In the afternoon of September 20, 2016, Carolinians gathered in the Albert van Gansewinkel Hall to listen to different personalities in various fields talk about how they see the Philippines’ war on drugs from the perspectives of their respective professions. The University of San Carlos – Supreme Student Council (USC-SSC), the organizing body of the event, invited Senior Superintendent Marciano Batiancela Jr.,Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Asst. Secretary of Health Elmer G. Punzalan, AuxillaryBishop Dennis Villarojo and Fr. Dionisio Miranda, SVD to speak in the forum.

Senior Supt. Batiancela briefed the attendees about the PNP Oplan Double Barrel strategy and what the PNP are currently doing under the new administration. As part of this new strategy, police hotlines were set up for civilian concerns on crime. He urged everyone in attendance to call these numbers if they have any concerns or notice any suspicious behavior, whether it is drug related or not.

The numbers are: 0929-478-3231, 0916-493-2111 and 0942-764-1609.

Former Chief Justice Davide explained the war from the legal perspective. He singled out specific articles from the constitution that stressed the importance and value of human rights and due process. The constitution guarantees the respect for human rights in Section 11 of Article II, and Article XIII is wholly dedicated to the topic. On the issue of due process, there are Sections 1 and 14 of Article III.

Following Davide was Assistant Secretary Elmer Punzalan form the Department of Health’s (DOH) Office for Special Concerns. He tackles the war as a medical professional in the employment of the government. Like the PNP, the DOH has also begun its Dangerous Drugs Abuse Prevention and Treatment program. Its goal is the reduction of the prevalence of drug abuse and its health-related effects. This is done by leading the nation in the implementation of a unified health response to the war on drugs through more effective drug abuse prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

Mayor Tommy Osmeña accepted the invitation to speak after Punzalan, however, pressing situations removed him from the venue before he could deliver his talk, which was on the perspective of local governance.

The podium was instead handed over to Most Rev. Villarojo. According to him, the desire to end drugs is the purpose for the war. He believes that the guilty willingly surrendering and subjecting themselves to rehabilitation is a laudable means to achieve this goal. However, he asks the question of whether the police and civilians alike taking up arms or using excessive force and violating human rights in the process, is really moral or not. At the end of his talk, he urged everyone to stop the hate against the Commission of Human Rights, an issue he believes saturates social media.

Finally, Fr. Miranda discussed the academe’s contribution to the drug problem. As an educator, he made use of the USC motto: Scientia, Virtus, Devotio.Under Scientia, he stated that an academic’s role is to render the issue intelligible in order to encourage meaningful and orderly debate.  Meanwhile, Virtus calls for reason and logic. He urged everyone to stay levelheaded even when arguments from the opposition turn illogical, fallacious or personal. Devotio on the other hand, is indicative of the value the academe wishes to inculcate to the students: social responsibility.

“It is not enough to be a morally upright person. You need social engagement, compassion, responsibility and transformation,” said Fr. Miranda. According to him, it is not enough to win the debate, there should be solutions to the controversy as well.

The event was organized under the leadership of SSC Councilors Jamil Adiong, Deodatus Burgos and Honeybabe Tagalog. The purpose of the event was to spread awareness and objectivity in the community regarding the war on drugs.

“I think we need to exhaust all efforts to really be objective in our perception and judgment with regards to this mechanism [against drugs and other criminalities] conducted by the present administration,” said Burgos. “We need to have a holistic approach since this issue is multi-faceted and interdisciplinary in nature.”

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