Sign of the times
Yesterday, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency acquired 195 new intelligence officers with the graduation of the new batch of cadets at the PDEA Academy.
In his speech before the new graduates, Parañaque Rep.Roilo Golez said they are entering a career of risk, honor, glory and high mission.
“The campaign on illegal drugs is the moral equivalent of war. It’s a tougher war than war against the NPA, the secessionist movement and the Abu Sayyaf. More than 4,000 barangays, 50 per cent of them in the National Capital Region, are effected by the menace of drugs. Seventy-five per cent of major crimes in the NCR are drug related. This is a serious public order problem,” Golez said.
Underscoring the gravity of the problem, Golez said the number of drug lords, drug dealers and pushers is bigger than the NPA, the secessionists and the ASG combined. “They have firepower, political connections, equipment. network and money. Anything that big becomes a national security concern,” he said.
Golez further said drug users consume P300-400 billion worth of illegal drugs, much more than the stimulus package being conceived by the Arroyo administration.
He urged the Department of Budget and Management to give more support to PDEA and release early the P150 million in the 2009 budget.
There’s a related story about kidnappings on the rise again in the Vera Files website. Teresita Ang See, spokesman of The Citizens Action Against Crime, said kidnappings in the country have returned to an all-time high, averaging one incident every other day.
Ang See aid CAAC has recorded a dozen kidnap-for-ransom cases from Jan. 8 to Feb. 5, four of which occurred in Metro Manila and eight in Mindanao. The figure excludes the kidnapping on Feb. 13 of Sri Lankan peace advocate Omar Jaleel by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits.
The last time the Philippines was averaging three kidnapping incidents in a week was in certain years from 1995 to 2000, she said.
CAAC records show that 15 people have been kidnapped this year. Nearly a hundred million pesos in ransom has been demanded, of which P2.5 million has been paid. Six victims, all in Mindanao, remain in captivity.
Ang See linked the comeback of kidnap gangs, especially in Mindanao, to the huge ransom payments recently paid by several families of victims.
She said the Abu Sayyaf Group, which seized three International Red Cross workers in Sulu on Jan. 15 and three Filipino teachers in Zamboanga on Jan. 23, has been joined by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and smaller gangs in perpetrating the kidnappings in the south.
Ang See noted that kidnappings in Metro Manila have waned chiefly because victims have been paying smaller ransom, usually below P1 million. Ransom demands by Mindanao kidnappers, meanwhile, have reached as high as P10 million.
The CAAC spokesperson urged victims against coughing out a big amount to get their relatives released, saying this only encourages kidnappers to pursue their activity. In some instances, kidnappers prey on the same victims or their families again and again, she said.
Ang See also cautioned politicians and other prominent personalities against playing into the hands of kidnappers, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group which has asked for Vice President Noli de Castro, Sen. Richard Gordon and action star Robin Padilla to join the negotiations for the release of Red Cross workers Andreas Notter, 38, Eugenio Vagni, 62, and Mary Jean Lacaba, 37.
“We should have learned our lessons from the kidnappings of TV journalist Ces Drilon and human rights workers Esperancita Hupida and Millet Mendoza,” she said. “In both cases, kidnappers were ready to release the victims for a lower ransom until they got wind of intervention from Manila and delayed the release and raised the ante.”
She said the kidnappers “just want to demonstrate that they still have the capacity to wreak havoc.”