CAN a Kagay-an Festival or St. Augustine Fiesta be less vivid under the imposition of Martial Law? Based on the photos of street parades and other organized events, it appeared to be quite normal. It “looks” like it.
At least for a short while, even for a week, people in Cagayan de Oro and nearby towns can take a short breather after quite a tumultuous half-year. From the state of calamity in January because of the flooding, to feeling the effects of the conflicts in Marawi City. Not that we abandon our concerns, but perhaps a little leeway to step back and celebrate (for those who can). But of course, being vigilant at all times should not be forgotten.
Typically, when there is an influx of people going out like the ongoing festivities and Christmas holidays, it is also the time where scrupulous elements would take advantage by victimizing unsuspecting revelers by stealing their possessions. With the heightened alert from both the military and police, it is expected that there would be less incidents.
And when people are preoccupied with the festival events, sometimes it is also a diversionary opportunity for criminals to operate illegal activities, but let us hope the intelligence assets of law enforcement authorities are already two steps advanced - with fervent prayers that they would follow the legal rules of engagement, and not make a “nanlaban” excuse.
This is not to scare people and discourage participation of local events for the festival in store for the public, but rather a reminder for everyone that safety should be a priority. Lucky for those with introvert tendencies, they would rather go to their workplaces or stay at their homes. May this week’s festivities will go on smoothly and safe.
In another intriguing twist of fate, President Rodrigo Duterte will replace Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Isidro Lapeña. This, after all the controversies haunting the Bureau of Customs (BOC) involving P6.4-billion worth illegal drugs that was smuggled from China.
BOC is a stuff of legends in terms of notoriety in corruption issues. There were stories like how a rank-and-file employee whose wife was working as a cashier in a department store, and yet get to travel to places on day offs and possess luxurious gadgets, they even invested properties and farming business.
There were stories like how one gets to be promoted, by attempting to slide under the table an envelope with a hefty amount in exchange for a signed endorsement paper. There should be a reason why Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez got mad at a BOC lawyer who miraculously does her job, by not honoring his “recommendation letter” for an employee who wished to get promoted.
There were stories, subject for further investigation and validation, about how this agency is bathing in the sideline perks in every drop off of bulk shipments. However, to be fair, there are those people within the agency who are doing honest jobs, but they are becoming rare by the day.
The change in leadership in BOC is a manifestation that even for a hardened Duterte, the agency is still riddled with a vicious culture of (alleged) corruption from the top management down to its regional counterparts.
And quite a disappointment, really, was that no major expose of big wigs being prosecuted for graft and corruption charges. They are simply getting away with it, under the president’s nose.
We will see how Lapeña will do it. Will he resist the temptation in accepting bribes and covering-up smuggling activities involving illegal drugs?
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 23, 2017.