PBA players tapped as new faces of drug war
MANILA, Philippines — Who else can turn basketball-crazed Filipinos away from the lure of illegal drugs?
For the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), there could be no better ambassadors for the drug campaign than the country’s top professional basketball players.
On Sunday, the DILG sealed a partnership with the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in carrying out the agency’s Buhay Ingatan, Droga’y Ayawan (Bida) program.
“The partnership of the DILG and PBA will not only strengthen the campaign against illegal drugs but will also send out a message to the PBA teams, players, and fans, that the league is against and will not tolerate the adverse effects of illegal drugs,” Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said.
The collaboration was formalized with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the DILG and PBA at Araneta Coliseum during Game 4 of the best-of-seven finals of the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup.
Abalos signed the agreement with PBA chair Ricky Vargas and commissioner Willie Marcial with the goal to “spark and reinvigorate” Bida’s message by leveraging the league’s nationwide reach.
“We are aware that this is the first time since its inception that the PBA joined hands with the government in the fight against illegal drugs, so we are very grateful,” Abalos added, thanking the 48-year-old league.
Under the agreement, PBA players will sport the Bida program logo on their jerseys during PBA games and help disseminate campaign materials against illegal drugs, among other responsibilities.
According to Abalos, the government is banking on the massive influence of basketball on Filipinos, especially the youth, in communicating Bida’s objective.
“In basketball, the youth have their idols. Whatever their idols do, they will emulate. We have to set a good example for our youth,” he said.
Launched in November last year, Bida is the government’s latest “whole-of-nation” approach to its drug campaign, focusing on demand reduction and rehabilitation rather than supply reduction.
Vargas said PBA was no stranger to the scourge of illegal drugs.
“Here in the PBA, we also faced crises of illegal drugs,” he said, alluding to scandals involving players.
“But we did not give up on them. Just like in Bida, we look at all the ways that people get into illegal drugs and how they can be drug-free,” he said.
In 2003, PBA was rocked by controversy after at least 10 of its star players were found positive for use of marijuana and crystal meth or “shabu,” including San Miguel center Dorian Peña.
In May 2017, Peña, along with two others, was arrested in a sting operation. A month later, retired superstar Paul Alvarez was caught in the act of sniffing shabu.
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