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.


i have a vote. i have choices. i don’t have a choice.

filipino_child_watching.jpgILOILO CITY – After 9 years of Martial Law, Ferdinand Marcos decided to hold a presidential election. The 1981 presidential elections is largely forgotten because it was a presidential election in name only with the outcome a foregone conclusion. Most of the mainstream opposition parties, stripped by Martial Law of its leaders (either in exile or in jail) boycotted the elections which they had no chance of winning anyway. The “main” challenger to Marcos was Alejo Santos of the Nacionalista Party (NP). By this time, the NP had split, with Santos put up by the NP-Roy wing as a candidate. Another candidate, Bartolome Cabangbang, ran under the Federalist Party. Cabangbang campaigned on the singular goal of making the Philippines, the 51st state of the United States of America.

The final tally – Marcos: 88%, Santos: 8%, Cabangbang:3% and Others: 1%.

I daresay Mr. Cabangbang was a visionary ahead of his time. A dated but still relevant article in the Atlantic by James Fallows entitled, A Damaged Culture: A New Philippines includes this quote, “This is a country where the national ambition is to change your nationality.” Mr. Cabangbang’s campaign for statehood might actually garner more than 3% in the 1981 elections if he were to run today.

I remember Mr. Cabangbang well not because of his being a presidential candidate. I remember Mr. Cabangbang because one of my titas said she was voting for him because faced with no decent choice, a vote for Mr. Cabangbang represented a conscience vote – a vote of protest.

The run-up to the 2016 elections has been quite messy. Filing pa lang ng candidacy, magulo na. Instead of focusing on the candidates and figuring who the best possible president of this country could be, we are instead left with the legal nuances of whether this or that candidate can actually run for President. The same goes for the candidates, instead of selling themselves to the voters, they are instead distracted by the fight to go on the ballot in the first place.

My two-cents worth. Sen. Llamanzares should just sit this one out. I have no sympathy for the plight that she currently finds herself in. It is easy to get lost and get confused by the natural-born and residency issues against her. These are separate issues. I stand with her in her being a natural-born citizen. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that her “staff” erred in filing her Certificate of Candidacy for Senator which led to the “questioned” entry regarding her residency. I also agree that her “alleged” use of her US passport in September, 2011 does not invalidate her claim to fulfilling the residency requirement of a President. The real question is – is she capable of fulfilling what I, as a Filipino, would like to see my President do? IMHO, the answer is No.

I know she desperately wants to help. Yet – she is not ready. Her litany of a platform of government as unveiled in her declaration speech lacks substance (with no substance provided since then). She cites these as her priorities but having too many priorities means that none of them are priorities. I have not seen a realistic and logical pathway that she has enunciated for her to attain these priorities. At best, I see this as a wishlist of idealistic goals from a well-meaning lady but with no reasonable road map to realization.

Sen. Llamanzares is not ready. A significant part of being a President is being an administrator. The administrator of the largest entity of this country. She may pooh pooh those who bash her for her lack of experience. On the other hand, I see this absence of administrative experience as a severe and significant handicap to achieving what she has herself set out to do. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines is not the MTRCB. No one can really prepare for being President. Yet  I fear that her limited understanding and experience in managing an entity leaves her susceptible to being taken advantage of.

Mayor Duterte cannot run in 2016. That is my own conclusion but I am not the Supreme Court. He cannot run because of defects in Mr. Dino’s COC. I am willing to grant that Mr. Dino was not a nuisance candidate but I cannot accept that writing in Mayor of Pasay City in your COC was a mere “clerical error”. It is a material error and this should not allow Mr. Doterte to then run as President. I cannot vote for someone for President who seeks to run under these questionable circumstances. If one takes advantage or seeks by legal niceties to ignore the law, I cannot imagine what this person will do when the stakes are higher. Just follow the rules.

Sen. Santiago’s time has passed.

I do not trust Vice President Binay.

Which leaves us with Sec. Roxas. I remember Sec. Roxas for the sacrifice that he made in giving way to President Aquino in the 2012 elections. It was a tear-inducing moment that somehow made you feel that things were changing. Maybe it was a pragmatic move on his part but still it was something that was awe-inspiring. It also made you thing that he would become the next President with what seemed like a clear path to the Vice Presidency leading to a seamless transition to the President. Then, Binay happened.

Even then, all was not lost. Yet, there is the feeling that despite the many opportunities to distinguish himself as DOTC then DILG Secretary, he has not. There is the feeling that he not only has wasted these opportunities but also diminished the immeasurable goodwill that he had at the moment when he gave way to the President. In many ways, Sec. Roxas has not fulfilled expectations.

This brings into question his ability to lead this country. He has no compelling vision of his own having wrapped himself under the mantle of Daang Matuwid that is so 2012. Daang Matuwid has done a lot of good yet has not been perfect, as is to be expected. President Aquino’s presidency can be seen as a transitional one that brings the Philippines forward but not yet where it should be. In this light, I do not want more of Daang Matuwid, I want more, period. I want more than what Daang Matuwid has brought us. These are the high expectations that Sec. Roxas has so far failed to provide a compelling vision for. He has to show that he is his own man.

Which brings us back to Bartolome Cabangbang. We have choices but yet I do not have I choice. Do I not have to vote for a President? Is there a Bartolome Cabangbang to cast my conscience vote?

I have a vote but I have not made a choice.

This country will not go anywhere near being the country that we want it to be with our current political system. The political parties that we have are mere groupings which bring to life the phrase – “no permanent friends only permanent interests.”

The change that many of us seek which seeks to uplift the lives of many Filipinos will not happen because the choices that we are given are not strong enough nor courageous enough to acknowledge that the inequality (in many forms) that grips our country can only be addressed by radical solutions and not by sloganeering. Our political system along with its manifestations have conspired to perpetuate a nation which keeps the majority of its population in perpetual bondage.

It will take a movement outside our current political system to break these chains of centuries-old inequalities that have been ignored. A grassroots movement not funded by the elite who only serve to protect their interests. A movement bereft of the traditional politicians who have for so long robbed the Filipino of not only his money but more so, his dignity. A movement not wedded to traditional ideologies but one whose only ideology is to help Juan de la Cruz regain the dignity that has been trampled on for centuries. A movement that we have never seen before nor tried. A movement that will gain momentum by convincing people of the need to find a different way.

The path to a more equitable nation is clear. Academics and well-meaning multilateral institutions have given us prescription upon prescription of what needs to be done. There has, however, been no one courageous enough to do what needs to be done because it will hurt this constituency or that constituency. Worse, many of our politicians are actually clueless.

It will not be easy. The Philippines that many of us  dream and long for is just not possible under the current political system. The challenge is to find enough people to do the necessary sacrifice and work towards this – one barangay, one town, one province and one region at a time.