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Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Mongaya: Fr. Romano’s crusade vs. illegal drugs

THE Redemptorists and friends are expected to mark the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano today. The priest was abducted, along with an anti-Marcos advocate Levi Ybañez, on July 11, 1985.

But because we are in the midst of a war against illegal drugs during the time of President Rody Duterte, I prefer to share today Fr. Romano’s anti-drugs advocacy. Suffice it to say that I was with him as a staff member of several anti-Marcos alliances from 1980 to 1985.

And towards the end of 1984 and early 1985, Fr. Romano was getting reports about marijuana plantations in the hinterlands getting military and police protection. A parallel campaign with farmers’ groups then was Operation Ibot that involved actual uprooting of marijuana plants and an education drive.

I am pointing this out because of one stupid comment in Facebook’s Maghisgot Kita’g Politika, Bay that, in effect, conveyed the Marcos dictatorship was vigorously against illegal drugs, that a Marcos back at the helm will bring back those drug-free years. What?

Of course, there was still no shabu then. The youth during the martial law years were into marijuana along with cough syrups.

I only heard of shabu when I became a reporter during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

***

Still it seems the drug menace proliferated then and until today because of an unholy alliance with law enforcers and government officials.

When I did an investigative report into the local sex industry during the mid-’90s, I had my first glimpse of the brisk shabu business in Duljo. I tagged along with one sex worker and her policeman-boyfriend that I befriended when they went to buy shabu at dawn one day. That policeman was showing off his Duljo connect to his girlfriend. I promised silence regarding their identity in return for bringing me along. Still, I first heard of the name Tatay Rilyo that night.

During the anti-drug House hearings years later, I learned from Cong. Tony Cuenco that Rilyo was an alleged big drug lord in Duljo. After Rilyo’s arrest, a series of unforgettable names cropped up in Duljo until the death of Tata Negro a few days before the May 2010 elections.

Political reporters covering the campaign then should remember Tata Negro was raised as a major election issue against Mike Rama. In fairness though, the person who raised the issue during a press conference asked for Rama’s apology years later.

Still, it is said that with the death of Tata Negro, Jeffrey Diaz, aka Jaguar, reportedly rose to fill the leadership vacuum.

Except for one raid that failed to catch Jaguar, the local police had launched no major operation during Rama’s watch.

***

Duljo Barangay Captain Elmer Abella says he is ready to be investigated. This was his response to a case filed against him for allegedly coddling Jaguar. A resident has filed the complaint possibly emboldened by the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

But come to think of it, the heavily drug-infested areas in Cebu City known as PDEA (Pasil-Duljo-Ermita-A. Lopez) are under Team Rama barangay captains. The list of drug-infested barangays has also grown and these are also under Team Rama captains.

They all need to explain why the drug menace grew in their respective barangays through the years.

***

When Duterte announced that a certain Peter Lim, aka Jaguar, is the drug lord protected by retired police general Marcelo Garbo, many in Cebu, including members of the local media, immediately thought the President referred to a local businessman.

This businessman figured in a congressional inquiry conducted by then Cong. Tony Cuenco in 2001. But it seems even editors failed to recall that the names of the Lim brothers were taken off the list of drug lords after the inquiry. There was no conclusive evidence that they were involved. Instead, records showed that Peter Lim is a common Chinese name. Fuentes, during a press conference, said that a Comelec document indicated some 110 Cebu City voters are named Peter Lim.

After Duterte warned a certain Peter Lim not to return to the Philippines, a national broadsheet reported that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) requested for a photograph because there are some 4,000 Peter Lims in its record.

Then Peter Lim’s legal liaison Jun Fuentes appeared and said his client is all the while in Cebu. Perhaps, Cebu’s enterprising media could independently verify this from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and other government agencies.

The Peter Lim who is the client of Fuentes, meanwhile, could just stay put and wait for the indefinite return of the Peter Lim who is abroad. Unfortunately for him, local dailies have already published photos of Fuentes’ client. How can he go around and do business as usual if somebody might just be tempted by the anti-drug lord P5 million reward money? Paktay.

(@anol_cebu in Twitter)
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