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Terror and drugs

President Duterte’s declaration of Martial law in Mindanao received high public approval because of the situation in Marawi City. The Armed Forces has announced that they have reduced the number of militants, and residents are being allowed to return home in seven villages near the Mindanao State University, where classes are set to resume on Tuesday. However, the war against illegal drugs seems to be taking a turn for the worse.

The death of 17-year-old Kian Loyd delos Santos during a police operation in Caloocan has sparked public outrage, with CCTV footage reportedly showing the boy being dragged by policemen and eyewitness accounts saying he was beaten up and then shot.

There are dedicated policemen who are lawfully doing their duty and these are the men who need to be reassured that they will not be left hanging when they go after drug suspects – which is what the president meant when he said, “I have your back” – but what happened to the 11th grader should be thoroughly investigated.

As Malacañang spokesperson Ernie Abella said, they will not leave any stone unturned, and we are confident the president will not allow those responsible to go unpunished if it becomes clear that the incident involving the young man was indeed a case of police abuse, brutality and even murder. What happened to Kian is sending chills of terror down the spine of many people – which is why they must be reassured that government agencies like the National Bureau of Investigation are working hard to weed out abusive and corrupt members of law enforcement agencies.

NBI director Dante Gierran told me that those implicated in the brutal kidnap-slay of Korean national Jee Ick-joo are already facing charges. Government efforts to make erring cops and other law enforcement personnel accountable must also be told to the people. No question, there is a need to “police the police” – because whatever gains the government will achieve in going after narco-politicians, big-time drug lords and smugglers as well as their protectors will be eroded by stories such as what happened to 17-year-old high school student Kian Loyd delos Santos.

Uber crisis

The suspension of Uber has left hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on the ride-sharing company practically “stranded.” The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) was legally justified in imposing the month-long suspension because the transport networking company (TNC) defied orders to stop accepting new applications. However, this latest development only underscores the untenable situation faced by the commuting public that continues to suffer from an inadequate and inefficient (some even say non-existent) mass transport system, with people packed like sardines in MRT trains that regularly breakdown and suffer from one technical glitch to another.

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One of the reasons why many people have come to rely on ride-sharing companies such as Grab and Uber is because they find the system to be a safe, comfortable and convenient way to move around. We all have heard these stories about passengers getting held-up, kidnapped, raped and even murdered by taxi drivers (who work in cahoots with criminal syndicates), which is why Uber has become a popular alternative mode of transport especially for young people going home late at night because the app allows riders to share their destination with their parents, who can then monitor the progress of the vehicle.

In fact, even those who have vehicles are beginning to prefer TNCs because they don’t have to get stressed navigating through the streets of Metro Manila. They can just sit back and even go to sleep without having to worry about any crimes being committed because the driver’s name, plate number and even the make of the vehicle are recorded. Some even admitted planning to sell their cars because they no longer have to worry about maintenance and would you believe – parking?

TNCs provide the kind of technological innovation that has been adopted in many parts of the world such as San Francisco where Uber was popularized early on because commuters were getting stranded, with mounting complaints from citizens against the local taxi industry.

Supporters of TNCs say these firms have generated employment among people including women, retirees and returning OFWs. However, there are also those who feel that the proliferation of vehicles accredited with Grab and Uber also exacerbate the traffic congestion in Metro Manila – which again brings us back to the root of the problem which is the lack of an efficient and effective mass transportation system that this administration is working very hard to address with its massive infrastructure program.

I had a conversation with Atty. Karen Jimeno who is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, who said they are on track with their massive “build, build, build” program with up to P8 trillion allocated in the next five to six years. Budget Secretary Ben Diokno is also optimistic that flagship projects will be completed before the term of President Duterte ends.

In fact, the World Bank has already lauded the government’s infrastructure program, saying infra investments are necessary to promote development. This is the good news that we should tell the world and actually propagate. The economic team headed by Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, NEDA chief Ernie Pernia, Budget Secretary Ben Diokno will be going to Washington, DC this October for the IMF conference. DTI Secretary Mon Lopez will be going around ASEAN and other countries to conduct roadshows about the Dutertenomics program which will help provide sustained economic growth for the country – because the real story in the Philippines should be about “build, build, build” – and not “kill, kill, kill.”

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