Low turnout: Drug-cleared barangays
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Bicol laments the low turnout of barangays cleared from illegal drugs due to the failure of village officials to operationalize its Barangay Anti-illegal Drug Councils across the region. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) data indicate that from the period January to August this year only 107 barangays were declared as drug cleared, according to Christian Frivaldo, PDEA acting regional director. Frivaldo in a phone interview said “it is disappointing to note the very low turnout of illegal drug cleared villages, ever since the war on illegal drugs campaign was declared by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.” The regional illegal drug affectation data showed that of 2,684 or 77 percent of the 3,471 Bicol barangays affected by the drug menace, only 107 or 4 percent were cleared free from drugs, while 642 more barangays have pending clearance for them to be declared as drug clear villages. Eloisa Pastor, DILG regional director, on the other hand, also informed members of the Regional Interagency Committee Against Illegal Drug (RICAD) during its meeting held at Camp Simeon Ola here early last week that all over the region, only 38 barangays were classified as “drug unaffected villages.” Frivaldo said “[the] campaign against illegal drug is not quite moving well because of the failure of the BADAC to do what they are mandated to accomplish.” Frivaldo said that 2,703 or 78 percent of villages in Bicol have activated BADAC while 768 or 22 percent have yet to organize their respective drug councils. He, clarified, however, that most of these organized councils have remained to be far from being functional. Pastor in an earlier interview said BADACs are saddled with operational issues, which include their failure to submit regular repors, including their local Drug Watch List. Another issue is the fear for their safety against reprisal from illegal drug syndicates on one hand and being tagged as coddlers or in cohorts with illegal drug personalities on the other. Frivaldo said that his agency would recommend and ask for a review of the BADAC operation, saying “we need to revisit the DILG BADAC operational guidelines.” Earlier, some 638 village chief s were warned of facing charges of negligence for their failure to organize BADAC. Pastor said barangay officials would face administrative charges and suspension for their failure to organize their drug councils. Pastor said among the top provinces with fully organized BADAC are: Masbate (98 percent) followed by Albay (88 percent), Sorsogon (77 percent), Camarines Sur (75 percent), Catanduanes (66 percent), and Camarines Norte (37 percent).