(© 2019 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) – On June 3, 2009, Tiburcio “Jojo” Trajano, a member of the National Press Club of the Philippines and reporter of tabloid, Remate, was
shot dead by drug suspects when he covered an anti-drug operation conducted by the joint Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Rizal province.
Nothing was mentioned of any benefit Trajano got for answering the call of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that required or mandated the media and an elected public official to witness an anti-drug operation.
As a result of Trajano's death, this law was facially tweaked or amended by Republic Act No. 10640 in 2014 which made witnessing an anti-drug operation optional between a representative of the National Prosecution Service (NPS) and the media.
A MONUMENT to the Gurkha Soldier in Horse Guards Avenue, outside the Ministry of Defence in the City of Westminster, London, England. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
When Davao Mayor Rody Duterte took power two years later as president and declared “war on drugs” as his signature, take-no-prisoner campaign promise, it saw tens of thousands of drug dealers, drug runners and drug users getting killed without being charged in court. RA 10640 became a government instrument that turned against the media members and the National Prosecution Service (NPS) into collateral damage in this drug war.
Now both the NPC, headed by Rolly Gonzalo, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, have come together to lobby Philippine Congress to review and amend the law to stop the government from exposing media members further into harm's way.
PLEASE OMIT HONORS
While media members are honored to be witnesses to an operation that shows the government's trust on the media as they are credible enough to testify that the anti-drug operation was not attended by “nanlaban” (a shallow excuse by operatives that the drug suspect fought back when the suspect was actually slain without a fight) alibi and the operatives did not help themselves in pocketing drug money and did not help themselves recycle the confiscated drugs on the street after each operation before doing an inventory, the media members and the NPS members are actually very vulnerable that they could be injured or killed as in the case of Trajano in the crossfire during the anti-drug operation!
When I was the president of The Rizal Metro Manila Tri-Media Association, I solicited premium payments from some of our supporters, including then San Juan Mayor Joseph E. Estrada, to pay for hazard insurance of my members in the early 80's. The insurance coverage became handy when one of our members, Tim Olivarez, stepped on the toes of smuggling lord Jose “Don Pepe” Oyson and disappeared without a trace up to this day. I was able to hand over a modest PHP 25,000 (US$6,250 at PHP4 to US$1 exchange rate) insurance coverage payment to Tim's widow, Cecille Santos.
As lifetime member of the NPC, I suggested to NPC, if the Philippine government is really serious in asking the help of the media on its war on drugs, it should require Congress to appropriate a budget to pay hazard insurance of at least PHP25-million (about half a million U.S. dollars) insurance premium coverage for every journalist who volunteers to witness the anti-drug operation on top of the hazard insurance provided by the journalist's employer and his own private individual life insurance; provide journalist equipment such as body armor, gas masks, chemical suits, body camera, etc., first aid for post-traumatic stress disorders and training similar to war correspondents, who are embedded in military tanks or those who stay in the “green zone.”
If Congress cannot provide these appropriations to journalists, who will be exposing their lives and limbs as witnesses in the war on drugs, it can tap the services of “soldiers of fortune” from overseas, who can be hired from “Security Companies” as “Security Guards or Specialists,” and who each commands US$1,000 fee per day or US$180,000 per year.
Or Congress can hire the incorruptible Gurkhas from the Indian subcontinent of Nepalese nationality, who has a reputation of fearless military prowess. Former Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once stated that: "If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or he is a Gurkha." Gurkhas are the guards hired by Macau's notorious prison holding convicted drug lords, according to Canadian journalist Mr. Terry Gould, in his book, “Paper Fan: The Hunt for Triad Gangster Steven Wong.” Mr. Wong is a Hong Kong-born Triad drug lord Lik Man Steven Wong aka Joe Co, who faked his death in the Philippines after taking out a million-dollar life insurance policy in Canada, and is believed hiding in Macao Special Administrative Region and melting in the crowd inside the notorious and massive Lisboa Casino Hotel. Please see my previous column: “JGL Eye: DU30 SHOULD AFFIRM EXTRADITION TREATY WITH CHINA
If not, members of Congress should be the ones to volunteer themselves as witnesses on the war on drugs without the above protections I mentioned. They should show their words with deeds. After all, there are a number of Senators and Congressmen, who have past military and police training and experience!
The suggestion by incumbent NPC President Rolly Gonzalo in his letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November that there is no more need for the media or the NPS representatives to witness the anti-drug operation because the anti-drug operatives are now armed with “advances in communication technology, especially, ‘body’ and ‘surveillance’ cameras, “now necessitates” the amendment of Paragraph 1 of Section 21 of RA 9165” is unavailing and a no-go.
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