Back in September, Randy David wrote on the “Makapili” of the wartime era, and how the system of anonymous informants was experiencing a resurgence under the Philippine National Police in its so-called “war on drugs.”
“Oplan Double Barrel” has a little brother called “Masa Masid: Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Iligal na Droga,” which encourages Makapili-like behavior. Instead of accompanying policemen on their raids, citizens in this case were encouraged to seek out dropboxes in police stations, where they could drop anonymous tips for the antidrug war.
Setting aside the constitutional guarantee that every citizen has the right to confront their accuser, the use of anonymous informants is, by its nature, a dangerous thing. There’s no use arguing over whether anonymous tips are suspect from the start because the consequences are fatal.
In the Senate, when Sen. Risa Hontiveros questioned the Philippine National Police’s P900-million budget for Oplan Double Barrel and the P500 million allocated by the Department of the Interior and Local Government for Masa Masid, the DILG said during its budget hearing that it was “open” to “dropping” the program. This was conveyed by Sen. JV Ejercito who was speaking for the department, as is the practice in budget deliberations when a legislator takes up the bat for an agency as the sponsor of its budget, answering questions from colleagues.
The Senate eliminated both items from the 2018 budget and the bicameral conference committee delivered, maintaining the cut in the final 2018 General Appropriations Act awaiting the President’s signature. The funding previously allocated to “Project Tokhang” will go instead to housing for military and police personnel while the Masa Masid budget was apparently simply deleted. The Palace has shown signs of displeasure over the fate of the “tokhang” budget, but it remains to be seen if the result will be some sort of line-item veto by the President.
Whether or not President Duterte signs the 2018 GAA without vetoing any of its provisions, it’s reasonable to expect that ways will be found to pursue the antidrug campaign however the President pleases. A case in point is how, on Dec. 18 in Quezon City, 142 bright blue dropboxes were presented to barangay officials by the DILG and the QC Police District. As the government TV’s Twitter account put it, “This is still because of Masa Masid.”
Returning to when Senator Hontiveros was challenging Masa Masid, Senator Ejercito tried to mollify her by saying whatever ended up dropped into the boxes, would be forwarded and processed by “people’s organizations,” and that before accrediting organizations, the PNP would first conduct training and that wonderfully vague thing, “capacity-building.”
The fact is, in Quezon City at least — and it could merely be a matter of a publicity-conscious QCPD letting the cat out of the bag, which means the rollout of dropboxes has been going on stealthily — the infrastructure of Masa Masid is now in place
regardless of funding for the scheme having been abolished as far as the 2018 budget is concerned. This may not even matter since the return of the PNP to the frontlines of the antidrug campaign now places it logistically back in the saddle. The boxes are there, anonymous accusations or information can be pointed to, and action taken.
It also doesn’t matter that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency remains nominally in charge of the campaign—or that the 2018 budget has increased the agency’s budget 100 percent from P1.4 billion to P2.6 billion (in comparison, the 2018 PNP budget is now P132.1 billion).
One can’t expect PDEA to wag the dog, so to speak: The PNP is too big, and has too much brass to subordinate itself in any meaningful way to a PDEA already gutted by the dismissal of past heads and supervisors (both PDEA and the Dangerous Drugs Board have had their heads axed when they publicly disagreed with the President).
The blue dropboxes distributed the other day simply demonstrates how enfeebled the policymaking of Congress has become.