The Drug Wars: Negro Cocaine “Fiends” Are A New Southern Menace

It is easy to become sidetracked by emotion into the peripheries of the debate on illicit drugs. This only makes it harder to find a real solution to this tragedy that has harmed and continues to threaten to harm the lives of many Filipinos. Whether these are the victims themselves, the families of these victims and those in law enforcement who have lost their lives in this declared war on drugs, it does not matter. They are all victims. Rather than point fingers and engage in useless social media battles colored by political partisanship, it is probably time to step back and start to realize that we are all after the same goal – a long-term, rational approach to the problems that drug use brings. A logical starting point would be to educate ourselves. If anything, we owe this those who have already been victimized because to fight among ourselves would only make the justice that they seek even that more elusive. This is my contribution.


If we can associate a year as to when the drug wars began it was this year – 1914. This was the year when the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was passed by the US Congress. The law provided “for the registration of, with collectors of internal revenue, and to impose a special tax upon all persons who produce, import, manufacture, compound, deal in, dispense, sell, distribute, or give away opium or coca leaves, their salts, derivatives, or preparations, and for other purposes.” While not outrightly banning opium and cocaine, the regulation did lead to a decline particularly in the use of opium. Yet, it also had the unintended consequence of starting the illicit drug trade. A report commissioned by US Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo in 1918-19 indicated that drugs were being smuggled by sea and across the Mexican and Canadian borders into the United States.

The drama that presaged the passage of the Harrison Act into law was nothing if not incredible. A New York Times article published on February 8, 1914 (image at the beginning of the article) associated murders by “Negroes” to the use of cocaine. You can still read most of the article and you’d probably come away amused by some of the claims made there. This fear of the “Negro” menace was by no means the only fear stoked by those who drafted this bill to push its passage – there was also the fear of opium-smoking “Chinamen” who were supposedly seducing white women.

This only, however, served as a preview to what would come about 2 decades later. Here we meet Harry Anslinger.

Harry J. Anslinger was the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics under the Department of Treasury. This bureau had once been the Department of Prohibition which had lost its own war against alcohol. With a shrinking government department slowly sinking into oblivion, Anslinger had to find a new enemy to justify his department’s existence. At that time cocaine and opium were not such problems that they had been and that cocaine is now.

Despite all the manner of evidence presented to him, Anslinger focused on banning marijuana which at that time was legal. Anslinger himself had a previously benign position on marijuana going only as far as to consider it a nuisance. Yet, almost overnight he changed his view. Why? Because he believed that the biggest users of cannabis in the United States at that time were Mexican immigrants and African-Americans. In testimony in front of the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. Congress he stated that he had been told of “colored students at the University of Minn(esota) partying with (white) female students and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy”.

Then there was the case of Victor Lacata. The story was that here was this fine young 21-year old man who one day smoked marijuana, went into a “marihuana dream” and hacked his mother, his father, two brothers and sister to death with an axe. Anslinger rode this story stoking fear among Americans about this weed which could made your son go “loco” and hack you to pieces.

The result was the Marihuana Act of 1937 passed by the US Congress on August 2, 1937.

No amount of opposition from the scientific and medical community against the banning of marijuana could overcome the sensationalized, race-based fiction that Harry J. Anslinger had created. Sadly, it later came out that Victor Lacata had long suffered from “acute and chronic” insanity.

So there you go. Many have always assumed that this War on Drugs began as a result of a conscious, scientific and rational decision based on facts. That this War on Drugs was founded on the need to protect our children, reduce addiction and eliminate the violence associated with the illicit drug trade.

Tragically, it is clear that this War on Drugs was mainly a war against African-Americans, Chinese and Mexican immigrants. The beginning of this War on Drugs was nothing more than a cover for racial discrimination. A war based on fiction.

[To be continued]





this spratly thing


Philippine Marines on the former BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal. Photo credit:

Iloilo City – With all the advisers that they have at their disposal, it is so frustrating to continue to hear unrealistic, at best, and totally inane, at worst, ideas about how to deal with the Spratly Islands (or Kapuluan ng Kalayaan) dispute. I get the UNCLOS thing and the multilateral talks approach. What usually follows next is the standard line on military modernization. The latter part, I don’t quite get.

We are not going to go into an all-out war with China. Despite its aggressive military stance, China will not go into an all-out war with the Philippines. China will continue its one reef, one sandbar or whatever, at a time invasion. The only way to stop them would be to put a strong enough force to serve as a deterrent to further conquests. I’m not even sure we can do that. The Philippine Armed Forces does not have the capability to garrison, much less, defend these little reefs.

Realistically speaking, our best bet is still having the US Navy staking a presence in the area.

Even as our Vice Presidential candidates talk about this military modernization, it is befuddling to note that no mention was made of the 18 soldiers killed in Basilan just the day before. We seem to have become manhid to the continued sacrifice of our soldiers. Again, no one will be called to account for the tragic death of our soldiers. This guy Napenas (of Mamasapano fame) even has the gall to run for Senator as part of the UNA slate.

The military seems to be in denial about the burgeoining IS presence in Mindanao. This latest loss of the lives of 18 soldiers of the 44th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army was attributed to the Abu Sayyaf when it seems that this is a breakaway group which has pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Despite all those intelligence funds sloshing around in the budgets of the military and non-military agencies of government, this failure again highlights the incomprehensible defeat at the hands of what had been a group of bandits.

My point is this – we focus too much on military modernization relative to this Spratly thing while our soldiers continue to die at the hands of a lightly-armed insurgent group. Isn’t it way past time for the military and its civilian leadership to take a hard look at itself and figure out why they always run into ambushes? It’s always the same story – someone gets kidnapped, military in hot pursuit of bandits responsible for kidnapping, military ambushed, soldiers die. Sobra nang kawawa ang ating mga foot soldiers and their families while their generals enjoy the country club life in Villamor, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo or wherever they have those military-run golf courses.

It has become tragically obvious that for far too long, our military has been and continues to be outsmarted by insurgents who run rings around them. If this were a one-off thing, you could attribute this to a an everything went wrong, this won’t happen again event. But these have not been isolated cases. Instead it points to a serious systemic problem within our armed forces which calls into question their tactics, training and everything else that characterizes a military organization.

It is only fair to ask that with all the billions that we have spent on the armed forces, does the Philippines actually have the military that it needs to face our country’s unique situation? It seems to me that we don’t.

The Filipino soldier will likely never fight in a war against China. But, it is certain that the Filipino soldier will fight the cadres of the New People’s Army, the Filipino soldier will fight the bandits of Abu Sayyaf, the Filipino soldier will fight the growing number of IS proxies and so on so forth. The question is – is the Filipino soldier properly equipped in terms  of training, tactics, weaponry and logistics to fight this kind of war?

So, to our dear leaders – if you really want to know, the Filipino soldier doesn’t care about modernization in terms of China, they care about the little things – a working rifle, night-vision goggles, electronic intelligence, working communications systems, the right training and tactics, modern helicopters (not those refurbished Hueys ha) to provide close air support and MedEvac, etc., etc. The Filipino soldier needs the little things that will help him fight a war that they are now fighting and not things that will be of use in a war with China that they will never fight. So take those 12 P1.5 billion per piece FA-50PH fighter jets and go fight China yourself










my choice (part 2)

Iloilo City – F. Sionil Jose, propounds that a president strongly backed by the military would be the solution to our problems. A Marcosian solution one thinks. Behind his thinking, however, is the allusion to the fact that we are such a poor excuse as a nation that we need a dictator or at least a strong president to get us all in line. The lack of discipline, the abject disregard of the rule of law, the lack of purpose, the being mayabang na wala namang ipagyayabang, the pretentiousness, the every person for himself mentality (just look at the traffic), the national inferiority complex – all these need to be eradicated for us to really change and fulfill our potential as a nation. F. Sionil Jose believes a Lee Kuan Yew-type leader is required (my interpretation).

It is hard to accept that only a military-backed dictator will be able to launch a revolution to “re-form” our institutions.

The Philippines and the Filipino people is/are an impressionable lot. Rather than a military-backed dictatorship, we need a visionary leader who will also have the “sticktoitiveness” to push through with the necessary steps to build on a broad-minded vision. Someone who will have the balls to say what needs to be done and actually get it done. Someone who will argue by force of reason and logic rather than someone who will do so with the barrel of a gun pointed at your head.

Our Constitution, with its imperfections, is a relatively good one. We argue on the constitutionality of things based on technicalities. This misses the point. Our Constitution is a set of aspirations and promises. Sadly and very frustratingly, our institutions which are tasked with fulfilling these promises and thus getting us closer to these enunciated aspirations have failed us. The presidential oath of office binds our President to protect and defend its Constitution. It would have been better had the phrase “and fulfill its promises” been added. Regardless, we need someone who will understand this and do so.

Sadly, there is no one in the horizon for 2016 who seems capable of doing so.

of football players, football writers and missing the point: the stephan schröck controversy

Pasay City – Sometime in 2012, the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) was finalizing the launch of its nationwide grassroots program called Kasibulan. One of the main proponents of that initiative was Coach Aris Caslib who was then and continues to be the PFF’s Technical Director. We were having a discussion on the framing of this program in the context of the development of football in the Philippines. We were talking about performance indicators that we would need to be able to judge the sucess (or failure) of the PFF’s various player development programs. We were thinking big and we discussed being able to qualify for the World Cup in 20 years or so as a goal. One of the indicators of program success that he said and that has stuck to me was that – “we have to reach a point where we dominate football in Southeast Asia” or words to that effect.

Four years in, we are still not where we could say we are dominating Southeast Asian football. Thailand still holds that distinction. Having said that, we have certainly become more competitive having reached the semifinals of all the Suzuki Cup competitions – the unofficial Southeast Asian championship – since that conversation with Coach Aris took place.

It is also worth noting that domestically-based players are gradually starting to become more competitive in fighting for slots in the Men’s National Team. Our youth teams are also becoming more competitive – an indicator of some success at the grassroots level. Yet, we are far from where we want to be.

One of the more informed and astute football writers/analysts that we have, Ryan Fenix, came out last week with an article on ( that has caused more than a minor stir in the football community. With the article titled, “After strong North Korea performance, where does it leave Schrock and the Azkals?”, it was bound to cause some controversy.

The title aside, Ryan’s piece if properly read asks some good and insightful questions. The big question that has raised all the fuss is whether the Azkals play better without Schrock. It is a question raised by an astute observer of the game and not a malicious shot meant to create discord.

Stephan Schrock is the best all around player we have. If you look at the best lineup that the Azkals can trot out, Schrocky is probably head and shoulders, talent-wise, above our fourth or fifth best player. This being the case, it is unavoidable that there will be times when players get caught ball-watching rather than moving into space where Schrocky can find them. This is not a unique phenomenon. The Michael Jordan Bulls had many moments like this. When one player is recognized by far as the best on a team, he needs the other players to become even more effective thus making the team that more devastating.

This phenomenon is not Schrocky’s fault nor anyone elses at this point. It is a challenge for the coaching staff to make the adjustments to take advantage of the individual talents on the team. We have a depth of talent, other than with central defenders, that we have not had before. It is therefore not unfair for Ryan to ask a question (probably rhetorical) which when taken in the proper context does not question whether Schrocky deserves to be on the team. Of course, the Azkals are better with Schrock. The point is that we need to be conscious of finding ways to maximize his prodigious skill combining it with the talent that he is now surrounded by.

The future of the Azkals remains bright. Other than the holes we need to fill in central defense, we are stocked elsewhere with the next generation getting some experience now.

Kudos to Ryan for asking questions that should be asked. That is what we need so as not to be complacent.

I do hope that Thomas Dooley is retained up until the next World Cup cycle. He has the Azkals playing beautiful football. He has not been afraid to experiment and more important, he has not been afraid to throw the young players out there. While befuddling (and maybe maddening) to some, this is necessary to help our team grow and find out how we can be successful in matches that count.

2012-03-24 Kasibulan GDO Workshop 054We have a long way to go. There will be bumps along the way. Having said that, the seeds for long-term success are there and some of them are starting to bear fruit. I just hope the PFF continues to build and maintain focus on the grassroots program. More than the National Team program, it is what happens in the often forlorn pitches in Iligan, San Carlos City, Davao, Barotac Nuevo, Tacloban, Los Banos and countless others that will determine whether we will dominate Southeast Asia on our road to the World Cup and sustain such dominance.

Keep on writing Ryan!

my choice

Part 1

ILOILO CITY – Filipinos have a myriad of maddening ways of selecting their individual choices for President, or any other candidate for elected office for that matter. Most stop at whoever is popular (in election-speak, name recall). Next is sino ang kakilala ko or kakilala ng kakilala ko or kakilala ng kakilala ng kakilala ko….you get the point. Then there is the choice based on the physical and non-physical attributes of a candidate like sino ang guwapo or maganda, sino ang mukhang mabait and so on.

Once a choice has been made, any criticism of that choice is taken as a personal attack on oneself. We become defensive and the initial response can be any of a number of ways rationalizing one’s choice. And when it happens that all manner of rationalization doesn’t work and are overwhelmed by the superior argument of another, the position hardens instead of succumbing to reason and logic. The hope is that we get the last word when our candidate hopefully wins and we can tell that other person – “O? Ano napala mo? Talo naman kandidato mo? Hehehe…”.

Of course, I generalize and not everyone is like that. I would venture to say, however, that a significant number, if not a majority, of the 50 or so million Filipino voters are just like that. That – is a sad state of things.

As with anything – the first step in making a choice is to know what or who I am choosing from. In this case, who are my choices for President.

My own personal conviction and principles lead me to recognize just 3 legitimate candidates – Jejomar C. Binay, Manuel A. Roxas II and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Rodrigo A. Duterte

On February 3, 2016, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dismissed the disqualification cases against Mr. Duterte. These cases were anchored on the argument that his becoming a candidate was defective.

Martin Dino filed his Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) on the last day of the filing of CoCs on October 16, 2015. His CoC indicated he was running “for the position of MAYOR, City/Municipality of PASAY CITY…” A closer of examination of his CoC, which is typewritten (as opposed to being handwritten) raise a lot of questions among which is – did he submit the right form for whatever office he was running? It certainly looks different in format from the other candidates’ CoCs. Mr. Dino signed the CoC which contains the phrase, “I hereby certify that the facts stated herein are true and correct…” and this document was notarized.


Martin Dino’s Certificate of Candidacy. Source:


On October 29, 2015, Martin Dino withdrew his candidacy for whatever position he was running for and soon after the PDP-Laban enacts a resolution nominating Mr. Duterte as the replacement of Mr. Dino for whatever position Mr. Dino was running for. After hemming and hawing, Mr. Duterte accepts the nomination on November 21. His stated reason for running for President was that he did not want “an American President” referring to the proceedings at the Senate Electoral Committee which had just dismissed a petition questioning the citizenship of Senator Grace Llamanzares.

On December 17, 2015, accepts Mr. Duterte’s CoC for President as substitute for Mr. Dino. Less than two months later, on February 3, 2015, the COMELEC’s First Division “…ruled to deny all petitions against Mayor Rodrigo Duterte” for lack of merit. Among other things, the COMELEC’s First Division said that Mr. Dino had filed a valid CoC.

Section 4, Rule II of Resolution No. 9984 issued by the COMELEC on August 18, 2015 specifies the “Contents and Form of Certificate of Candidacy”. The first item required is the “office aspired for”. The same Section also indicates the forms for various positions including the one for President which is labeled as Annex F.


Certificate of Candidacy for President. Source:

The rules are very clear. I cannot, in good conscience, agree with the ruling of the COMELEC’s First Division which allows Mr. Duterte to run for President. This ruling runs counter to its own rules as specified in Resolution No. 9984. It is clear that Mr. Dino did not submit the right form for the CoC. From that point on, his candidacy for whatever position he was running for, particularly for President is invalid. Yes, it is a technicality and an administrative mistake. Taken by itself, it probably is something many can ignore but I will not, for we Filipinos have to learn to follow rules. There can and should be no compromises on this case. I’ve had enough of shortcuts which lead us to nowhere. Accepting Mr. Duterte as a Presidential candidate under these circumstances is just something that I cannot do.

The Virgin Mary does not deserve this abomination


This has got to stop.

It’s more than past time for saner heads to examine the conduct of the Jaro Fiesta. The feast meant to honor the patron saint of the Archdiocese of Jaro, Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria, has become an unbridled and disgusting display of the crass commercialization of this event.

imageThe fiesta features among others, an international cockfight derby, the opulent Jaro Fiesta Queen pageantry and games of chance inside the Jaro Plaza. I cannot fathom any reason why the resident of the Archbishop’s Palace in Jaro has stayed silent despite this bacchanalian display right in his front yard.

This year’s theme is supposedly the celebration of culture and faith in this fast-changing world. Yet none of this can be found anywhere in the Plaza. This is supposedly the Jaro Agro-Industrial Fair. Jaro has no agricultural products to speak of nor is it an industrial center.

The Jaro Fiesta is nothing more than a money-making enterprise. I wonder if the Association of Barangay Captains of Jaro, who run the fair, and the Iloilo City Council who have allowed this to happen year in and year out realize that what they have done is create a spectacle which denigrates the very reason why this feast was created.


magkano ang dignidad ng pilipino?

The problems of the country are many. The solutions are elusive. You look to the next presidential election for someone who can build on the gains of the current dispensation. Revolutionary progress is what you long for, someone who can lead us towards a great leap forward. Sadly there is no one who fits the bill.

Why the great leap forward? Well, the world has left us behind. And the gap only grows wider as we bicker among ourselves on petty things like who graduated from Wharton or problems of our own making, e.g. Metro Manila traffic.

Even if we were somehow able to correctly diagnose the root cause/s of our challenges and start working on the right remedies for these problems, we would still be at least half a generation away from seeing and feeling tangible progress. This is what makes the conduct of the current presidential race unbearably frustrating.

This early, I see the 2016 election as another lost opportunity in a long line of missed opportunities. The current line-up of candidates focuses so much on destroying each other. This leads me to believe that none of them have a comprehensive plan for government which would at least start to chip away at the gap between us and the rest of the world or dig us out of a hole that we have been digging for ourselves since well – forever.

I cannot even disagree with anyone’s platform of government because either they don’t have a sensible one or don’t have one at all. Motherhood statements as the entirety of one’s platform of government are so frustrating because of the sense that they are made for the sake of having a platform. They lack the substance that would make one believe na nag-iisip ang taong ito. And to think that having such substance is just the first step towards progress. The actual doing and what comes before that are certainly more important in attaining tangible progress. It is sad but wala akong nakikita na kandidato sa pagka-Presidente na nagdadala nito sa hinaharap natin na halalan.

My imagined ideal candidate would:

1. Focus on the elimination of barriers that keep the majority of our people poor. Economic inequality has engendered social inequality made worse by the fact that we don’t admit that it exists. Tangible steps towards this would include:

– a total makeover of the educational system which currently produces uncompetitive graduates. The educational system should be made more rigorous with students who fail being made to go back. Substantially more funding should be channelled to teacher education to make them better, well – teachers.

– remove economic barriers which have served to protect entrenched interests. This would include the removal of foreign ownership limits on industry to generate competition; a competition law with teeth; amendment of existing laws which limit competition.

– building on agrarian reform by re-directing or otherwise increasing financial and technical support to the beneficiaries of the program. We have spent so much on buying land to be distributed yet the promise of better stewardship of the land by the beneficiaries has not been realized as evidenced by agriculture continuing to be a dead industry.

– incentivising research and development in agriculture and manufacturing/ technology. We cannot forever be servants to the rest of the world by an overly skewed focus on providing services (e.g. OFWs, BPOs). We need to be building things para sila naman bumili sa atin.

– a strong Freedom of Information law.

2. Reduce the size of national government. We are definitely not getting our money’s worth with the inefficient delivery of government services. Continue to reduce the number of GOCCs by privatizing what can be privatized and shuttering those which have outlived their usefulness or failed their mandates. Reduce administrative/services positions of line agencies by further automation/ technological solutions. Remove layers of middle-management. Consolidate what can be consolidated. Do attrition through normal means (retirement/resignation) and extraordinary means (one-time separation benefit). Use some of the savings to increase compensation of smaller bureaucracy to match private sector compensation to attract more candidates for public service.

3. We cannot beat China, or any other interested country for that matter, in a shooting match over our territory. The best we can hope for is a military that can hold on until help arrives from allied countries. That is not being defeatist, it is being realistic. As such, our military should be built through training (including on strategy and tactics), organization and equipment focused on finally ending internal insurgencies. The police cannot do it. Do not overspend on a military that will not be able to withstand external aggression on its own. Continue to be aggressive with multilateral initiatives to defend our territorial integrity.

4. Stop focusing on resolving the problems of Metro Manila and start focusing on the problems of the whole country. Build infrastructure elsewhere. Be more aggressive with geographic economic incentives to build industry outside the current capital. Give people in Metro Manila incentives to go to other economic centers.

5. For the second time, rebuild our educational system. This is that important. Make it simple – math, science, english, critical thinking. Make it more difficult, more rigorous. Provide support for after-school programs (nutrition, tutoring) for those who need it.

6. Give more to local governments. They know more about what they need. They are closer to the people, they will become more accountable the closer they are to those they serve. Some local governments will be better than others. Some local governments will be more corrupt than others. That is what we have now, so what’s new. By giving more resources and responsibilities to local governments, those which are better at governance will reward those they serve with a better quality of life. Give people the opportunity to come closer to determining their own destiny. To curb excesses, strengthen national accountability bodies (COA, Ombudsman, CHR). Yes – this is a path towards a Federal state. The Philippines can no longer rely on a national government to do everything for everyone.

7. Most crimes that are committed in our country can be directly correlated to poverty or the lack of economic opportunity. This not only includes crimes against property but also crimes against people. Problems in our criminal justice system are mere symptoms of a more insiduous problem which are meant to be addressed by the other points in this platform. Yes – there are other crimes that fall outside the economic opportunity generalization and its solutions lie in making these difficult to commit, making them easy to detect and prosecute and making their consequences severe (motherhood statement, I know, but can be addressed later).

These would be the things I would lay out as a platform of government. It is a platform whose ultimate aim is more than the eradication of all forms of inequality in our country but rather ang pagkakaroon ng dignidad ng bawat Pilipino sa sarili niyang bansa. A dignity that allows him to provide for the needs of his family sa marangal na paraan. A dignity that allows him to stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone in his own country. A dignity that he knows will allow his children to be proud of him in his own country.