As I See It
By ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO
It’s just unfortunate that Philippine President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, the president I admired for pursuing his campaign promise to solve the country’s drug problem in one year (originally it was six months, but he requested for another six months after seeing the magnitude of the problem may not be able to be fixed in six months), made the comment that “The Filipinos in America are not Filipinos anymore, they’re Americans. Their attitude is American…” Just for the record, we are Filipinos at heart and we think as Filipinos too… without jeopardizing of course our US citizenships. In fact, most of us here are dual citizens, thus counting us as Filipinos… citizens of the Philippines.
True, I am an American citizen, but I trace my roots in the Philippines and I treasure that! As the saying goes, “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan”. It might sound corny but all of us Filipinos here in the US live by it.
During Philippine Independence Day, we gather together and celebrate our freedom. We raise the Philippine flag in front of the city hall during a flag raising ceremony attended by city officials and FilAms. When boxing icon and Philippine Senator Manny Pacquiao fights here, we take day offs at work and watch the fight… then celebrate with him, win or loss.
The first FilAm California State Legislator Rob Bonta filed many bills related to Filipinos which became laws of the state. His first bill (AB 123) became a law, duly signed by California Governor Jerry Brown incorporating the farm labor contributions of our Filipino farm workers, the 1,500 Delano Manongs, led by Larry Dulay Itliong. The Milpitas City Council led by FilAm Mayor Jose Esteves declared October 25 (Larry’s birthday) as Larry Dulay Itliong Day.
We send money to our relatives there, we invest, we bring honor and glory to the Philippines, and we look at the Philippines as our country of origin. Hence, the word FilAms, short for Filipino-Americans, as we associate the country and its people all the time, reminding us here in the US that we are Filipinos.
Majority of Filipinos are somehow satisfied with the President’s performance for the past 100 days, since they saw some improvements in the peace and order situation, but for Filipino-Americans, they have mixed emotions on the matter, especially now that you are not counting us. They may have approved of his good intentions for the country but the way he is implementing it, it’s where the disagreement is.
Nestor Punzalan, a FilAm from San Jose, California said, “I like his intention, good intention…That’s what we need – an iron hand – in dealing with the drug problem. But I don’t agree with his style in carrying out his goals. I just hope that he will change his style and not waiver in his campaign, especially now that he has created a lot of enemies in the process”.
The same observation was registered by Ruel Manipis, also from San Jose, California. “What he is doing is very dangerous but good for the country. Well, my only concern is that, maybe, if he can tone down his words so it will not invite international criticism… that will be great!” Manipis said.
For the first 100 days of Duterte’s administration, he became controversial with many international bodies like the United Nations, the European Union, and with US President Barrack Obama, criticizing his unconventional crackdown against drugs leaving more than 3,600 suspects dead, including more than 1,300 suspects killed in gun battles with police. This is an average of 36 killings a day since the took his office in June.
“The scale of the crackdown has been unprecedented,” according to the Inquirer article a look at the 1st 100 days of Duterte’s phenomenal rule, “launching more than 23,500 raids so far and arresting 22,500 suspected drug dealers and addicts. More than 1.6 million houses of drug suspects have been visited by police to invite them to surrender and stop using drugs or disengage from the drug trade. About 732,000 addicts and dealers have surrendered, apparently for fear of being killed…”
Also, FilAm Avelino Ocampo said, “President Duterte is okay on drugs but on other aspects… I think he needs more refinement in dealing with them to be more acceptable and more presidential…”
The same sentiment goes to Dolores Misa. She said, “I like what he is doing being true to his campaign promise to rid off drug lords and reduce drug-related crimes, but I just hope he will do it in a humane manner”.
In the same article, Duterte’s public threats to kill criminals, especially drug dealers, have helped considerably reduce the crime rate, according to police. A poll by the independent Social Weather Stations last month showed 84 percent of adult Filipinos are satisfied with his war on drugs.
In a separate article from the Inquirer titled Bato-PNP winning war on drugs in Duterte administration’s first-100-days, the “Philippine National Police (PNP) is, so far, winning the war against drugs”, PNP chief Dir. Gen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said Monday.
Asked to give an assessment of the first 100 days of the government’s intensive campaign against illegal drugs, Dela Rosa, in a press briefing at Camp Crame, said: “One sentence. We are winning the war on drugs. We are winning.”
Latest statistics from the PNP showed that at least 3,441 individuals died—1,375 in legitimate police operations, 2,066 “deaths under investigation”—since President Duterte assumed office up to October.
Records show a total of 22,387 drug personalities who have been arrested in 23,474 operations under “Oplan Double Barrel” conducted from July 1. Under the “Oplan Tokhang,” the police visited 1,601,691 houses of drug users and pushers. This led to the surrender of 732,115 drug personalities, 52,812 pushers and 679,303 users.
My good friend Gen. Isidro Lapena, Director General of Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) with the rank of a cabinet member, is doing well in his role as the President’s drug zsar. He was with President Digong in China and signed the RP-China Protocol on Cooperation on drug suppression in both countries. From China, he went to Colombo, Shri Lanka to attend a Southeast Asia Conference on drugs and drug prevention.
All these developments are good developments, we from the US recognize. We are with you but please don’t alienate us. We should be counted… we are Filipinos, thinking Filipinos and Filipinos at heart!
(For feedbacks, comments… please email the author @ [email protected]).