Poll bets raising funds through drugs – Grace
Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Some candidates in the May elections are raising campaign funds through the illegal drug trade as sources of quick money have become limited with the abolition of the pork barrel system, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday.

In a roundtable discussion with The STAR editors and reporters, Poe warned narco-politics has gained a foothold in the country and might influence the elections in May.

Poe’s warning came on the eve of the first hearing by the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which she chairs, on an attempted break-in at a radio station in Iloilo City, allegedly by men with drug links.

“If there’s a rise in the incidents of violence and the sale of drugs during this time, you cannot help but associate that with perhaps campaign funds,” Poe said.

She said corrupt officials and wannabe politicians have lost steady sources of funds with the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was the official term for pork barrel. Also declared illegal were some parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

“The government has tightened its grip on expenditures: DAP was stopped and then there’s no such thing as PDAF (anymore),” she said.

“But of course we still have others that will put a line item in the budget. But in terms of discretionary spending, there’s obviously been a limitation already in these past three years or two years under the Aquino administration, so they obviously have to resort to some other means to fund their campaign,” she pointed out.

PDAF had been a subject of controversy because of its being used by some legislators for vested interests as well as lucrative kickbacks.

The PDAF was commonly used by legislators to finance projects for their local constituents and as such, became a convenient source of campaign funds.

The DAP, on the other hand, was practically used for the same purpose, except that the funding was sourced from savings declared by the executive branch in the General Appropriations Act.

Poe said that there was information that local officials of Iloilo were involved in the illegal drug trade, including a top executive, whom she declined to identify.

“I’m just saying if local government or public officials are involved, this could be the root of why they are involved,” she said.

Narco-politics refers to the use of revenues from the illegal drug trade to influence the results of elections, especially at the local government level.

Poe said that the campaign against illegal drugs would be one of her main priorities if she becomes president.

In fact, she already has an initial plan on how to carry out the campaign against illegal drugs.

“Maybe one of the reservations of people would be because I’m female, I might not be tough on drugs. One of the first things I would do is to declare drugs a national security threat and a menace to society. Let’s make it public who the pushers are,” Poe said.

She said that it is important that a civilian be appointed as head of the internal affairs division of the Philippine National Police.

She also wants a revival of the Barangay Anti-Drug Council and to provide incentives to barangays that actively crack down on the illegal drug trade.

Poe said that she intends to set up a room in Malacañang that would be used specifically for monitoring criminal activity in the country.

As far as Poe was concerned, law enforcement is the most important aspect in the anti-illegal drug campaign.

“Nothing will deter crime but the certainty of punishment,” Poe said, adding that setting up “drug courts” would help in the campaign.

The senator said that she was also open to the revival of the death penalty in the country for heinous crimes or for recidivists involved in heinous crimes.

“As a mother and I see the suffering of other parents because their children have been victimized by crime, I realized that there is a clamor for the death penalty to be restored. I myself will probably say, yes, I would like that to scare away criminals,” Poe said.

“I think within the first six months of the presidency, you become serious about involving the barangays, holding accountable the PNP, being hands on, installing CCTVs, adding more drug courts and still if the crime rate does not go down, we seriously have to look into what needs to be done,” she added.

At the very least, Poe said that Congress should now begin debating the issue.

“These are the things that we have to seriously consider, especially after we already waged a very strong campaign against drugs and crime. If it still does not deter it, then we’d have to look at this alternative,” Poe said.

“This is a matter for Congress to decide. I will encourage the debate on it and if they still cannot do it, let us open it to a plebiscite or a vote. Maybe it’s high time that we bring it to the public to be able to weigh in on issues that are so contentious, such as that,” she added.

The Senate, through resolutions 1673 and 1674, agreed to investigate the attacks on the Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo and DYOK Aksyon Radio Iloilo by goons working for drug syndicates.

The police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have identified village council member Jesus Espinosa Jr. and Melvin Odicta Sr. as suspects in the break in. – Jennifer Rendon

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