was built for 2,400 inmates but now the number is ten times that.
As far as I know, there was already a plan to relocate the NBP to Laur, Nueva Ecija. There were already three bidders who had prequalified. But former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, for some reason, decided to junk the project. Was there a favored bidder who did not prequalify? This must be investigated.
I have yet to see President Duterte visit NBP or any Metro Manila jail to see how pitiful the conditions of the inmate really are. One of these days, there might be an epidemic there.