COUNCILOR IN DRUG YARN
Plagata denies taking money from illegal drugs
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
KAGAWAD Erwin “Tong-tong” Plagata admitted yesterday that he is a wedding godfather of a suspected drug lord in Iloilo City amid reports of a city official involved in the illegal drug trade.
But for Plagata, being a godfather to Melvin “Boyet” Odicta is a moral obligation he cannot refuse and should not be tainted with malice.
“Yes I am his godfather but not for whatever illegal transaction he is reportedly involved in. I just cannot refuse him since I saw it as a big responsibility and also it shows the kind of respect the guy has for me,” Plagata said.
In early 2000, Odicta’s name was on top of the PNP’s list of alleged drug personalities operating in Iloilo City. His “contemporaries” at that time were a certain Levi Zerrudo, Bondjing Paras and Jose Kim “Boy” Cuadra who is presently detained in Aklan for drug trafficking charges.
But sometime in 2003, then Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) director Policarpio Segubre deleted Odicta’s name in the order of battle after the latter executed an oath of undertaking to cease from selling illegal drugs.
Plagata, chairman of the committee on police matters, said Odicta invited him to become one the major sponsors to his wedding last April “as he wanted to reform and give his child a decent future.”
“Hearing those words I took it upon myself to help Boyet by agreeing to become one of his maninoys. Maybe that was one way of showing his sincerity in his plan to turn a new leaf over,” Plagata said.
But Plagata said he accepted Odicta’s invitation on one condition.
“I made it categorically clear with him that our relationship is up to his marriage only. Maninoy lang ako sa kasal, wala na iban pa (I’m only his wedding godfather),” Plagata said.
The doctor-turned-councilor decided to admit his relationship to Odicta after learning of rumors linking him to his godson’s alleged illegal activities.
“Since last month, I already heard stories about me coddling a drug lord in the city. Once and for all, I am disclosing my relationship to Boyet (Odicta) to avoid more malicious stories from cropping up. I have nothing to hide and I believe that saying the truth will always help me clear the air of any doubt,” he said.
Whether Odicta continues to peddle drugs, Plagata said he cannot validate such information.
But he confirmed that his godson did pledge in a sworn document to stop selling prohibited substances.
To show sincerity in his desire to change, Plagata said Odicta favors the installation of a special police task force at Barangay Malipayon, Iloilo City Proper where the latter resides.
Plagata has been convincing his godson to clarify his name with the media.
Aside from Malipayon, a similar task force is being mulled at nearby Barangay Tanza-Esperanza.
Last September, the ICPO established Task Force Bakhaw at Mandurriao district, the city’s top drug spot.
However, Plagata revealed before the City Council an anonymous letter lambasting TF Bakhaw for sitting on its job which resulted to the resurgence of illegal drug trade in the village.
More HIV/Aids cases in WV
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
HEALTH officials are concerned with the growing number of persons living with (HIV)/Aids (PLWHAs) who might be hiding in the region.
The Department of Health-Center for Health Development (DOH-CHD) yesterday presented the “hiding but growing” trend of the Philippine Aids situation during a media forum at the Kabalaka Reproductive Health at the Central Philippine University (CPU).
Since 1998 to 2004, a total of eight persons, including three females and five males, in Western Visayas have died of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids).
From 1995 to 2002, four commercial sex workers in Iloilo City were tested positive of Aids through serological surveillance conducted by the health department.
As of August 2005, a total of 30 PLWHAs have been recorded by the DOH. Of the number, 13 PLWHAs are located in Iloilo.
Negros Occidental has 12 persons with HIV/Aids, Aklan with 3 cases while Guimaras and Capiz have 1 case each.
The total number of persons with HIV/Aids in the region includes 22 males and 8 females.
Fourteen of the male HIV/Aids patients are married while six out of the eight female cases also belong to the same civil status.
In terms of employment, 14 of the victims are overseas Filipino workers, 4 housewives, 3 waiters/bar tenders, 1 medical doctor and 2 nurses. The rest are lawyer, student, nautical courses graduate, X-ray technician and security guard.
Majority of the patients were infected with HIV/Aids through heterosexual intercourse.
As regards the status of the PLWHAs, 23 patients are already symptomatic or have shown signs of the disease while 7 are asymptomatic.
Of the 23 symptomatic patients, 9 have already died.
Health officials said all of the 23 symptomatic PLHWAs may have died if not for the proper care and education they obtained after coming out into the open.
Due to community preparedness, established management and referral systems and strong collaboration between the government and non-government organizations, more PLWHAs have been disclosed and given appropriate care.
Patients who already came out of the open have been effective peer educators and counselors.
The DOH regional office believes there are more PLWHAs in the region who must be reached for immediate medical attention.
Worse, many of them may not be aware that they already have the virus which can further spread the disease.
On December 1, the whole world will observe World Aids Day to raise awareness that Aids should not be feared and hidden but should be confronted by all sectors of community. (Published in The Guardian, November 24, 2005 issue)