103 barangays in Region 11 declared drug-free

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 August) – One hundred three barangays in Davao region have been cleared of illegal drugs from January to July this year, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 11 on Monday said.

The number represents 19 percent of 538 barangays in the region that were classified as drug-affected. The region has 1,162 barangays.

Speaking during Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, PDEA 11 deputy director Joel Plaza said the agency aims to clear at least 30 percent of the drug-affected barangays by yearend and the entire region in three years.

But he said they might exceed the target for this year based on the progress of their operations.

He said they seized a total of 835 grams of shabu worth P4.175 million and 5.7 kilos of marijuana worth P199,000, as of July 30.

He said they arrested 611 drug suspects, filed 1,685 cases of which 28 had resulted in convictions. He added 147 cases were dismissed.

Plaza said law enforcement agencies are now more focused on crime prevention and drug enforcement programs in the barangays to eliminate the drug menace down to the grassroots level.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) resumed only last March the controversial anti-illegal drug drive after PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa suspended it.

“The war on drugs is on, and this time it is going to be more extensive, aggressive and well-coordinated, with built-in systems that guarantee full accountability and instill internal discipline among all personnel,” Dela Rosa said in a press release issued on March 7.

Plaza said they are banking on the local government and barangay officials to support their anti-illegal drug campaign to ensure its success.

He said most local government units in the region have already activated their community-based rehabilitation programs.

He said 80 percent of shabu entering the region came from Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Northern Mindanao.

“Other regions have their own issues but I think, in terms of supply of drugs, we have almost the same problem,” he said.

He said supply of drugs will most likely enter highly urbanized areas.

“Look at the barangays that are not yet developed, drug problem is not rampant yet. But if the recreations, gimmicks would start sprouting and then the security of the community is unaware, then illegal drugs would enter,” he said.

Despite the growing criticism on Duterte administration’s war on drugs, Davao City Police office director Alexander Tagum said the anti-drug campaign “will be the primary activities and operations” of the local police.

He said they will double their efforts in guarding the communities here, “knowing the effect of illegal drugs which is contributory to the increase of criminality.”

“That’s the reason why you can see we had been very focused on anti-illegal drug efforts, operations, alongside drug enforcement agencies based in Davao City like PDEA in conducting intensified operations because we know this problem will be continuing for as long as there is evil in our world,” he said.

“It’s evolving and will keep on evolving. We will adjust to the current norm,” he said.

On June 30, outgoing PDEA director general Isidro Lapeña reported that authorities seized a total of P82.52 billion worth of illegal drugs during the first year of the Duterte administration compared to P4.8 billion seized during the last year of the previous administration.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has named Lapeña as chief of the Bureau of Customs after Nicanor Faeldon resigned in the wake of congressional investigations on reported anomalies at the agency.

Of the total drugs seized, police confiscated 2,446 kilos of shabu valued at P12.62 billion compared to 820 kilos valued at P940 million seized during the last year of former President Aquino.

Lapeña attributed the increase in confiscations to the intensified anti-drug campaign of Duterte who anchored his campaign on the issue as then presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

In a report posted on its website pnp,gov.ph, the PNP reported 68,214 anti-drug operations conducted from July 1 to July 26, 2017, with 96,703 persons arrested, 1,308,078 surrenderees, and 3,451 drug suspects killed.

3-year target

Plaza said clearing the barangays of illegals drugs poses a challenge but said it’s a bit easier for them because they have already been doing it long before the nationwide campaign started and that it’s no longer new to the barangay officials.

“Para mapadali makuha ang target (to make us hit the target faster),” he said of the target to clear affected barangays in three years.

He said they would start with empowering the barangays by helping them set up anti-drug measures like the community-based rehabilitation program to help drug users.

He said they organized an Anti-Drug Abuse Council who gets support from different agencies in conducting rehabilitation programs because “hindi kaya ng barangays yan (the barangays cannot do it alone).”

He said the Department of Health is training personnel who will be assigned at the rehabilitation center to provide support to drug users.

He pointed out that barangays must devise their own community-based program, this being “the most holistic” approach to address the drug problem.

Under Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation No. 3 series of 2017, a barangay may be declared as “drug-cleared” if there is non-availability of drug supply; absence of drug den, pusher, user; absence of clandestine drug laboratory; active involvement of barangay officials in anti-drug activities; existence of drug awareness, preventive education and information; and existence of voluntary and compulsory drug treatment and rehabilitation processing desk.

In a press release issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government last April 24,  it said the DDB regulation also prescribes the three-phase clearing of drug-affected barangays starting with the “pre-operation phase” or laying of groundwork and bases for effective and sustainable clearing operations.

It said house clusters will be “organized with designated cluster leader in each barangay, who will directly report to the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (BADAC) Chairperson all essential facts of any illegal drug activities within his/her cluster such as names of pushers or users, marijuana cultivation activities, clandestine laboratory operations, and other drug-related data.”

The city or municipal anti-drug abuse council and local police unit will then formulate and validate a watch list of suspected drug personalities in every barangay.

“Moreover, the ‘operation phase’ is the actual implementation of drug supply and demand reduction strategies in priority drug-affected barangays. Meanwhile, the ‘post-operation phase’ aims to maintain the ‘drug-cleared’ status of barangays, through support activities to be funded from the general fund of a barangay,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)