“Hindi tayo ang pagsisilbihan, tayo ang magsisilbi sa kanilang lahat.”
This is the message of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos, Jr. on his first day as head of the agency, committing to sustain the gains attained in the anti-illegal drug campaign; fill up gaps to improve policies in other major programs of the Department; and “bring people power against social ills.”
“It is important right now to continue the things that you [DILG] have done. Napakagaling. Sabi nga sa akin, ‘How about the war on drugs?’ It will be sustained in accordance to the oath I made as provided for in the constitution. Talagang diri-diretso po ito,” Abalos said.
Facing the DILG workforce, Abalos commended the “fantastic job” former DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año has accomplished for the past years while citing best practices in the City of Mandaluyong that can be injected and emulated to improve the Department’s anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“The former DILG Secretary did well in the anti-illegal drugs campaign. Itutuloy lang natin ‘yun but we will put greater focus in building up strong cases against illegal drug suspects to ensure that no cases will be dismissed and they will be spending the rest of their lives behind bars,” he said.
“We will involve other concerned government agencies, and most importantly, the communities, to make sure that we have a comprehensive campaign against illegal drugs,” he added.
He mentioned that for most cases, investigations are deterred as there are no witnesses to assist in the cases. He said that in every illegal drugs confiscated, there should be at least three witnesses: a representative from the media, the Department of Justice, and a barangay official.
He likewise commended Philippine National Police (PNP) Acting Chief PLTGen Vicente Danao, Jr. for the effective mechanisms against illegal drugs but established that in all of society’s problems, “one must go to the roots and target the main source.”
“Maganda ‘yung ginawa ni Gen Danao, and I commend you and the PNP for the war against drugs. Aside from the law enforcement aspect, we should get to the root causes of the anti-illegal drugs problem and address all of these things in collaboration with other agencies of the government and stakeholders -- unemployment, education, family, and a host of other issues,” Abalos said.
“The war on drugs is just like a tree. Maski patubuin mo nang patubuin, putulin mo nang putulin ‘yung sanga nito, may tutubong bagong sanga. Ano ‘yung sanga? ‘Yung sanga ay huli tayo nang huli pero may pumapalit nang pumapalit,” he added.
He likewise put emphasis on sustaining programs and initiatives of the Department that have worked in the past, noting that his administration will put emphasis on ‘servant leadership’.
“We must make sure na institutionalized ang mga ginagawa nating magagandang practices, at innovations. We must likewise always remember this, hindi tayo ang pagsisilbihan, tayo ang magsisilbi sa kanilang lahat dahil bilang lingkod bayan, ang kapakanan ng publiko ang dapat nating prayoridad. That is the kind of attitude that we should have,” Abalos said.
The DILG Chief also committed to work on the provision of firetrucks, prioritizing the fire stations lacking equipment under the Bureau of Fire Protection and improving jail management through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Unity in leadership
DILG Secretary Abalos also underscored the importance of participatory and inclusive governance and how it will heavily influence his brand of leadership as the Department’s executive officer.
“Let’s get everyone involved, the LGUs, the community, and other stakeholders. Basta kayo [DILG workforce], walang imposible. At yun ang sinasabi ng presidente na sama-sama tayong susugpuin ang illegal drugs.”
Resounding the plans of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr, Abalos calls on the DILG personnel and attached agencies to work in unity from the national, local, and grassroots level.
“Yung pangarap ng lahat ay magiging pangarap natin. Para maabot natin ito kinakailangan nang maayos na communication mula sa national, local, at grassroots level para magiging iisa ang ating mga layunin,” he added.
He said the DILG workforce has his full confidence having interacted with them in previous endeavors especially during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he knows that he is in safe hands and encouraged them to be open and not hesitate to air their ideas.
“Whether we like it or not, we are at the forefront of all issues involving LGUs and peace and order. Araw-araw na problema, nasa atin ito. But with you there, you are tested. I’m in good hands here. Alam ko ‘yun,” Abalos said.
“We have to work harmoniously. Kung may problema kayo, wag kayong mahiya. Huwag kayong matakot. I will support you,” he added.