Fourteen barangays in Central Visayas, including two in Cebu City, have been declared as drug-free barangays. Regional Police Office (PRO 7) Director Ronnie Montejo claimed that the government is winning in its fight against illegal drugs. Montejo’s claim was echoed by Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7 through its spokesperson Leia Alcantara. Would you believe that? It’s too impossible:
Our authorities cannot even control or eliminate the proliferation of illegal drug trade inside our jail facilities where movements of inmates and visitors are highly restricted, how much more in a community where people would just come and go and are free to move around? This is misnomer or inaccurate. The Cebu City barangays that are declared as drug-free are Sto. Niño and Sudlon 1, whose barangay captains, Lulu Ramirez and Dante Tabucal, respectively, are all my friends. Mo-congratulate lang gihapon ko nila bisan dili ko kaayo makatuo. (I will still congratulate them even if the feat is hard to believe.)
Under Dangerous Drugs Board Regulation 3 of 2017, an Oversight Committee (OC) chaired by the PDEA, with representatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the local government unit as members, will assess and evaluate the status of the barangays before it issues a certificate declaring it as drug free.
In the case of Cebu City, Councilor Phillip Zafra, peace and order committee chairman, is the representative. Cebu City Office of Substance Abuse and Prevention (Cosap) chairman Jonah John Rodriguez also participates in the deliberation as Cosap is the one documenting the rehabilitation process of drug surrenderers and those who availed themselves of the plea bargaining agreement with the court in the barangay level. I doubt if those undergoing rehabilitation are all properly monitored. The perennial problem of a drug dependent who has undergone drug rehabilitation is the post-rehabilitation scenario. If not properly monitored, they have the tendency to return to their old habit. That’s what they call a “relapse.”
And what are the requirements or criteria for declaring a drug-free barangay? Non-availability of drug supply; absence of drug dens, pushers and users; absence of clandestine drug laboratory; active involvement of barangays officials in anti-drug activities; existence of drug awareness, preventive education and information; existence of voluntary and compulsory drug treatment; and rehabilitation processing desk.
Never mind the other criteria. We will just focus on the first three requirements. Would you believe that these barangays met these requirements? Non-availability of drug supply, no drug dens, no drug pushers and users, even transients? Where can you find a barangay nowadays in this country where there are no illegal drugs, drug users and pushers, even transients? There are even drugs in Barangay Cantularoy, a remote and mountain barangay in Sibonga, how much more in the urban barangays?
Let’s focus on Barangay Sto. Niño and Sudlon 1. Would you believe that there is no more supply of drugs, no drug users and pushers in these two barangays? Sto. Niño is an urban barangay and it is surrounded by Barangays San Roque and Ermita, which are known to be drug haven barangays. Don’t tell me that no drug pushers from these neighboring barangays are doing their illegal drug trade in barangay Sto. Niño? In the case of Sudlon 1, which is a mountain barangay, are they sure that there is no marijuana plantation there and those “habal-habal drivers” are not involved in the illegal drug trade as drug couriers?
Under the regulation, barangay officials should adopt measures in preventing the spread or eradicating drug abuse within their areas. That is why there is the Barangay Anti-Drug Abuse Council (Badac). But some barangay officials themselves are involved in illegal drugs.
The regulation also prescribes three phases of clearing drug-affected barangays: The pre-operation phase starts with laying the groundwork and basis for effective and sustainable clearing operations. The operation phase is the actual implementation of drug supply and demand reduction strategies. The post-operation phase aims to maintain the drug-cleared status of the barangay through support activities to be funded from the general fund of the barangay.
And what happened to those barangays that were earlier declared as drug free? Were these barangays able to sustain their anti-drug programs and image of being drug free? Our authorities should stop fooling themselves and the public.