RPOC wants ‘drug list’ updated
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- The Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) called on the government’s illegal drug enforcement units to check and validate the tens of thousands of illegal drug users who either voluntary surrendered or were arrested during buy-bust operations carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal, Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chair, in its 2nd quarter council meeting on Tuesday took note of the PNP-PDEA illegal drug campaign where 83,946 drug personalities either have surrendered or were arrested during police buy-bust operation. PNP report indicated that of the figure 77,338 or 92 percent were users while 6,611 or 8 percent were pushers. At least 97 persons who reportedly resisted arrest and fought with the police operatives were killed in Bicol. Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara at the council meeting raised the issue on how accurate are the figures reported by the PNP with regards to the number of surrenderees and those who were arrested during buy-bust operations. Bichara questioned the PNP how do they treat or count the number of drug users and pushers who voluntarily surrendered but were arrested during police buy-bust operation and those who were either arrested or reportedly killed. He said there seems to be inconsistency in the report citing incidence where a drug user’s identity appears both in the listing of surrenderees and that of those arrested. “We still don’t know how accurate are the numbers; I’d like to have an exact figure so that we can plan out what possible interventions to make in our respective areas,” Bichara said. Bichara asked how to know and how many are the recidivists and were counted in the drug watch list several times. Along this line, Rosal requested the PNP, PDEA, DOH, and DILG to work out for a reporting system that would present a clearer view of the government’s campaign against illegal drugs, a centerpiece project of the Duterte administration. At the council meeting, the PNP reported that police illegal drugs operatives in Bicol were able to seize 375.5 kilograms of Hydro Meth (Shabu) with an estimated street value of P1.8 Billion, 12.1 kilograms of Cocaine worth P46 Million and 7.1 kilos of Marijuana worth P539,000. The Department of Health (DOH) reported that the agency has validated and assessed 38,234 where 4,332 of these belong to the low-risk category, 4,301 considered mild, 2,561 as moderate, while 557 belong to the severe category. The report indicated that of the severe category, 179 drug dependents were referred to undergo rehab treatment. Health authorities have started validating and sorting out tens of thousands of illegal drug users that have voluntarily surrendered to the police as a result of the government’s war against illegal drugs. Drug dependents that surrendered, after undergoing screening and documentation, were allowed to return home. Names of these illegal drug users were compiled by police and turned over to their respective local government units for further assessment and categorization by a core team, she added. An Inter-Agency Task Force (TF) for the establishment and support of drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation centers was created by Pres. Duterte under Executive Order Number 4 on July 2016. The TF is composed of technical personnel from the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Health (DOH), Justice, Social Welfare, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, local Anti-Illegal Drug Abuse Councils (BADAC), the PNP and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA). It conducts validation and categorization whether the drug dependents cases are mild, moderate and severe. Drug users considered high risk are categorized into Mild and have to undergo community based intervention in LGU sponsored seminars for three months. Moderate cases would be accommodated as outpatients in designated treatment and rehab centers for four to six months while severe cases would be referred to treatment and rehabilitation centers for a six-month period. Severe cases, before they are accommodated into any drug rehabilitation centers, are required to submit a court order, physical examination from a DOH-accredited physician and psychiatrist’s clearance. The DOH has released P5.9M fund to the Bicol Regional Teaching Hospital in Albay with P500,000; Bicol Medical Center – P500,000, Bicol Sanitarium P250,000 and Camarines Sur Rehab-Center, P2.6M, all in Camarines Sur,and; Malinao Rehab-Center (Albay) with P2.1M. The funds would be used to finance the expenses for laboratory examinations of indigent drug addicts. In Bicol, there are only two Drug Rehabilitation Centers located in Malinao, Albay and San Fernando, Camarines Sur. Both have 150-bed capacity, the DOH report said. A patient has to spend P3,000 monthly or P18,000 for a six-month treatment period. PNP report said that of Bicol’s surrenderees, 822 were government employees and elected barangay officials. Rosal in an interview said there were local officials and police officers in Bicol on the narco list that Mr. Duterte presented during a dialogue with the Mayors in Malacañang. PDEA report said there were 580 barangays or 16.7 percent of the total 3,471 barangays in the region which it deemed to be drug-affected when the campaign started.