GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 July) — Around 3,000 self-confessed drug pushers and users from various parts of South Cotabato province pledged on Tuesday to shun from illegal drugs and lead transformed lives.
The suspects, who were among over 6,300 that have so far surfaced in the province in the last several weeks, took their oaths and signed pledges of commitment in a ceremony held at the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Center in Koronadal City.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno administered the mass pledging, which highlighted the formal launching of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) anti-drug campaigns in the province.
“The President (Rodrigo R. Duterte) is very happy that you all decided to surface,” Sueno said.
As of Tuesday morning, the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office said a total of 6,356 drug personalities have already surfaced and surrendered voluntarily within the province’s 10 towns and lone city.
It said the number comprised 6,039 drug users, 61 pushers and 255 pushers/users. One was listed as needing drug treatment and rehabilitation.
Polomolok town posted the most number with 1,246, followed by Koronadal City with 962, Banga with 680, Sto. Nino with 564, Surallah with 531, T’boli with 528, Tupi with 516, Tampakan with 399, Tantangan with 354, Norala with 341, and Lake Sebu with 235.
Sueno said the South Cotabato is currently among the leading provinces in the country in terms of the number of surfacing drug personalities.
“This is unprecedented and I’m really proud of this development as it happened here in my home province,” he said.
Sueno is a former mayor of Koronadal and governor of South Cotabato.
He assured that the national government, especially the Department of the Interior and Local Government, will provide the necessary support and interventions to make sure that the surfacing drug personalities “will not revert to their old ways.”
The official said they are currently working on a program that will support the rehabilitation of drug users who are in serious condition and also provide them with livelihood opportunities.
He said they are currently exploring partnership with various government agencies for the enlistment of the surfacing drug personalities into some work assignments.
Sueno said they will tap the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) for the provisions of skills trainings.
“We will find ways to develop your skills through TESDA. We will help you start your own ventures and in selling or marketing your products,” he said.
Meantime, Sr. Supt. Franklin Alvero, South Cotabato police director, said they expect that more drug personalities in the province will surface in the coming weeks.
He said they have adopted various measures to sustain their anti-drug initiatives in support of the President Duterte’s declared “war against illegal drugs.”
The South Cotabato police is currently implementing PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa’s operation plan or Oplan Tokhang (toktok hangyo or knock and plead), the Police Regional Office 12’s Project Duterte or Drug Use and Trafficking Elimination through Rehabilitation, Training and Enforcement, and their own Oplan Bato. (MindaNews)