COMMENTARY: Rough Tactics, Good Ends

QUEZON CITY (MindaNews/04 October) — The President is no saint.

Like many of us, he belongs to another genre of God’s creatures.

No question, then, that his penchant for expletives, and his admitted extracurricular activities offend the sensibilities of people.

But, deep down inside, he means well.

In fact, he is the only President in my view, who has seen that poverty is not the only major problem that our country faces. And that, another menace bedevils our people, which, if ignored, would certainly compromise the future of the Republic.

And that is the problem of illegal drugs.

In truth, it’s a massive and all pervading one. A deadly epidemic that targets mainly the youths of the land upon whose shoulders our collective tomorrow depends.

And, how does the President deal with it?

Exterminate it, he says.

That’s fine. Somehow, though, his message gets garbled in the way it is received.

It is well taken by the public in general. But, it gets messed up in the ears of law enforcers.

While people applaud the presidential message as providing some measure of safety in their daily lives, and most cops, I suppose, believe that the President wants drug law violators punished pursuant to law, some law enforcers apparently think otherwise. The latter would rather interpret his order to mean the extermination, not of drug abuse, but of drug-abusers, through the barrel of the gun.

In fairness, the President has clarified in many a forum that what he wants the police to do is their duty even in the matter of cleansing the country of illicit drugs.

And, that duty is defined by the Constitution and by the laws of the land.

Constitutionally, for instance, the authorities, including the police, may only deprive a person of his or her life, liberty or property pursuant to law.

And, in police operations, particularly in subduing a person being arrested, drug-addict or not, the law enforcers may only use reasonable force to effect the arrest.

In other words, shooting a suspect on sight exceeds the legal perimeters of law enforcement. Unless the individual sought to be arrested forcibly resists arrest, in which case, the agents of the law may avail of reasonable force to overcome the culprit.

That said, the national fight against illicit drugs must continue. Otherwise, the zombies now depicted only in comic books or fantasy films might really come to inhabit even this our only paradise on earth.

However, the crusade against prohibited drugs should not be waged by the authorities alone.

The people must be on top of the crackdown on dangerous drugs to make sure that the rights not only of the suspects, but also of the innocent by-standers are adequately protected.

For, unless it is stopped on its deadly tracks today, the illegal drug trade would devastate not only the bodies, but the minds, and ultimately the souls of the very people upon whom we pin the brightest hopes for our country’s destiny.

We can only add our prayers that the Almighty would keep the President’s heart, mind, and soul – and his fist – ever directed towards advancing our people’s welfare now and forever more. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel was mayor of Cagayan de Oro City under the Marcos dictatorship, served as OIC Local Governments Secretary after the EDSA revolt in 1986 and was elected Senator from 1987 to 1992 and 1998 to 2010. He was Senate President in 2000 to 2001).