“It is now clear that President Marcos Jr. has a better understanding of the illegal drugs problem of the country.”
When reports came in that the onslaught of super typhoon Karding was directly hitting Polillo Islands and Patnanungan Island, Santa Banana, the first thing that came to mind was that Balesin Island Club would also be hit very hard!
Balesin Island Club, that super high-end luxury resort, with its exclusive membership now being advertised on CNN worldwide, is owned by Alpha Land Chairman and CEO Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin, who was once my student at the old Ateneo de Manila.
I also wondered if Bobby was at Balesin where he spends most of his time because it’s COVID-19 pandemic-free, and how would he be feeling?
Well, Santa Banana, here’s Bobby’s answer in a letter to all Balesin Island Club members and friends like me:
“It’s 6:00 in the evening of Monday, September 26, as I write this update.
“I have just arrived from Singapore, where I was nervously monitoring super typhoon Karding as he took aim at Balesin yesterday, Sunday.
“Miraculously, Balesin suffered almost no damage. It was as if the typhoon, having ravaged North and East of the Polillo Islands, upon sighting Balesin, took pity on our beloved island and veered north westward!
“Upon landing in Balesin a couple hours ago, I went quickly around the island and confirmed Evans Ramos’ hour by hour report to me, her prayers had been answered and the typhoon, which had been bearing down on Balesin with its powerful and destructive winds, had, at the last minute, changed course.
“Other than a few fallen trees that were almost dying of old age anyway, and about 10 percent of our bananas at the Banana Republic were the only casualties. What a relief!
“Since all flights were cancelled, we had 173 people on the island when Karding struck. Except for missing their Sunday night dinner, all were safe and well.
“Also, our Baguio Mountain Lodges were spared, as Karding exited Luzon a couple of hundred kilometers south of Dagupan.
“Many have claimed credit for the salvation of Balesin through their constant prayers. I can only thank them all.”
Indeed, Balesin Island Club is not only lucky, but a lot of prayers must have spared it from the onslaught of Karding, which could have devastated it.
And I also believe that the Sierra Madre mountains also spared Metro Manila, when it weakened the force of Karding.
My gulay, when typhoon signal No. 3 was raised in Metro Manila, I said to myself, the informal settlers or squatters will suffer.
I prayed very hard that Kardinng would spare them from its havoc, Santa Banana!
• • •
In a command conference with the Philippine National Police, President Marcos Jr. told the police that in his war against illegal drugs they should stop going after the small fry—mainly those who push drugs like shabu and marijuana and like drug addicts and pushers who earn only P100—but concentrate on going after drug lords and syndicates who smuggle illegal drugs.
Clearly, Santa Banana, Bongbong Marcos realized why his predecessor, President Duterte did not succeed in his war against illegal drugs.
The reason was everybody involved in illegal drugs, including the drug addicts who are the victims of illegal drugs, were the police targets, which resulted in extra judicial killings or EJK that gave rise to a culture of impunity!
As a result, that culture of impunity gave birth to worldwide criticism, so much so that the International Criminal Court wants to probe the past president for crimes against humanity.
It is now clear that President Marcos Jr. has a better understanding of the illegal drugs problem of the country.
According to police records, there are some 4.5 million drug addicts and illegal drug users nationwide.
A clear understanding of the illegal drug problem will mean a clearer perspective like a holistic understanding which would include prevention, law enforcement, prosecution and rehabilitation, which is the final solution of the illegal drugs problem, my gulay.
I have been repeating myself during the presidency of Duterte that the police may kill all illegal drug users and addicts, but unless the police got rid of all the drug lords and drug syndicates, the illegal drugs problem could never be solved.
Yes, there is a need to prevent entry of illegal drugs, like shabu which is the illegal drug being used by the poor, and cocaine which is the illegal drug used by the rich.
Thus, it is only logical to prevent illegal drugs from entering the country which is normally through Customs and often smuggled from Mainland China, the Golden Triangle where they normally come from (Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos) and processed in China called shabu which is the drug used by the poor.
Cocaine is often smuggled through Customs from other sources and by the Mexican cartel, which has made the Philippines a transhipment point to other countries.
With the demand for drugs by the estimated 4.5 million drug users and addicts in the country, which is certainly a big market for syndicates and cartels, the problem of illegal drugs remains.
Thus, there is a need for effective law enforcement, without resorting to extra-judicial killings like what happened under Duterte, and which was condemned by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Human Rights Council.
But, rehabilitation is the bigger solution like building community-based drug rehab centers in every city and municipality.
For as long as there is demand for illegal drugs, the drug lords, drug syndicates, and cartels will always be there to supply the demand.
Santa Banana, the illegal drugs market worldwide is a multi-billion dollar industry.
So long as Customs remains the corrupt agency that it is, illegal drugs will enter the country from China or get smuggled through our porous coastlines.
Thus, the blame also lies in the existence of corrupt government agencies like Customs and through smuggling.
You must have noticed that every single day in the country there are those who are caught in buy-bust operations by the police or by the Philippines Drug Enforcement (PDEA).
It simply means that the drug lords and syndicates and cartels consider the Philippines a big market.
It is for this reason why there is a need for community-based drug rehab centers.
Why community based? Illegal drug users and addicts need all the support of their families.
And first and foremost drug rehab centers must be properly staffed with doctors and nurses, especially psychologists and psychiatrists since drug addiction is both a mental and physiological problem.
Thus, President Bongbong Marcos must prioritize the building of community-based drug rehabilitation centers nationwide.
Sure, it’s an expensive problem.
But Bongbong must realize that eradicating illegal drugs is an expensive proposition if he must succeed in the war on illegal drugs.
And this will take sometime, not just a matter of months, Santa Banana!
• • •
There seems to be some hesitancy in some sectors of the Marcos administration on the total ban of POGOs (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators).
This is because POGOs reportedly contribute some P200 billion to the country’s economy through permits to operate, taxes, and income tax, and especially to real estate because POGOs Chinese workers occupy condominiums and houses in many subdivisions.
Thus, the problem seems to be a choice between ending all the crime problems brought about by the POGOs Chinese workers who are being kidnapped for ransom and even killed by Mainland Chinese gangs who have made the Philippines their playground and all the money being contributed to the POGOs.
Admittedly, it’s a difficult choice.
But, if President Marcos Jr. has enough political will, the problem should not be a choice for many reasons.
First of all, POGOs are the main reason why crime in the country has gone up recently.
And the presence of crime in the country will certainly deter tourism and the entry of foreign investment.
And the so-called “social problem” can be resolved in time. Aside from this, gambling is illegal in Mainland China.
Thus this problem becomes an acid test for Marcos to resolve and, with enough political will, he can do it.
Certainly, it should be a choice since peace and order in the country is foremost for foreign tourists and foreign investors.
But, as I said, President Marcos, with enough political will, has no choice but to get rid of all POGOs. Ban and outlaw all POGOs!