Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In my hometown Silay, shabu (meth) was selling for P30 a packet...

In my hometown Silay, shabu (meth) was selling for P30 a packet. That's roughly HK$5, or 60 cents US. Tricycle drivers were using it to stay awake. Other folks used it as a substitute for coffee in menial yet laborious jobs, because, as our helpers would say to me, "'To Jam, indi ka na ya ka batyag kapoy" (you become impervious to fatigue when you use it).

Our helpers live in a shanty neighborhood, and they were also telling me that many of their neighbors had gotten hooked on drugs. These are simple folk who live in houses made of flimsy material like plywood. Unlike those of us who live in well-fortified homes or gated communities, they don't have fences to keep drug-crazed thieves or worse outside of their homes. Imagine your daughters walking home through neighborhoods like that at night through dark, cramped alleys with all the drug pushers and junkies hovering around in plain sight, following them with their eyes. They did not feel safe at all, and that is the kind of life they were condemned to endure under the inaction of the previous governments. This is the continuance that we would have doomed them to.

Thankfully, all that has changed under the new administration. When I went home just last month, our helpers told me that all the drug activity in their neighborhood has stopped and they finally feel SAFE again.

Whoever tells you that this anti-drug campaign is a "war against the poor" is either living in a really tiny bubble, or has an agenda. Because you know, all it really takes is to talk to the poor -- your helpers, your drivers and others -- people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, to find out how they live and the kind of hell they deal with on a daily basis because of this scourge. And if you're just content on letting the media (local or otherwise) tell you what the situation is, maybe you aren't really interested in the truth, much less actually care about the real plight of the poor.

How in heaven's name did it come to this? What sort of complacency or complicity turned us into a narco state? Because that's what we've become, whether you like it or not. What else would you call it when the common man can simply buy a packet of shabu at the sari-sari (neighborhood store). Don't forget that the drug industry generates a LOT of money and a lot of very powerful, well-funded people are in on the cut. They won't give that up without a fight. Money and power are the most potent addictions, after all. These people WANT the anti-drug campaign to fail.

Of course this campaign could have been handled more carefully, but if you want it to stop just because you believe that all these murders are being carried out by the government, well I'm sorry but that isn't good enough. Remember that drug-related deaths aren't a new thing and were practically a daily occurrence for years and years, but nobody ever kept track of that. All you needed to do was read a copy of Bandera or Remate (local tabloids) to see that. Unless of course you were living in a bubble of your own and never even glanced through these publications. What I am getting at is, even if this campaign were to stop, we would still have casualties mounting but of the really heinous kind.

When I was in the fourth grade, I came to school one morning to find my classmates crying because our teacher had been raped and stabbed to death the night before by two men whom, we were much later told, were also high on drugs. When I was in college, my high school classmate's dad (who was a meat inspector I think) was hacked to death at a public market by a drug-crazed man with a spading (long jungle knife). You know how when you order a fresh coconut at a tropical resort, they cut it up so it looks like a polygon and serve it to you? My friend said that's basically what the guy did to her dad's head. No, he didn't die right away. It wasn't until he got to the hospital that he succumbed to his wounds.

These were decades ago when drugs weren't as easy to come by. Can you imagine how much worse things are now?

Maybe you can afford not to worry because, well, bubble. But if you'll remember that Close-Up event in May where a bunch of kids ODd on some very nasty party drugs, this pandemic is striking closer and closer to home for the rest of us. Recreational drugs are nothing new of course, but like the telecom companies and FMCG brands, it looks like the drug distributors and dealers have realized the huge potential in making their products more accessible and affordable via sachet offerings. The trouble is, this stuff is probably watered-down with God knows what other poisons to keep them really cheap.

If you are genuinely concerned for the safety of the innocent, then I salute you and I laud your efforts to criticize this administration in an effort to ensure that basic human rights are not trampled. But for many of you, it's difficult not to call bullshit on your bleeding-heart arguments because I am well aware of your political affiliations. That is the magic of social media, after all.

But political leanings aside, at the end of the day, I would like to think (or at least hope) that we all have one thing in common -- that we only want the best for our people and country. And since this is the only administration that has ever decided to recognize the seriousness of this problem and actually has a plan, then it has my full support. I've had it with administrations that blind themselves to the persistent problems that plague our people, most especially the poor.

Jambi Gaston Reyes as posted on Facebook

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