Bacolod got a new tag

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

The Bacolod City government has spent a lot of money to get several distinguishing titles like City of Smiles, Most Business-Friendly and Model City of the Philippines and spent some more to let the world know about these publicity images. Now, it got a new and unintended label, “shabulized area”. The image this description creates is that the city is reeling from the uncontrolled proliferation of shabu.

This title was once given to Iloilo but now Bacolod got it. The police no longer classify Iloilo as “shabulized” but surely Bacolod does not relish the idea it inherited the title

That description was dished out by Police Lieutenant Colonel Jovie Espenido who heads the city’s Anti-Illegal Drug Enforcement Unit. City officials must either be fuming mad or red hot in the face for this unpalatable, devastating title. The new title, however, was given a consuelo de bobo – “in the meantime” but not telling the public how long “meantime” is.

The flow of news in the national media of a series of anti-illegal drug operations in Bacolod, unsolved killings by riding in tandems and apprehensions plus millions of these drugs being confiscated perceptively confirms the police tag. It used to be a badge of sorts that the police in Bacolod are on the warpath, but the flow of blood in the operations are raising questions about not whether but when the doping and bloodletting will end.

This title was, in fact, strengthened with the appointment of Espenido who was sent here by the President to rid the city of the drug. This police officer is a top operator against drug lords and pushers. Espenido’s brand of operations was anticipated considering the President’s instruction to eliminate all the personalities involved in the illegal drug trade. Did not the President say, about “killing them all”?

Bacolod being “shabulized” is merely a description of the situation that the President had in mind when he designated Espenido here. We are certain the President knows more than we do because we rely mainly on news releases from the authorities, but he has many sources of intelligence information.

We had been puzzled where the drugs, reported in local media almost every day in buy-bust operations, come from. It seems the supply flows from a large reservoir that is never exhausted or perhaps constantly replenished. The police, in fact, described the volume that they have recovered as “huge” – over P73 million worth during the last year. The peddlers, also according to the police, are “numerous” as if there is an army of them, an inexhaustible source of manpower despite the harsh end for those who dared resist.

Espenido had urged the people of Bacolod to help him stop the flow of prohibited drugs. It seems then that the sources of information could be drying up or that information of the alleged list of suspects could not yet make a tight case.

The police colonel disclosed that the information from suspects in custody indicates that the main source is outside the city and he is asking the residents here to assist the police with information. “Speak up”, he asked although he can operate even outside Bacolod. That suggests that he was not referring to Bacolod alone but the province. What is troubling is he was reported saying that the people engaged in the drug trade had already “tasted the experience of the wealthy” and therefore they should go against “your protectors in the government.”

He has no time schedule when he will be able to fully eradicate this societal scourge, “only God knows when, but we must do our best and God will do the rest.”

The plea of Colonel Espenido, however, raises the question about the participation of the Bacolod government in this campaign. To what extent is the city involved and why is the city appears indifferent as even noted by the Negros Occidental Commission on Human Rights? Romeo Baldevarona of CHR claimed that witnesses and even police officers are reluctant to speak. It seems that fear has also pervaded the city with this silence.

It behooves the city officials to increase their efforts to help the police considering the claim that those involved in the illegal drug trade have protectors in government. Silence can be misconstrued.