Robredo – the new Joan of Arc of the Philippines?
AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - November 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Topping them all in the list of recent newsmakers in the country is the appointment of Vice President Leni Robredo as the “drug czar” by President Duterte.

Many are skeptical about the intentions of the President in this offer. But more are concerned about the VP accepting the offer. But Robredo is a devout Catholic. How can she ignore such a call? This is her ooportunity to help those afflicted. This is her time to shine. Her good intentions may bring forth positive solutions. Now let’s wait and see how she will address that matter on hand.

Drug abuse affects almost all countries of the world. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), illegal drug use in the Philippines is lower than the global average. But despite this, President continues to warn us that the country could become a “narco-state” if the problem is ignored.

In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia. According to a US State Department report, 2.1 percent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 use the drug as shown on 2008 figures by the Philippines Dangerous Drugs Board. In 2016, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime reported that 1.1 percent of Filipinos aged 10 to 69 use the drug. Last February, President Duterte said that the number of drug-dependent Filipinos has risen to 7-8 million.

From 2010 to 2015, 623 government officials and employees were arrested for drug possession by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Of these, 45% were government employees while 30% were elected officials and 25% were police.

Alleged involvement of Philippine National Police generals on drug trade was also reported. Remember the five generals named by President Duterte to be allegedly involved in drugs: Marcelo Garbo Jr., Joel Pagdilao, Edgardo Tinio, Bernardo Diaz, and Vic Loot. I wonder where they are now. The president has also revealed the names of 150 government officials who were found to be involved in illegal drug trade particularly at the New Bilibid Prison.

And then the killings began. A week after President Duterte’s inauguration, about 1,000 drug pushers and users were reported killed in police operations and another 1,000 killed in drug-related incidents. On March 2017, an estimated 6,000 so-called extra-judicial killings were reported. Today, human rights groups have estimated the number to 20,000. The war on drugs, “Operation Tokhang” brought about pandemonium across all sectors of society.

Will the “drug czar” become the new Joan of Arc of the Philippines? Joan of Arc, the French heroine during the Hundred Years’ War was noted to be religious. She saw visions of Archangel Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret instructing her to fight in honor of Charles VII to win back France from English domination. Will VP Leni win the ‘battle’? Does she hold supernatural powers?

In her first meeting with heads and representatives of the over 40 agencies and sub-agencies comprising the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD), VP Robredo said three important things: She believes that drug addiction is a serious problem that the country is facing; that she is all for a strong national policy against illegal drugs; and that she is all for a vigorous anti-drug campaign.

Let’s hope that President Duterte will support the new ‘czar’. If he truly wants to solve the problem in the country, he should give her utmost respect with all the backup she will need to succeed in her mission.

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The Philippine Coast Guard under the helm of its newly-appointed Commandant, Vice Admiral Joel S. Garcia PCG, swiftly and efficiently sprang into action following the devastation caused by the Mindanao quakes. At the forefront of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, the PCG quickly deployed 100 boom trucks carrying over 12,000 food packs, 1,500 sleeping kits, and 1,500 laminated sacks from the DSWD National Operations Center in Pasay City. This operation was led by ENS Noli C. Torres PCG and properly turned over to Coast Guard Task Force: Tabang Mindanao Commander, Commodore Gregorio I. Adel Jr. PCG.

It took almost four days for these goods to be transported via the RORO path to Mindanao. You see, humanitarian assistance is not as easy as we perceive it to be. The logistics and manpower to ship all these aid to our fellow Filipinos in need takes a considerable amount to be reckoned with.

We hear too many pundits reeling about how slow the government is to react and serve the affected communities, yet, they might not have any inkling as to how our men and women in the Philippine Coast Guard, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and concerned government agencies toil and labor silently and swiftly to reach out to our countrymen. However, these silent operators must be acknowledged to let our people know that there are heroes among us who choose to help in any way they can rather than bickering and barking nonsense.

Neighboring Coast Guard districts of Southern Visayas, Central Visayas and the Mindanao districts were the first responders on the scene. They delivered the much-needed aid taken from DSWD warehouse on that area. The Coast Guard Auxiliary have collated close to 2 million pesos, apart from medical and other logistical needs, in support of the PCG’s Task Force Tabang Mindanao relief efforts.                        

Our country is located along the typhoon and earthquake belt. We will continue to experience natural disasters that will test our spirits. In the past few years we have already been awakened by the strongest disasters humanity has ever experienced and yet our resilience continues to bring us back on toe. Let us salute the men and women in uniform – the Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, the DSWD and local government units not to mention the non-government agencies and private citizens who have tremendously assisted the families unselfishly and unconditionally. And let’s hope that our country keeps going toward a better Philippines, developing more efficiencies in public service.

RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE
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