By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- They can't put a "bad" man down?
Several days before Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, visited Iloilo City in the Philippines on August 26, suspected drug lord, Melvin "Boyet" Odicta Sr., popularly known as "Dragon" in Western Visayas, grabbed headlines when he and wife Merriam "surrendered" to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ismael Sueno in Manila.
Lawyers Gualberto Cataluna and Sigred Fortun clarified later that their clients, fearing for their lives, "only sought the help" of the DILG. The lawyers refused to use the word "surrender" since no warrant of arrest has been issued against the couple.
The Odictas denied they were involved in trafficking of illegal drugs. They operate a taxi company and a restaurant, among other businesses in Iloilo City tagged as "the most shabulized" city in the country by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Smart move for the lawyers.
Not-so-good publicity for Sueno and DILG.
In the first place, why would Sueno accord the Odicta couple the kind of "hospitality" reserved for local government officials and cops?
The Odictas are not elected public officials. They are not even members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP.
Can any businessman tagged as having connections with the underworld seek asylum in the DILG if heat has become unbearable in the kitchen?
Can any drug lord or suspected drug lord hide behind the curtains of a government agency like DILG if police authorities are hot after their heels?
Where will the Odictas' visit fit in the DILG's objective "to enhance LGU capacities to improve their performance and enable them to effectively and efficiently deliver services to their constituents"?
The timing of Odicta couple's visit to the DILG was suspect. The lawyers--or the Odictas themselves--probably knew Dela Rosa was set to arrive in Iloilo City for a series of speaking engagements and inspections last August 26, thus they beat the PNP chief to the draw when they hobnobbed with the DILG.
Sueno has a lot of explaining to do for "L'affaire Odictas". Did he only accommodate friend Cataluna, a former inmate in South Cotabato where Sueno served as officer-in-charge (OIC) during the term of the late former President Corazon Aquino?
On the other hand, Dela Rosa refused to buy the claims of the Odictas that they are not engaged in selling of shabu in Western Visayas.
"Tell it to the marines," Dela Rosa was quoted by Philippines newspapers as saying in response to the Odictas' denial.
Dela Rosa, who was mobbed by Ilonggo fans, can always get a lot of pogi points each time he issued tirades against the drug lords. But it can't be denied that Dragon was able to outsmart Bato in the most recent episode of the nationwide campaign by the Duterte administration against illegal drugs.
After the smoke has been cleared, Dela Rosa was back in Metro Manila. The Odictas were back in Iloilo.
It was like a mouse and cat game. Now that the cat is away, it's time for the mouse to once again play.
In six months, Dela Rosa has vowed to wipe out criminals in the country and resign if he can't deliver. The clock is ticking on that project. This allusion to a stopwatch is often used as an admonition to speed something up.
"Humanda na kayo. Sasagasaan namin kayo. Mag imbak na kayo ng armas (Be prepared. We will run you over. Start stockpiling your arms now)" was Dela Rosa's famous battlecry several weeks before he assumed office as PNP chief.
But Dragon, with his battery of cracked lawyers and the DILG leading the potpourri of charades, appears to have the last laugh.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 lives have lost in "summary executions" related to campaign against illegal drugs nationwide as of press time, and the United Nations isn't pleased with the death statistics.
Most of them were suspected assets allegedly "silenced" so they couldn't rat against rogue cops.
Most of them were small fries. Not drug lords.