638 Bicol barangay chiefs sans BADAC face charges

By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- Some 638 barangay chieftains in Bicol would face charges of negligence for their failure to organize the Barangay Anti-drug Abuse Council (BADAC), according to a top official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bicol. Elouisa Pastor, DILG regional director, on Tuesday said the barangay chairpersons would be charged administratively with either simple to gross negligence, including suspension once proven to have failed to organize the BADAC in their respective areas. In a phone interview, Pastor said certain BADACs are saddled with operational and organizational issues which include failure to submit the regular report including Drug Watchlist identifying illegal drug personalities operating in their respective villages. Some BADAC members also fear for their safety against reprisal from illegal drug syndicates or groups, and being tagged as coddlers or in cahoot with illegal drug personalities, Pastor said. With regards to the security and protection of barangay officials, DILG Undersecretary Martin Dino proposed to allow village chiefs to carry firearms but with certain conditions. First, barangay captains should undergo a neuro-psychiatric examination and the government should assess if they are qualified to carry guns. Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal who is also the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chairperson said he agrees with Dino provided that guns should be carried for self-defense, especially for those living in remote barangays with peace and order problems. Villages can allocate funds for barangay captains’ firearms, he said, adding, however, that Congress should first pass a bill on arming village chiefs. When asked how would the agency address this organizational concerns, Pastor said: “It is a mandate for them organize the BADAC; we don’t see any reason why they could not organize, because when they assumed office it was clear that among the councils that need to be strengthened under their watch is the BADAC.” BADAC is tasked to organize hold monthly meetings, submit regularly a monthly report of activities, and update the barangay’s Drug Watch List. She said, “wala naman kahirapan gawin ito.” Pastor said the agency would issue an “ultimatum” to village chiefs to organize a BADAC and when that fails, administrative sanctions would be slapped on those errant barangay chairpersons or chiefs. DILG statistic indicates that of the 3,471 barangays in Bicol, 82 percent or 2,833 villages have organized their BADAC while 638 or 18 percent failed to put up their organized council. Pastor said among the top provinces with fully organized BADAC are: Albay followed by Camarines Norte. Catanduanes has 91 percent of its BADACs organized; Camarines Sur, 86 percent; Masbate, 52 percent; and Sorsogon, 38 percent. According to Pastor, however, Bicol is not included in the Top 5 regions in the country affected by illegal drugs. Drug-affected barangays in Bicol The Regional Oversight Committee led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) reported that of the 3,471 barangays in Bicol, at least 547 (16 percent) of them are considered as illegal-drug-affected villages. These affected barangays, however, are considered as “manageable” by a DILG committee, according to Pastor. The committee also indicated that that 51 barangays from the provinces of Albay, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte have been declared as “drug cleared” areas.