Village officials in Lapu spray-paint doors of drug suspects; CHR to investigate
Mia (not her real name) was sleeping inside her room at about 8 a.m. on Monday when she heard a loud knock on the door.
When she opened the door, policemen instructed her to cover her face with a cloth as cameras from the media surrounded her.
It turned out her room was the target of the shame campaign of the barangay officials of Pajo in Lapu-Lapu City in a bid to solve the anti-drug problem in the village.
The words “Identified Drug Den Area” were spray-painted on Mia’s door in screaming red paint.
The shame campaign is the first in Cebu and reminiscent of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim’s “shame campaign” in the 1990s that was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Mia, who vehemently denied allowing drug addicts to sniff shabu for a fee, could only cry in shame as her neighbors laughed at her.
“Gikataw-an ko nila. Didto g’yud ko naulaw unya didto g’yud ko nihilak (They were laughing at me. I was so embarrassed that I cried),” said Mia, who went to Lapu-Lapu City from her home in Surigao del Norte in 2013 to look for a job.
Three other rooms in the apartment owned by Rodolfo Larino were also spray-painted by barangay and police officials led by village chief Junard Chan and Senior Supt. Rommel Cabagnot, Lapu-Lapu City police director.
The four rooms were allegedly being rented out by Larino’s tenants to the drug addicts at P10 to P20 per person for every pot session.
Chan said they believed that shaming drug suspects was one way to convince them to change their ways.
“We want to instill fear and shame among the drug users to encourage them to stop their illegal activities,” he said.
He said the shame campaign in Barangay Pajo would continue until the problem of illegal drugs is solved.
“I am willing to face any case that may be filed against me. But what matters now is for Barangay Pajo to become drug-free,” Chan said.
The Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) plans to investigate the shame campaign to ensure that human rights are safeguarded.
“I did not expect the local version of the shame campaign to happen in Cebu at this stage of the anti-drugs operation of government,” said Arvin Odron, CHR-7 director.
“We will verify the report. We want to know the parameters of this campaign. This must be reviewed in the light of the drastic fight of government to end drug-related criminalities or crimes arising out of the drug use vis-a-vis the enshrined natural and fundamental human rights of all persons, including that of the suspects, which are recognized in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution,” he added.
Chan said Larino had complained to them that drug addicts frequented his apartment in Barangay Pajo.
Later, they learned that the tenants of the four rooms in the apartment were renting out their place to drug addicts for pot sessions for a fee of P10 to P20 per person.
The village officials decided to make these tenants their first targets in their shame campaign.
Cebu Daily News has withheld their identities while their alleged involvement in illegal drugs was being validated by CHR.
One of them was Mia who was awakened by the loud knocking on the door at 8 a.m. on Monday.
Mia admitted that she had been using illegal drugs but denied selling the prohibited substance and using her room as a drug den.
“Modaginot pa gyud ko og P10 or P20? Dili oy. User lagi ko pero dili ko magpagamit sa akong kwarto (Will I settle for P10 or P20? Never. I am a drug user, but I don’t allow anyone to use my room as a drug den),” she explained.
But the shame campaign achieved its objective on Mia.
“Nauwaw jud ko (I am really embarrassed),” she exclaimed.
Mia said she could not control her tears as authorities sprayed the warning on her door while her neighbors were laughing.
Chan said they had reminded drug users in their village to stop their involvement in illegal drugs, but his request fell on deaf ears.
“Kadaghan na namo sila gibadlong, ni-surrender na ni sila apan wala ra gihapon niundang sa pagamit og drogas (We have called their attention many times. They surrendered to authorities, but they still continued to use illegal drugs),” Chan said.
He said he has organized community-based programs and livelihood opportunities to help drug surrenderers in the village.
Chan called the program “New Life Pajoanon.”
Some surrenderers, he said, now sell empanada (stuffed bread or pastry) in the streets of Lapu-Lapu City and earn P500 to P800 daily.
But there are drug addicts and peddlers who just refuse to stop their illegal activities.
And the solution of the village officials was to shame these drug suspects.
Odron, however, reminded Pajo officials that all anti-illegal drug programs of the government must be consistent with its human rights treaty commitments.
“After all, human rights are protected by laws, and the government is obligated to enforce these laws that protect human rights,” he said.
Odron said they may visit the houses that were sprayed with warnings and would get the statements of those subjected to the shame campaign.
He said they would also talk to the local officials and the police to remind them that their programs must be in accordance with the human rights standards set in international treaties.
“We need to document everything. We know that if a person is labeled or suspected of having connections with illegal drugs, his or her safety and security are automatically compromised. Based on our legal framework, only our courts have the authority to declare the guilt of the accused,” Odron said.
“We have a rule on the presumption of innocence of all persons before conviction. There are potent human rights issues in any shame campaign, especially that we are governed by the rule of law. The law protects the dignity of all persons without discrimination,” he added.