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Would less drug rehab funds spell more killings?

The story is in the numbers. The police are to have P900 million next year for “tokhang” visitations to drug suspects’ homes. That’s to convince millions more addict-pushers to desist. But the fund for their rehab is to be slashed by three-fourths. And no additional money is set aside to jail arrestees. Meaning, there will be no backroom support for the police’s “soft” approach to the drug menace. With no option for rehab or detention, will the “hard” effort intensify killing them all off? One gets that uneasy feeling from the way druggies presently are being gunned down at will.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto diligently assembles the data:

• Congress is giving the Philippine National Police’s P900 million for its drug campaign, dubbed O-Plan Double Barrel Reloaded. The PNP is asking for money as well to buy 50,700 handguns, 41,000 long arms, 12,400 patrol cars, 11,400 motorcycles, 130 motorboats, and 900 special-purpose vehicles.

• The Department of Health’s rehab budget will be cut by 75 percent, or P2.3 billion. From an already slim P3.1 billion this year, the allocation will dwindle to only P760 million in 2018. The DOH claims, with no details, that private donors will make up for the shortfall.

• The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s fund for 466 jails nationwide will hardly budge, from P11.6 billion this year to P14.3 billion in 2018. The slight rise is mostly to feed the more than 150,000 inmates, two-thirds of whom are facing drug raps. Jails are bursting at the seams, with that many detainees crammed into space for only 21,000. Some jails are 3,500 percent overcapacity; meaning, in a cell for four persons, there are as many as 160 detainees forced to sleep on their feet.

“If drug addiction is a disease, is this budgetary prescription the right one?” Recto wonders. From two million surrendered druggies and 65,000 arrestees as of last June, the PNP targets millions more next year. Meanwhile, the DOH says private donors will bankroll the construction of five rehab mega-clinics, akin to the 1,000-bed facility that a Chinese tycoon built inside Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, last year. But with only P760 million for rehab in 2018, where will money come from for training and pay of the specialists, medicines and food of the patients, and utilities of the mega-clinics? “Is that money enough for DOH hospitals that have drug rehab programs?” Recto asks. “Will it be enough to support community-level abatement programs?”

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Lack of rehab centers will cripple the government’s declared policy to help drug dependents turn a new leaf, Recto warns. “That policy is to save the user, not to ‘salvage’ them.”

“Salvage” is the underworld term for liquidating crime suspects. In his bloody war on drugs President Rodrigo Duterte estimates about four million “shabu” (meth) addicts. He says only a fourth are treatable, and warns them all to stay indoors or else be killed in police operations.

Speaking of which, police operations aim to save the children, Duterte says. Yet in Caloocan City, cops “salvaged” four teenagers in three incidents in as many weeks. That’s according to no less than the National Bureau of Investigation and the Public Attorney’s Office.

Only last August Caloocan was adjudged as Metro Manila’s best police station. So the summary killing of minors is a black eye on the entire PNP.

Clearly something’s wrong. When the PNP re-launched Double Barrel last March, it was supposed to be “kinder, gentler.” Thenceforth only station and precinct commanders were to order drug raids and buy-busts. Only the most qualified operatives were to be in full uniform. To prevent abuse, operations were to involve barangay officials, in coordination with local churchmen. In Caloocan none of the rules were followed – yet it became the best station. One wonders where else this is happening.

Hounded by criticism of 7,000 extrajudicial killings of drug suspects, the PNP stopped Double Barrel in January. Scalawags’ abuses worsened things. Anti-narcotics officers, attempting to shake down a Korean retiree in Angeles City, Pampanga, abducted and strangled him dead right inside the PNP’s Camp Crame headquarters in Quezon City. They tried to conceal the crime by cremating the body and flushing the ashes down the toilet of an ex-cop’s funeral parlor – in Caloocan. Angeles City cops also were exposed shaking down Korean tourists with false drug raps. In the ensuing Senate investigation, a CCTV footage was shown of Metro Manila policemen planting “shabu” in the desk drawers of a private office, then raiding it to extort money from the shop owner and employees.

Duterte halted the drug operations nationwide, cussing the PNP as “corrupt to the core.” He said 60 percent of the 160,000-force was rotten, needing retraining or booting out. A month-long lull followed. Then Double Barrel was reloaded.

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The bloody drug war of the Duterte administration, martial law, and the historical disinfecting of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos are the focus of “Pagsambang Bayan the Musicale” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The music-and-dance remake of the iconic anti-Marcos martial law play of the 1970s-80s is based on the liturgy. Directed by multi-award winning Joel Lamangan; libretto by original playwright Bonifacio P. Ilagan; music by a troupe led by Joed Balsamo; additional choreography by Jomelle Era. Pinoy rock musician Cabring Cabrera of Datu’s Tribe and internationally acclaimed tenor Dondi Ong lead a powerhouse cast of 20.

“Pagsamba” is one of nine plays featured in “Pista Rizalina,” the CCP’s festival to recall the dark days of martial law 45 years ago. The event is named after Rizalina Ilagan, a 23-year-old student activist abducted by state security agents in 1976 and has not been found to date.

CCP Little Theater: Sept. 21-23 Thursday to Saturday, 8 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on the last two days. Tickets available at the box office and at TicketWorld, telephone 02 8919999. For inquiries, call CCP Marketing 02 8323706.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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