Congress probe all for show
Illegal drugs has taken the limelight of the early days of 2011 and as if to remind us of the shameful act of one of its members, Congress has announced that the case of Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson will be investigated by the House Ethics committee.
Singson was arrested in July 11 last year upon arrival at the Customs Arrival Hall of Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong. Authorities detained the lawmaker after he was found carrying 26.1 grams of cocaine and two tablets of diazepam or Valium. In August, the court allowed Singson temporary liberty after posting 1 million Hong Kong dollars (P5.77 million).
Singson’s arrest was not publicly known and was only talked about by movie tabloids because he has a movie star girlfriend. Two weeks passed before the story was confirmed by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, the congressman’s father.
In a TV interview, Chavit tried to belittle the gravity of his son’s offense and urged Hong Kong authorities to deport his son saying that the amount of drugs found in his possession was kakaunti (little), as if to say that Hong Kong’s laws are nothing and that the police erred in arresting his son. He topped his statements with an apology and said that his son was just “nasulsulan” or induced, by whom, he did not identify.
Since the statements merely highlighted Chavit’s contempt for the law, they elicited flak not just from ordinary Filipinos but from Hong Kong residents who vented their anger through online comments. One said that if this is how corrupt politicians behave in the Philippines, then it would be better for Hong Kong to throw the book at Ronald to teach them a lesson.
Congressman Singson will have his day in Wan Chai District Court come Jan. 26, 2011. His case is turning to be bizarrely interesting because he got out on bail after “further investigation showed that he was only carrying 6.67 grams of cocaine” when arrested last year. He is set to plead guilty to drug possession, not drug trafficking according to his lawyer. It looks like a plea bargaining agreement is in the works and it will be well worth watching if the court in Hong Kong will dance to the music of the defense.
Drug trafficking in China’s Special Administrative Region is a serious crime. Trafficking of 50 grams or more of prohibited drugs maybe punishable by 15 years in prison, life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Hong Kong has been grappling with syndicated crimes like illegal drugs, extortion, human trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting – underworld activities attributed to the triad, Hong Kong’s version of the mafia.
But it is in drug trafficking that Hong Kong authorities are continually challenged because of the entry of new synthetic drugs, like ketamine. Unlike hard core drugs, they are also called party drugs because they are affordable.
Intense police watch has prompted triad groups to hire “mules” or couriers, mostly Filipino women and OFWs who are out of work. They traffic drugs from Manila via Bangkok or Hanoi and on to China’s porous borders.
In another time and place, Singson’s involvement in a drugs mess, in a foreign country at that, should have forced him to resign. But not in this country where politicians in hot water are guided by the dictum morir antes demitir (death before resignation). The incident at least should have elicited loud cries from lawmakers to pressure Singson to quit, but what we hear is a lot of kaikog statements that merely add up to the confusion.
For example, House Deputy Minority Leader Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay said, “It depends on the gravity of the offense and how congressmen will perceive it (his criminal offense) based on our own laws (governing) elected officials.”. Perceive a criminal case? Whatever happened to applying the law to the letter?
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has ordered the House Ethics committee to investigate Singson. This is a case that happened six months ago, and the House has just noticed that it needs to probe Singson? I doubt if this will prosper at all.
If anything, it will proceed very slowly while a full blown trial happens in Hong Kong. Since a lesser charge still carries the penalty of imprisonment, the House will be dealing with a member in detention. In other words, the Congress probe is all for show.
January 2nd, 2011
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