‘Bato’ talks on marijuana, awards top Benguet cops

>> Saturday, October 14, 2017

Alfred P. Dizon

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Every now and then, the Philippine National Police and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency report uprooting millions worth of marijuana in Cordillera hinterlands like Tinglayan, Kalinga.
These eradication operations could actually be exercises in futility. True, the illegal plants are uprooted or burned on site. But then others are carried as so-called evidence. Along the way, seeds fall off. And in a few days, the prolific plants sprout and grow.
All the locals have to do is just wait until these become fully grown. They need not even watch over these. No need for fertilizers or pesticides. These could grow on almost anything, even on barks of trees or leaves of plants.
The use of chemicals to destroy these has been proposed in the past, but this was opposed due to perceived environmental hazards. Unless government gives alternative source of livelihood to locals, we don’t see a solution to the problem in remote areas in the near future as they would rather watch the plants grow until these are ready to be harvested. Then they sell these to as far as Metro Manila at hefty prices.
As compared to cultivating plants like pechay, cabbage or potatoes, earning a living watching over these illegal plants is no sweat as one need not use fertilizers or pesticides for these to grow.
As supply is still in demand in the lowlands, these are transported to meet the need. In the case of Mountain Province, which was declared drug free by the PNP last week, officials have recently complained that it had become a transshipment route for drug mules from adjacent Kalinga and other provinces.
For sure, marijuana is here to stay as even some congressmen are attesting to its medicinal value.
In 2014, Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano III filed House Bill 4477 or the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill. The bill sought to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis in compliance with government policy to balance its national drug control program and the regulated use of dangerous drugs for treatment and medication of patients with debilitating medical conditions.
Previously, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) together with the Food and Drug Administration issued a joint advisory to warn the public not to buy or use hempseed oil even if it is for medicinal use.
PDEA information chief Joseph Calulut said “The agency favors the use of marijuana in medical procedures provided it contains the necessary safeguards to ascertain its specific medical use.”
The PDEA warned the use of marijuana is still prohibited despite claims the drug is effectively used by patients suffering from life threatening diseases.
That is why, it was amusing when PNP Director General Ronald Dela Rosa admitted to using the illegal drug weed twice during college.
“I have tasted marijuana for two times when I was in college,” said Dela Rosa in an ambush interview with newsmen during the 116th Police Service Anniversary here at the regional police headquarters in Camp Dangwa on Oct. 6. 
The PNP chief, however, said he does not recommend anyone to use the prohibited drug. Dela Rosa said the experience was during his days at the Mindanao State University. “The effect to me when I tried marijuana was having a feeling of being high, having red eyes and wanting to listen and sing folk songs due to its good vibes,” Dela Rosa said.
The confession came at the heels of queries on the possibility of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. “I leave it to the Congress on how they will determine the use of medical marijuana but for us law enforcers. We will have to abide by what Congress will formulate.”
Despite moves from Congress to legalize the use of marijuana, the sale and its use are banned.
Dela Rosa said if ever Congress passes the law, “what we need to find out is for it to either be regulated or for it to be open to the public.”
While in Camp Dangwa during the PNP anniversary, Dela Rosa gave out six awards to the Benguet Police Provincial Office here.
“Bato” gave the Benguet PPO the Best Provincial Police Office of the Year award and cited its provincial director Senior Supt. Florante Camuyot as the Best Police Commissioned Officer for Operations of the Year.
Likewise, Benguet PPO personnel SPO1 Sunny Wance was awarded as Best Senior PNCO for Operations; and PO3 Ruben Balanoy for Best Junior PNCO for Operations; the Tublay Municipal Police Station (MPS) as Best Municipal Police Station of the Year; and the Benguet PPSC  for  Best Provincial Public Safety Company of the Year.
Dela Rosa was assisted by Chief Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona, Police Regional Office-Cordillera director, in giving out the awards.
During the occasion, parking for visitors was at the Strawberry Fields grounds, a distance of about two km from Camp Dangwa. Traffic was heavy and visitors had to take jeeps or taxis to reach the police camp.
In a related development La Trinidad Councilor Roderick Awingan filed an ordinance providing safety parameters to lessen motorcycle-related accidents in the town considering traffic problems.
Approved on second reading, the proposed ordinance stated no person should ride motorcycle or scooter within the municipality without a valid driver’s license issued by LTO, a motorcycle helmet duly approved by DTI, and no person should ride an unregistered motorcycle or scooter within the municipality of La Trinidad.
The ordinance added that any person driving a motorcycle or scooter should drive the same at a careful and prudent speed, not greater than 40 km per hour. Moreover, only one back rider at a time will be allowed on a motorcycle who must be provided with a seat and footrest.
Any person who violates the ordinance will be penalized ranging from P300 to P500 for the first and second offense, and P2,500 on the third offense.
This is a welcome development as every now and then, drivers and passengers of motorcycles have been killed or injured along the Halsema Highway from km 3 near the Baguio-La Trinidad boundary to Camp Dangwa.
Lately along km 6 at the intersection of cross roads near the Commission on Audit regional office, a 17-year-old male student was killed before dawn when the motorcycle he was driving was hit by another vehicle.
Cops should be deployed in the area particularly during busy hours as a lot of accidents happened there when the alternate road to the Strawberry Fields and new vegetable trading post was opened.


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