With President Rodrigo Duterte suspending anew the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections to May next year, expect barangay officials from around the country to work double-time and do what Tagalogs would call as “pakitang gilas (strut one’s stuff).”
Such is the case with Barangay Ermita Chairman Felicisimo “Imok” Rupinta, whose recent suspension had taught him and his fellow barangay officials not to take the Duterte administration’s anti-drug war for granted.
And sure enough, Rupinta and his crew set about making things right for themselves and their constituents by launching into their own styled anti-drug campaign.
This campaign is what yesterday’s Cebu Daily News banner story described as “reverse labeling,” a simple spin in which about 100 houses in the Ermita area were posted with posters that labeled them as “drug free” while the others who weren’t will be invited to a meeting with Rupinta in which he will explain why they didn’t receive their “stamp of approval,” so to speak.
As Rupinta himself explained it, this is different from the shame campaign conducted by Barangay Pajo in Lapu-Lapu City, which drew the attention of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
As expected, Rupinta merely informed the local administration — with whom he’s not friends — and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7), whose former chief was responsible for having him and his barangay officials suspended by the Ombudsman.
It’s not hard to speculate as to how Rupinta came up with his campaign. Even if he claims that it was his own initiative, we won’t be surprised if the idea came from his political allies who aren’t exactly friends with the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK).
For that’s how Ermita’s anti-drug campaign is rooted, in spite of what Rupinta may claim on the contrary. It’s rooted in politics and political survival, plain and simple. Despite this, the CHR should investigate this campaign.
If Rupinta had been reasonably aggressive in rooting out drugs in Ermita, the barangay would not have been classified as one of Cebu City’s drug hotspots even before the incumbent administration of Mayor Tomas Osmeña took over.
As it is, the failure of Barangay Ermita officials to coordinate with PDEA in last year’s drug raid is a stigma that won’t be so easily erased with this reverse labeling drug classification campaign.
That stigma tarnishes Rupinta’s claims that there was extensive consultation on the reverse-labeling initiative since the Catholic Church won’t stand up for it even with that little twist on the shame campaign.
Yet it is enough for the barangay chairman and his councilors to score political brownie points with his political patrons and allies, and in the end, that’s what probably matters more for the officials of Barangay Ermita.
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