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Rough Cuts | This is one challenging job

We have it in local newspaper and television reports that the local government of Davao City is creating a multi-department body tasked to craft ways to effectively carry out the plan of the city to clear its sidewalks, canal and drainage top of illegal occupants.

Many city residents will sure welcome this plan especially that these days most sidewalks in the downtown areas are already illegally allocated by vendors for their own business activities. In addition, the top of canals along some roads including those in the rural communities can no longer be found as houses are being built on it. One glaring example of a roadside drainage canal that cannot anymore be found because train-like houses are built over it is the one from crossing Kilometer 22 going to Biao Guianga in Tugbok District.

We believe the clearing of that drainage top of illegally built structures would be a major challenge to the city government much as it will be similarly difficult to rid the city’s sidewalks of illegal vendors.

And why are we saying that it will be a challenging job for the local government? It is because most, if not all, occupants are voters. Their number could make and unmake politicians – they who run for elective positions and are now running the affairs of the city government.

We cannot also be sure when the clearing operations will be started even if the multi-department body of city hall would be able to come up with a strategy. Christmas season is just setting in and it is the time when ambulant traders of all kinds of merchandise crowd every available space on the city’s sidewalks.

The illegal street merchants will surely do their best to negotiate concessions with city authorities at least for the duration of the Christmas season.

Of course they will lay down on the table their being voters in the city as their most effective bargaining chips.

Indeed the clearing of illegal sidewalks and top-of-drainage structures is worth waiting and anticipating as to its outcome. After all, this has been a perennial problem of the city since many decades ago. This should not be allowed to perpetuate any further because the longer the delay in its dismantling the harder it is to address.

And only the political will of the city leadership would be able to succeed in effectively putting an end to sidewalk and top-of-drainage encroachment.

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We were able to watch the live television coverage of a Senate Committee hearing last Monday morning.

One of the resource persons invited was Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino, a retired general in the Philippine National Police (PNP) when he was tapped by President Rodrigo Duterte vice another retired police general Isidro Lapena whom the President has appointed to head the Bureau of Customs until his transfer to TESDA.

During last Monday’s hearing by the Senate PDEA’s Aquino made no hesitation in disclosing to the senators present that there are still a number of policemen involved in successful anti-drug by-busts who do not totally disclose the full quantity of their confiscated illegal substances of grass to serve as evidence in cases filed against arrested suspects.

The PDEA director general even told the senators that its agents are in hot pursuit of a suspected drug queen in Metro Manila. The drug queen, according to Director General Aquino, is the one buying the “saved” drugs from the unscrupulous policemen who under-report their captured illegal drugs from the arrested suspects.

Apparently, the Aquino revelation did not set well with neophyte senator and retired Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

The senator from Davao del Sur seemingly forgot that he is already out of the service of the Philippine National Police. He pointedly demanded from the PDEA chief that he has to produce evidence against the policemen who are engaged in such nefarious activities. The senator told Aquino with all the ears of the hearing attendees that “it was unfair to attribute to the policemen the commission of shenanigans in the custody of drug evidence while presenting an immaculate image for the PDEA.

Dela Rosa even went on to suggest that if such is the case, then it would be more convenient to just get some samples of the confiscated drugs to be used as evidence and throw the rest down the drain or in the water so there is nothing left for the policemen to “save” and sold later.

The senator found himself getting admonished by veteran lawmaker Franklin Drilon who told the former PNP chief that there is a legal process to be followed in disposing of drug evidence, and it does not include what Dela Rosa was recommending.

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