Show biz secret
Early last week in Pampanga, actor Mark Anthony Fernandez sped past a police checkpoint that had marked his car for inspection because of a missing license plate. To stop him, lawmen shot at his car’s tires. In the car was found a kilo of marijuana which Fernandez initially said he was using as medication against cancer, his father, the actor Rudy Fernandez, having died of the dreaded disease.
In a press conference later at the police station, with TV cameras running, Fernandez accused the police of planting the marijuana in his car. He also answered questions from reporters and the police without benefit of legal counsel.
What is wrong with this picture? Everything, if one were to go with the “established police protocol” in the administration’s continuing war on drugs.
For one, in the current scheme of things, speeding off to evade lawmen immediately marks a person as guilty, and would have provoked a volley of shots meant to kill, and not merely disable a vehicle.
For another, as most drug arrests in slum communities go, being caught with prohibited substances on one’s person or in one’s abode or vehicle means instant retribution. Being packed into a police car and shot dead for “grabbing a cop’s firearm” is the common scenario.
Furthermore, as recent cases have shown, drug surrenderers on the police hit list are fed lead in their sleep, and written off for resisting arrest or for shooting the arresting officers. A .38 caliber and a sachet of “shabu” near their person completes the story.
But this looks like a different story. Fernandez, despite a drug record, is an actor, the first high-profile TV-movie personality to fall in the campaign against drugs. And in a country obsessed with show biz, that apparently means being untouchable, in the same way that upper-crust communities are spared the sharp, disagreeable edges of Oplan Tokhang.
In fact, except for that procedural lapse of having Fernandez speak about his arrest without his lawyer present, the circumstances of his subsequent detention speak volumes about the criminal justice system. Consider how he had sufficient leeway to pose, outside his cell, with two thrilled female cops whose selfie with him went viral and provoked disgust among netizens.
Stung by the censure in social media, the police moved Fernandez to the Angeles District jail on Monday, where he was shown in a white shirt, the regulation prison uniform, sharing sleeping quarters with 102 other inmates in a cell intended for 20.
“No special treatment!” the jail official pronounced primly to reporters, who, between documenting Fernandez’s travail, also interviewed his mother, TV-movie star and former Parañaque City councilor Alma Moreno. It was one engrossing “teledrama” on prime time, with police milking their cameo roles to the hilt. Yes, yes, the jail official said, looking somewhat annoyed at the persistent questions from reporters, Fernandez has to make do with the P50-a-day food allowance as well, though he can eat what’s brought in by his family as long as it’s inspected for hidden drugs or weapons.
The equitable arrangement lasted exactly one day. On Tuesday, TV cameras showed Fernandez, looking much relieved, being transferred to the more spacious Pampanga provincial jail. The move was in response to his camp’s appeal to the court to get him out of the congested Angeles District jail. Well, how lucky can one get?
It may be argued that Fernandez was caught with marijuana, which is legal in some countries that use it for medicinal purposes. The weed may not be as harmful as shabu, but it is still a banned substance under the amended Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972. Under this law, possession or use of regulated drugs, in this case at least 750 grams of marijuana, could mean life imprisonment and/or a fine of from P500,000 to P10 million.
Fernandez is the third show biz denizen—after starlets Sabrina M and Krista Miller—to be arrested on drug charges. How his case unfolds will determine how serious the campaign against drugs really is, especially in show biz where drug use has long been an open secret.
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