Delivered at the New World Hotel, Makati City
Italian poet Cesare Pavese said, and I wish to paraphrase: “Men do not tend to remember days. They remember moments.”
Every time we look back to stories of the past, we cannot always tell specifically what happened “before” and “after,” what really transpired in between, who did what, and why. However, if we recall every important event in our lives – those that were so crucial and transformative – we can easily single out one very striking episode and say: that moment changed everything.
I believe that as a nation, we are witnessing how that pivotal moment takes its course. You and I will agree that change is a term that has been bandied around too often these days that it has already lost its value. In colloquial terms, we say: “gasgas na gasgas na.” But what remains true is that we all want change to happen; it is a public outcry for reformation; a commitment to address a national crisis.
No less than President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has used it as his governance slogan: “Change is coming.” Change in this administration pertains to the reformation of the whole government — the end of rampant corruption, rotting justice system, and glaring poverty. But among these, his most resounding call for change is the eradication of crime and illegal drugs.
When I received your invitation, alam ko puro fellowship, but you gave me a very serious and even deadly topic to discuss, illegal drugs. The anti-drug war is such a hot button topic, that once pressed, tends to spur arguments and discourse. Truth is, this is a national issue replete with pros and cons, conflicting sides each with subsequent merit.
But there is only one side to the illegal drug problem. No matter what, it is evil. And there should be no compromise with evil.
Using the words of the Supreme Court in People vs. Policarpio, “Drug addiction is one of the most pernicious evils that has ever crept into our society… It is common knowledge that drug addicts become useless if not dangerous members of society and in some instances turn up to be among the living dead.”
We all bear witness to how our society has grown accustomed to heinous crimes precipitated by illegal drug use in previous years: killing sprees by so-called riding-in-tandems, alarming numbers of rape cases and the perverse upsurge in murder incidence. In fact, looking at a three-year trend, index crimes or crimes against persons and properties, including murder, rape, robbery – rose by 300% from 2012 to 2014.
Amid such alarming rate, never in our recent history has the government waged the same unrelenting drive against crime and illegal drugs than this administration.
And we have seen positive results. PNP data shows that 64,917 drug suspects were arrested from July 2016 to April 2017 during its 53,503 joint operations with PDEA, NBI, and Bureau of Customs. The operations also yielded 1,266,966 surrenderers, 88,940 of whom were drug pushers.
How does it translate to crime reduction? From July 2016 to March 2017, the recorded index crime fell to 96,398 from almost 135,000 crimes during the same period of the preceding year. This is a 28.57-percent reduction of index crime under this administration.
As a former Chief of the Philippine National Police, I knew that persistent and systemic crimes speak volumes of our ineffective law enforcement: people perceive our police force as inept and remiss of their duties, and this poor public perception demoralizes our men in uniform. Worse, this encourages crime perpetrators – the very enemy of the people.
For this reason, you and I will agree that massive and dramatic dismantling of drug syndicates and criminals has been long overdue, and the war should be waged against from the lowest to the highest ranks of narcotics genealogy. The crackdown against drugs should be lawful, principled and uncompromising.
Nothing less would suffice.
Thus, when I hear issues weakening our resolve for change, I am always the first to crack the whip. I cannot overemphasize my stance on the issue, as stated on this truism, and I quote: “No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity.”
In the midst of public outcry against alarming series of killings perpetrated by vigilantes and police scalawags, I stood my ground as the number one critic of the PNP. In recent months, we have witnessed how the war on illegal drugs became the hotbed of controversies. Some of the most unprecedented incidents that fell on us were the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa; the tokhang-for- ransom and murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo; and the video of some PNP operatives planting drugs during a raid.
We were quick to conduct Senate inquiries in aid of legislation and to dig into facts to unearth how the war on drugs precipitated exploitations and abuses by police scalawags. While exposing rogue personnel was already made, it is crucial that legislators come up with laws that are relevant and responsive to the PNP’s internal cleansing. This includes strengthening the Internal Affairs Service or the IAS, by expanding its investigative powers to cover all acts and omissions that discredit the institution.
From education to recruitment, the standards should also be higher to weed out would-be scalawags in the service. I am confident that these proposed legislations would prevent stories of nanlaban-kaya-napatay, tokhang-for-ransom and tanim-droga.
Notwithstanding, none of these efforts will be successful if our PNP falls short of its unflinching commitment to fight vigilantes and erring policemen. Unless they demonstrate change upon themselves, they subject the institution as the culprit of these uncanny and inconceivable crimes.
The PNP should stay the course, without compromising the virtues of Service, Honor, and Justice. These very principles of the PNP are foundational to institute reforms. If our government wants change, we should not forget that it must begin with our institutions, and that good example is the most powerful agent of change. When it comes to service organizations, I quickly identify myself with the Rotary because of its guiding principles.
The Rotary’s ethical guide, the Four-Way Test, is instrumental in carrying out the reform policies of this government. In everything we do, say or act, we shall test ourselves and resolve four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
All of such questions are tests of moral uprightness in the conduct of our public duty. I believed then, as I still believe now, that to be an efficient organization serving the public, it is paramount that the government gains the respect and trust of its people through principled public service.
Civil society organizations like the Rotary, therefore, play an important role in contributing towards the implementation of policies for development change and increased government accountability. We should all work together to eliminate this menace by all means necessary, but with proper regard to and complete respect for the individual rights of all concerned, whether they be the one enforcing the law or the one to whom the law is being enforced.
This war against drugs has reached unparalleled heights in the history of our nation. Our actions, individually and collectively, will be stenciled as part of this history. As leadership expert David Cottrell stated and I quote: “The success of any change depends, in large measure, on your attitude about that change.”
Again, I like to thank the Rotary Club of Makati Central for having me here today. Mabuhay ang Rotary at mabuhay po tayong lahat!