Drug use in UP still widespread

“Ni-rolyo namin yun, tapos after that, para na siyang yosi. Maglakad-lakad ka sa campus ng UP... ‘Di mahahalata (We rolled it, and after that, it looks like a cigarette already. You can walk around the campus of UP…without being noticed).”

This is how Malen*, 24, a former drug user, described how easy it was to smoke marijuana openly inside university grounds without even being caught.

According to him, finding a place for a pot session was hard, so he and his friends tried to find a way to use drugs as often as they want.

Their solution? Homemade cigarettes.

Apparently, students like him are not the only ones who smoke marijuana inside campus premises. He said that some of his friends were already using drugs, as well as someprofessors, when he entered his freshman year.

“Parang narinig namin na… nag-gaganun din sya. [Sabi namin,] ‘Talaga? Cool.’ Ginaya namin (It’s like we heard… that he’s doing it too. [We said,] ‘Really? Cool.’ We did the same thing),” he said, referring to a certain professor whom they have seen smoking marijuana.

He added that he even remembered showing a stick of marijuana to the professor and asking him if he wants it. When asked where he gets the drugs, Malen said that his friends provided him the marijuana that he ordered.

“Ang hirap noon. Sa min kasi, madaling kumalat yung balita. So mas maganda kung di ikaw mismo yung bumili; iba ang bibili for you (It was hard. News spreads easily in our place. It’s better if you don’t buy it yourself; others will buy it for you),” he said.

No drug users and pushers list

Only two cases of illegal drug possession were recorded by the UP Diliman Police (UPDP) in 2008.

Ryan del Castillo, 22, a resident of Pook Palaris, UP Diliman, was caught in the possession of a small paper with dried marijuana leaves. Unfortunately, he escaped when he was brought to the UP Health Service for a medical check-up.

The other case involved a 16-year-old resident of Bagbaguin, Valenzuela City. He had almost consumed an entire stick of marijuana when he was caught near the UPDP checkpoint at University Avenue.

“Sigurado pakiramdam nung bata ang tapang niya. (Maybe the boy felt gutsy),” said Maj. Bernie Baltazar, officer-in-charge at the UP Diliman Police Station.

Being a minor, the boy was turned over to his father and brother.

In 2007, a group of UP students was caught with marijuana, according to UPDP record officer Elma Gabriel. However, it was not recorded, said Gabriel, because the students reasoned that the marijuana was for a play and their professor backed up the claim. Gabriel recalled no other cases of students caught with illegal drugs since she started working with UPDP in 1981.

Major Bernie Baltazar, UPDP officer-in-charge, said he had been with the UPDP for 34 years but he can recall only two cases of student drug use.

In the ‘70s, police apprehended the son of a Japanese guest professor in his residence at Purok Aguinaldo. In a planned operation, police found three marijuana plants in flower pots. A case was not filed against the Japanese son, said Baltazar.

In the ‘80s, a student was caught smoking marijuana near the UP Diliman Main Library.

There was another drug use case, this time of shabu and involving a UPDP officer. He was jailed for around 10 years for it, narrated Baltazar. Upon his release, the former officer wanted to rejoin the UPDP, but he was advised not to. Baltazar refused to name the officer because they were close friends.

He also noted that drug cases involving UP residents, not students, have been prevalent through the years.

After residents of Pook Amado Hernandez wrote to the Chancellor Sergio Cao about youth allegedly under the influence harassing them, Baltazar requested for assistance from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in apprehending the juvenile offenders. Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency asked for a list of drug pushers and users, but UPDP do not have one. That is where UPDP is weak at, admitted Baltazar.

“We do not have enough personnel. The problem is not given enough attention,”he added in Filipino.

According to Baltazar, accusations based on rumors make weak evidence. He explained that they just do not have enough staff members to confirm the involvement of certain people that concerned UP residents pointed out.

In the wake of the Alabang Boys’ incident, the government had intensified their anti-drug campaign.

Last month, Dangerous Drugs Board Chairperson Vicente Sotto III announced that random drug tests will be conducted among students from around 8,500 public and private high schools, colleges, universities and vocational schools. Due to budget constraints, the Department of Health will be able to test only 15 students per tertiary level institution.

The country has about 2.5 million students.

In UP Diliman alone, there are 22,348 students, according to the Office of the Student Regent. There is a total of 47,365 students in the whole UP system. ▪

*Name changed

Article by Monica Joy Cantilero