SouthCot appoints retired Army general to lead anti-drug campaign

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 Aug) – The provincial government of South Cotabato has designated a retired Army general to lead the province’s anti-drug abuse council (PADAC) as it moves to rein in the area’s worsening illegal drug problems.

Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said Monday she has named provincial board member Agustin Dema-ala as the new action officer of the PADAC in a bid to strengthen its ongoing campaigns, especially against the illegal drug trade.

“Illegal drug trading in the province has remained rampant these past years so I think we need to set some tougher measures that would make the PADAC more effective in addressing the problem,” she said in a radio interview.

Fuentes, who automatically chairs the PADAC as provided for by the Local Government Code of 1991, said Dema-ala will serve as her permanent representative to the council.

Dema-ala, who is a retired Army major general and previously headed its 6th Infantry Division, is presently on his second straight term as board member of South Cotabato’s second district.

Aside from the appointment of Dema-ala to the PADAC, the governor said she issued an executive order setting the council’s reorganization.

She also directed the council to set a dialogue between the local courts and police units to facilitate the proper processing of illegal drug related cases in the area.

Fuentes said several court judges in the province noted in an earlier dialogue that a number local drug convictions had been overturned by the Court of Appeals (CA) due to technical problems.

“Some of our courts were already overturned twice by the CA because of these drug cases and a third overruling means possible hefty sanctions,” she said.

Fuentes said that based on their assessment, a number of drug cases had failed to prosper in the local courts due to technical problems, especially with the “chain of evidences” submitted by police investigators or personnel handling the cases.

She said some cases were even dismissed due to problems with evidence gathering and case-building by the police.

“We have to make sure that our police personnel are following the standard procedures and the cases that they file are in proper order,” she said.

Meantime, the governor ordered the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office to intensify its anti-drug operations in Barangay Ambalgan in Sto. Niño town.

The area is known for over a decade now as one of the main drop-off points of illegal drugs, specifically of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, in the province.

“Our police should resolve the problem in Ambalgan once and for all because the situation there is getting worse these past years,” she said.

Fuentes acknowledged that the illegal drug trade has thrived in the area due to the support of some local residents.

“But some (residents) were also cooperating with our authorities and they initially requested for the establishment of a permanent detachment there to help curb the problem,” she said.